Entrepreneurship is an adventure that not everyone is equipped to take, but anyone with the right skills and determination can become a successful entrepreneur.
The great thing about skills is that they can be learned. Sure, some people seem to be born naturals at one thing or the other, but every skill in this post is absolutely achievable if you put in the hours.
Learning these skills will not only help you on your exciting journey as an entrepreneur, but also improve every aspect of your life. They’ll sharpen your mind, ignite your confidence, and fuel your determination when doubts tug on your mind and risks pull you back into your comfort zone. Yes, becoming an entrepreneur is risky—but so are all the best things in life.
The question is: are you up for the challenge?
If your answer is “yes,” then kudos to you! You’re already one step ahead of the rest. So, here are the nine skills you should learn to become a successful entrepreneur.
1. Creative thinking
Yes, you need to think creatively to solve most challenges. Now we don’t mean Leonardo DaVinci creative, but business creative. That means thinking outside the box and connecting different concepts to create entirely new solutions. It also means putting yourself in situations that will nudge your creative mind into action.
Take Steve Jobs, for example. He enrolled in courses and hobbies that were seemingly unrelated to his area of expertise, like calligraphy. But, in the end they all came together to create different elements of what is now Apple (like its unique typography, for example).
In fact, it was Steve Jobs who coined the phrase, “creativity is just connecting things.”
You’ll never think out-the-box if you never leave the box, so try delving into a new interest every week to spark new ideas. Go to a new restaurant, pick up a hobby, take a different route home—challenge yourself in any way you can!
We live in a continuously changing world with something new popping up every second. It’s a lot to keep up with, so you need to be able to roll with the punches. Every successful entrepreneur needs to be savvy on current events and capable of adapting their business to them.
Granted, it’s not easy to stay calm when your entire business may be at stake; but take a breath, weigh your options, and ride that wave into unfamiliar territory. You’ll either nail it or learn something valuable for next time. Either way, you won’t lose.
To shake off the tendency to curl up and hope the problem goes away, test yourself in hypothetical situations. Think about what you’d do if a new competitor suddenly swallowed your market share. What if your industry doesn’t embrace your product or service—but a different industry does? Think about it, write it down, and turn it into a contingency plan. This basically trains your brain to jump into action and handle the real problems if and when they arise.
You can also play around with these brain training apps during your daily commute to keep your mind sharp. Just a few minutes a day can make all the difference.
It’s okay, not everybody is naturally competitive. You may prefer maintaining good relationships with the people around you, rather than upsetting them just to win. But if you want to make it to the top, you have to be hungry for success—or at least hungrier than the next person.
The business world is very much a “you snooze, you lose” situation. While you’re sitting at your 9 to 5 daydreaming about setting up shop one day, someone in the next block over is already doing it. It may not come naturally to you, but you can learn to stoke that competitive drive. You’ll need it to push ahead and stay ahead.
Remember why you’re pursuing your goal and lock your focus on it. Shake off that tendency to be passive and just let things play out. No game is ever won without a strategy and tough decisions. So straighten up, get comfortable with competition, and make those tough calls—before someone else makes them for you.
Trusting yourself is a powerful accelerant. Although it’s not always easy and self-doubt is a very real deterrent that even the best entrepreneurs have to deal with. But confidence is key—not just for yourself, but for leading your team through difficult times.
Typically, people aren’t confident because they don’t feel ready. But here’s the truth: nobody is ever ready. The time will never feel right. You just have to start and never stop moving.
Remember: successful people start before they feel ready. Take the first step and build your confidence as you go.
People are confident in what they know, so prepare yourself as best as you can. Make sure you understand every moving part of your business idea: research your target audience, grab some users and run the idea by them, or draft a one-page business plan. Prepare what worries you the most about your business, and you won’t have to feel doubtful about it anymore.
Here’s something you need to make peace with before you start: it won’t be easy. Tough times are on the way, no matter what industry you’re in. Sometimes stress will feel overwhelming, plans will move at a glacial pace, your budget will reach its limit, and people won’t always do what you want them to.
It happens, and you may feel like it’s time to quit. But whatever you do: don’t. Don’t stop climbing the last 5m of that mountain just because a rock is in your way. Every successful entrepreneur has had their fair share of failures and then some! Elon Musk has failed plenty, but simply takes it as a sign that he’s making progress. Because really, that’s all failure truly is.
Keep a log of your achievements to look back on when things feel like they’re spiraling out of control. Use it to remind yourself that you can and have overcome challenges, and failure couldn’t beat you if it tried. The secret is to expect failures will happen and prepare for them as best as you can. Create a safety net for your worst-case scenarios, and you’ll find that the thought of failing isn’t as scary anymore.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely venture at first. There’s no-one to hold you accountable, telling you to put that taco down and start on your business planning. It’s mostly up to you to push yourself towards that finish line. As a successful entrepreneur, you have to:
- Plan ahead for the company’s future
- Manage your time wisely
- Prioritize tasks
- Make sure those tasks get done
Yes, discipline is hard. Anyone who has tried to start a new workout regime knows it. But, you’ll also know that once you start and get into the groove of things, you just keep going—you’ll even miss it if you don’t. So, you may need to make that extra effort at first to push that boulder, but once it’s rolling, it’s rolling!
Carve out 10 – 15 minutes each day to sit down and plan for your business’ future. Jot it down in a calendar, set an alarm, cover your wall with post-its if you have to—just make sure you don’t forget! If you have an entrepreneurial buddy in the same boat, make it a double session so you can keep each other accountable.
Communication is everything for a successful entrepreneur. You need it for practically every aspect of your journey, including:
- Leading your team effectively
- Conveying your plans to potential investors
- Building partnerships with market leaders in your industry
- Managing suppliers
- Keeping clients happy
To maintain good relationships on all fronts, you simply must be skilled in interpersonal communication. Doing this gives you the tools to inspire others with a few choice words, express yourself clearly in-person or online, and glow with confidence when you pitch your business ideas.
If you have a team, ask them for feedback on how you communicate with them. You can even ask your friends or colleagues (who may give a more honest answer). You can also do some good ol’ research and learn from great speakers and communicators. Richard Branson’s public speaking tip is to pretend he’s chatting to a friend—even if he’s in front of an audience of 200+ people!
On another note, to appear genuine in your communication with others, make it a habit to chat regularly with employees and key players in your business. Get to know them and build trust with them. You may find that nurturing relationships with the people around you will prove to be incredibly beneficial in the long run.
Everyone needs something to keep them going through the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. Successful entrepreneurs are successful because they’re driven by an urge that’s almost indistinguishable from hunger that fuels their every step. If you don’t truly believe in your business idea or in your ability to achieve it, then your motivation will shrivel up in no time. So dig deep and tap into what keeps you on track, rain or shine.
Motivation tends to hit a wall when you feel overwhelmed by what’s on the other side. Don’t let it paralyze you. Sit down and break that big scary task into bite-sized ones. It’s a lot less intimidating to “brainstorm company names” than to “build a company.” Plus, with small victories happening every day, it’ll be easier to stay motivated.
9. Openness to learn
Everyone has at least one good business idea knocking around, but not everyone has the know-how to successfully roll it out. Building a business takes knowledge and experience in a diverse range of topics, including:
- Business knowledge, like understanding industry trends and what aspects of the economy will impact your business.
- Strategic thinking to stay ahead of the competition, recognize trends and plan for all eventualities.
- Accounting to ensure cash flow and financial health for your business.
- Sales and marketing—at least the basics.
If you already have some of them on pat, then you’re already a leap ahead of most people. If not, then it’s time to break out the books, start some research, and ask people who have done it all before.
You don’t have to be a pro at everything, but just knowledgeable enough to slide by until you can outsource small business tasks and focus on the big stuff.
Stay teachable! Invest in yourself and your education. You can join local meetups, attend conferences, participate in dedicated forums, and make friends with people who can lend their tried-and-true advice. The best lessons tend to hide in the most unlikely places, so put yourself out there and open your mind to spontaneous learning opportunities.
Don’t have a business idea yet? Don’t worry. Head over to 20 Best Small Business Ideas to Start in 2020 to clear your head and sharpen your focus.
Ready to make your business happen?
Chasing new knowledge is a huge part of being an entrepreneur, and it’s what makes the adventure so worth it in the end. Pick one skill right now and make a list of things you can do to improve it this week. Then, once you’ve polished that skill, pick another and keep going! For successful entrepreneurs in the making, these nine skills are the hiking gear you need to reach the top.
Remember: becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t just mean growing a business, but also yourself in the process.
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