7 Skills You Need to Be an Entrepreneur

What skills do successful entrepreneurs have in common? The Blueprint outlines seven entrepreneurial skills that will help you start a business and make it thrive.

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When I was in preschool, all my friends wanted to be a firefighter when they grew up. In high school, they wanted to play professional sports, and then in college, they all wanted to become an entrepreneur.

Though there are different types of entrepreneurship, most people are interested in whatever type will make them rich.

Nowadays, my friends are satisfied with their careers and mostly just want to lose weight when they grow up, but some still have the entrepreneurial spirit. Pursuing and succeeding in an entrepreneurial career is admirable, but it isn’t easy. Work on this list of skills to set yourself up for success.


1. Sales

Sales is the most important skill for an entrepreneur, and your mindset must always focus on sales. You have to market yourself, your product, and your business to customers, partners, investors, and future employees.

Harry Browne's written the best short guide I’ve read on sales. His strategy: “Figure out what the other person wants and convince them that you can make it happen.”

A few of the skills we will discuss can be delegated. If you’re not an organized person or if you’re financially illiterate, you can hire someone to do those things for you. But it’s close to impossible to run a successful business and pitch it to customers and investors if you aren’t personally good at sales. At the very least, you need sufficient passion for your business and product to generate leads.


2. Thick skin

To me, thick skin means you can handle criticism and anxiety well. Another popular term for this is emotional intelligence, or the ability to continue to operate in stressful circumstances.

Face it, everything won't go as planned with your business. The challenges faced by entrepreneurs are innumerable. At some point, you'll miss deadlines, quality control will fail, employees will steal, and you may lose money. When these things happen, you have to seek out constructive criticism and advice and move forward despite everything.


3. Organization

Organization is the best skill I’ve employed in my various careers. The ability to know exactly where everything is if you need it is imperative.

It starts with your email. I use the inbox zero strategy. My inbox is my to-do list. Any email for a task that has been completed is deleted or archived into the correct folder, and I unsubscribe from any sender I don’t need to hear from.

Next, all files are saved in a server-based folder system, so they're always easy to find. Physical files are scanned when possible, If not, I store them with a similar physical system. When our company has an audit or goes through underwriting for a loan, I can find everything on the needs list in under an hour.

If your desk is a war zone, but your office manager or accountant is able to find and organize all the important things, it will work out.

But organization is a task you can farm out. A cottage industry of remote online businesses focuses solely on getting you organized. They filter your email, set your schedule, and sometimes even create a filing system for you. If you work for yourself, this is a service I highly recommend.


4. Adaptability

Open-mindedness is important in life and work. Don’t be a Kodak watching digital cameras send you back to the stone age.

You have to have macro and micro adaptability. On the macro level, you need to know the big picture issues affecting your industry. If you're a home builder, you need to know how interest rates drive demand and have a plan if they get jacked back up.

At the same time, you need to be able to adapt on the micro-level. If an earthquake destroys all your framing work, you have to quickly manage the situation and recover what you can.


5. Technology

Technology is a subset of adaptability. You don’t have to be able to write code, but have the bare minimum skills. Know how to convert documents to a PDF, how to create formulas in a spreadsheet, how to set up and connect to WiFi, and how to connect to a printer.

My grandpa was a pretty good operations guy back in the aforementioned stone age (the 1980s). By the time I spent a summer working in a factory he managed, in 2009, technology had passed him by. After a few weeks of watching him take twelve seconds to find the key for every single letter he typed, I volunteered to write his emails for him.

It’s OK to not buy a new cellphone every year, but don’t let technological illiteracy hold you back.


6. Financial literacy

The measuring stick for a business is profit. You can have an amazing product and be the most efficient manufacturer in history, but if you’re spending more than you’re bringing in, the business doesn’t work.

Learn all the accounting basics you need to understand the income statement and balance sheet, and take some time to learn the industry-standard metrics for your business. The more you understand your own financials, the better you can plan for the future and negotiate better deals.


7. Cheap

As an accountant, I can attest the best business owner to work with is someone who is cheap. Spending money has its place, but businesses exist to make profits. Entrepreneurs who want the newest and highest quality everything are rarely successful. For the most part, good enough is good enough.

A business owner who is constantly vigilant about every cost is rarely surprised by bad quarters or unprofitable jobs. However, if you get too obsessed and start to cut corners on quality or commit tax fraud, it isn’t worth it.


Take it with a grain of salt

Every entrepreneur is different. It's impossible to create a list of entrepreneurial skills and program a robot to run a successful business. For each of the skills above, I could think of a few billionaires who notoriously didn’t have the skill.

It’s about the cumulative skills you have in managing. If you can’t sell but you’re great with numbers, you may be able to run a million-dollar business based on deal-making and smart purchasing alone. If your desk would take a team of seven in hazmat suits to clean but you could sell sand in the desert, you can probably make it work. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and hire people who compensate for your weaknesses.

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