When you think of an entrepreneur, who springs to mind? Elon Musk? Lori Greiner? While famous founders certainly fit the mold, how about the guy down the street who earns a living as a remote CFO for several clients? Or the mom who hustles to sell organic baby lotions out of her spare bedroom?
Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life and pitch their tents in countless industries. Even if they never become household names, their products and services just might. This is especially true of those who dedicate themselves to learning best practices from their successful peers.
Entrepreneurial spirit can be bred, as well as born
Although the notion that entrepreneurs are somehow uniquely wired might be quaint, it’s not quite accurate. Certainly, most founders share similar traits, such as determination, intelligence, and a tendency toward innovation. But those characteristics alone don’t build thriving, scalable businesses.
Being good at starting and maintaining a company requires the ability to continuously hone learned behaviors. Yes, those behaviors may be augmented by born-this-way skill sets, but they’re not less important by any means.
If you’re interested in where you stand in both nature and nurture aptitudes, consider taking the CliftonStrengths Builder Profile 10 test to create a baseline. It’s much easier to develop yourself when you can objectively see what you’re working with. From there, if you want to improve as an entrepreneur, make a resolution to carve out time to develop these tactics.
5 Entrepreneurial Skills That Will Make You Successful
Become a selling machine.
When HubSpot polled inbound sales folks, 69 percent said they wanted higher conversion rates. The best way to close more deals is to make selling as comfortable as breathing. Mike Monroe, the digital strategy manager at Vector Marketing, says the key to becoming an extraordinary salesperson involves an eagerness to overcome objections. Monroe explains, “Whether pitching to investors or promoting the company to everyday consumers, an entrepreneur can’t be timid. Fear never closes a sale.”
Not sure if your sales game is moving to the next level? You can work on your ability to effectively communicate in all situations. Consider joining a public speaking group, such as Toastmasters, to increase your presenting, listening, responding, and body language-reading skills.
Keep building your network.
Connections are important, but having more than 500 disengaged LinkedIn followers isn’t the answer. Instead, you need to increase your contact list organically and authentically. One avenue that’s worked well for budding Millennial and Gen Z entrepreneurs is the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). The active cohort offers opportunities for sharing and socializing among those facing the challenge of building a business.
You may also be able to tap into your alma mater for mentoring and friendships. Blue Apron co-founder Matt Salzberg, for example, used his Harvard Business School connections to test his idea for a home delivery meal service. He’s hardly alone; half of his fellow graduates are on the entrepreneurial track. No doubt many share his willingness to lean on others’ expertise as they follow their dreams.
- Hire with intention.
Your employees will become an extension — and the face — of your business. Consequently, learn to hire for more than just skills on a résumé. Otherwise, you might get someone who’s robotically efficient but lacking in openness, adaptability, people skills, and creativity.
Depending upon your business model, you may feel comfortable going with your instincts when choosing colleagues. This doesn’t mean you should just hire friends or people you like. Rather, look for candidates with passion and integrity. They may not be able to check off all the boxes today, but with the right training, they could become core leaders down the road.
Every entrepreneur deals with problems. How you solve them is what sets you apart. In a best-case scenario, you want to be able to proactively reframe problems as opportunities. As Sharmadean Reid, founder of Beautystack, has said, “To be successful as an entrepreneur, you need that burning desire to succeed and solve problems.”
Not sure how to tackle big obstacles? When you feel yourself turning inward or shutting down, remind yourself that every seemingly insurmountable issue is made up of smaller components. Therefore, break down problems into digestible chunks that can be evaluated individually. This helps to both reduce the magnitude of the problem and give you insights into how to solve it.
Lead with empathy.
Is getting in touch with your own and others’ emotions tough? Perhaps the entrepreneurial journey has led you to form a hard shell of emotional protection. Well, now it’s time to work on your empathy. According to TalentSmart research, having a high emotional quotient, or EQ, improves a person’s chance of on-the-job prowess by 58 percent.
Improving your emotional intelligence requires a willingness to accept and acknowledge emotions without allowing them to rule every decision. If you’re temperamental, you know what a tall order this can be. Yet words said in anger or frustration can have a major impact, especially if you’re the boss. Learn to hold your tongue and open your ears, and your EQ — and business acumen — will rise.
Your determination and innovative personality give flavor and purpose to your life, but success always requires more than innate traits. As an entrepreneur, take it upon yourself to increase the breadth and depth of your learned skills. Your name may never be widely recognized, but you can still make customers eager for your offerings.