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Photo Credit: Kafi A. Martin

Essential Skills for Entrepreneurs [ANSWERS]

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The age old question about whether entrepreneurs are born or made is as unsure as the question about whether the chicken or the egg came first. However, entrepreneurs and business owners are able to pinpoint specific characteristics that are evident in entrepreneurs and business owners.

CEO Blog Nation and Rescue a CEO asked entrepreneur what they believed were the essential skills that entrepreneurs and business owners needed.

1) Strategy, Marketing & Operations

Photo Credit: Jennifer Gaddis

(1) Strategy – Unique Positioning & Brand Message and Audience. (2) Marketing – Get your brand out there (3) Operations – Team, Systems, Automation

Thanks to Jennifer Gaddis, Heels and Jeans!

2) Alignment, Attraction & Engagement

Photo Credit: Danny Iny

(1) Alignment – Create a perfect fit between the people you’re trying to reach and the offer that you’re trying to make. (2) Attraction – Grab the attention of your target audience. (3) Engagement – The secret weapon of the most successful marketers, and it works just as well for entrepreneurs and small business owners. You’ve gotten the attention of your target audience so how you need to encourage them to take a step towards becoming a lifelong  customer. You can’t just come right out and ask for it though – it would be a little like asking someone to marry you after one good date. Instead, ask for a small commitment, like joining your  mailing list, or becoming a fan on Facebook. Once they make that step,  you reward them with something beyond their expectations. A brilliant free report, exclusive blog posts, access to a network, or even access to you – anything that makes the time and effort they put in seem like a fantastically good bargain. Next, you ask for a bigger  commitment – maybe offer a free sample or trial, after you reward them  with an amazing experience. In all cases, the value you give must  dramatically exceed any perceived risk.

Thanks to Danny Iny, Firepole Marketing!

3) People Skill, Proactive Approach & Strategic Mindset

Photo Credit: Jack Kilyoun Kim

(1) People Skill: Do What’s Good for the People – always find time to sit down with those who work “with” you to achieve a single goal. When planning details or drawing a blueprint of what needs to be completed, let the people have a say and make sure they are doing something of their interest. Spend time with them outside work. Know what stresses them out; it might not be work, but who cares? Show them a way out (it’s always okay to share your thought with them). Know what interests them lately; have them come to you to share anything. An idea may pop up somewhere and this will motivate the people to work harder (sounds a bit cliche, though). (2) Proactive Approach: Put Words into Action – Easier said than done, but you do not deserve to stop there. Where there is an action, where the leader is. Let there be no wall between a director and those directed. Jump into the scene. Show them how you steer the wheel in the front and let them witness how you make mistakes and corrections/revisions. But always stick to “what you said”. This demonstrates responsibility. This demonstrate the relationship between a cause and a result (let’s call it a fruit here, since it is a positive outcome.). Let the people get involved in every step, by having them involved from the moment you have clearly and precisely pronounced your future actions. (3) Stategic Mindset: Look Afar and Contemplate – You are the one to set the direction for yourself and the people. Make sure to find some time away from daily routines and throw intricate questions to yourself for contemplation. Contemplation on those unseen events. Make projections (not necessarily based on facts and figures) and determine appropriate routes to take. Once you are confident in your belief that these projections and determinations are sound and firm, go to the people and let them know what you know. Convince them to follow you. Vision demonstration is what ties them together, in the end.

Thank you to Jack Kilyoun Kim, Enswers Inc!

4) Passion, Determination and Self M0tivation & Patience and Flexibility

(1) What I call the “arrogance of entrepreneurship“–the true compelling passion throughout every inch of your body that what you produce, create and market is so important, needed and necessary that it “has to” get out there. For me, there were two “last straws” that proverbially broke the camel’s back; the first was ordering flowers for my sons’ birthdays and being disappointed for the third time, and at the final delivery, by simply hating the flowers that arrived at my home and had cost so much. I was so disgusted that I was convinced that even I could have done a better job! the second instance (an event which keeps occurring as I visit fellow florist’s shops) was a job interview with an extremely prestigious florist here in NYC. As she was testing my hand-on floral skills, she showed me her entire wall of the cheapest, most inexpensive acetate ribbons on the market to use for the arrangement. While I got the job, I walked out of the showroom saying that if she could be so successful using awful ribbon, imagine what I could do using fine quality ribbon–and I never looked back. Another example I use is that if you love what one dos so much that one would do if for free. (2) Determination and self motivation–entrepreneurs do not have bosses. One has to be to totally determined and self motivated not only to get the job done, but to do it with precision and excellence.(3) Patience and flexibility–few entrepreneurs are overnight successes. An entrepreneur needs the patience to manage growth, try new things and have the patience to see them through to either success or failure. If failure is the status, an entrepreneur needs the flexibility to try “Plan B” quickly.

Thanks to Lynn Jawitz, Florisan Wedding and Event Design NYC!

5) Delegation, Marketing & Protecting Your Time

Photo Credit: Kafi A. Martin

(1) Delegation: As an owner you have your own stamp and signature style that goes into what you do and say. But you just cannot do it all on your own, and need to learn how to give certain tasks over to assistants etc. Trying to do it all yourself is a surefire way to delay your progress. (2) Marketing: If you cannot tell people what you do and connect your service to their needs, you will not be very successful. Business cannot function without clients; so the skill of attracting and retaining clients is not just essential, it is critical. (3) Protecting Your Time: As an entrepreneur, it is essential that you protect your time from anything and anyone that is not driving you toward your goals. Even yourself. Time is the great equalizer, and if your time is not spent moving toward your goals, you’re wasting a non-renewable resource.

Thanks to Kafi A. Martin, My Best College App!

6) Flexibility, Communication & Resourcefulness

(1) Flexibility-a willingness to be wrong and course correct. The ability to adapt, improvise and overcome problems – and be ok with change. (2) To clearly communicate – with yourself and others. To put your ideas through a funnel and crystalize what your message is, and ideas on how to get there. When you are clear you save time, energy and are more efficient. A foggy mind creates confusion. A confused mind never buys an idea, a proposal, or enthusiasm in a new project. (3) To be resourceful – to get different results, you have to try something new. Being resourceful is about being open to ideas, even if they haven’t worked in the past. People, situations and timing change – so looking at a problem with a fresh perspective and attitude can yield new results.

Thanks to Robin Samora, Let’s Make You Shine!

7) Accept Criticism & Rejection, Ability to Distinguish & Good Judgement

Photo Credit Alan

(1) The ability to accept criticism and to reject rejection and to know the difference. You get a lot of both when starting out. (2) The ability to know the difference between chicken salad and chicken-%$#@. The advice you get from others is most often bad advice. (3) Good judgment comes from experience and experience often comes from bad judgement. Failure is part of the journey to success.

Thanks to Alan N. Canton, 499WordPressDesign!

8) Know Your Strengths, Begin With The End in Mind & Clarity on Requirements

Photo Credit: Janet Lancaster

(1) Know your strengths and be prepared to outsource other areas of business that are not in your sweet spot. Too often, people with a skill start a business without understanding all the different disciplines required and they end up getting trapped “in” their business. It’s rare to find someone who is good in sales and marketing, finance and accounting, operations, and human resources. Decide where your talents are best utilized and plan on getting help for the rest. (2) Begin with the end in mind. If all the entrepreneur wants to do is trade for time for money, that’s fine. But know that at the get go. To build a business into a marketable asset that can be sold at a future date, it must be more than a job. Knowing what the end goal is will help keep the owner focused on growing a business, not just a job. Many, many small businesses are just jobs, not businesses that provide a return beyond the owners salary in exchange for time (a job). (3) Before you start or buy a business, get very clear on your own requirements. Think about your requirements around location, hours, risk, type of work involved, funds needed and employees and so on.

Thanks to Janet Lancaster, Earth’s Living Clay!

9) Listen, Put Ego Aside & Let Others Lead

Photo Credit: Colin T. McDonald

I believe, three essentials that every business owner or CEO must possess to lead a successful organization are the attributes to (1) listen and be open to new ideas & change, (2) know when to put your ego aside and let others lead in order for the business to grow, and (3) most importantly be able to solve the problem before the damage is already done.

Thanks to Colin T. McDonald, Style Source!

10) Adaptability, Delegation & Balance

In 2006, after several years of teaching and coaching entrepreneurs, I created a course built around the “Core competencies of successful entrepreneurs” because I felt the traditional classes around writing business plans were missing the point. Now lots of authors and experts are talking about the essential skills required to make it in the world of entrepreneurship. The world of business is in constant flux and so (1) adaptability in the face of change is probably the most important quality for entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurs must be able to take in new information whether it comes as market data or mentor feedback and adapt to the new realities of their business. (2) entrepreneurs must learn to delegate. It is true that many start-ups take the route of “wearing a lot of hats” but smart entrepreneurs quickly learn to delegate and outsource tasks that are outside of their sweet spot. Failure to do so leads to burn out. (3) Finally, entrepreneurs must learn to balance enthusiasm and positive thinking (typically strong points for this group) with realistic analysis. Enthusiasm can drive a business but it cannot erase the realities of poor inventory control, staffing problems or design flaws. The love and passion that drives entrepreneurs is essential however, the most successful entrepreneurs learn to blend this with cool headed analysis of market realities and believable financials.

Thanks to Karen Watts!

11) Tenacity, Positivity & Flexibility

Photo Credit: Therese Pope

The three essential skills you need as an entrepreneur are tenacity, a positive attitude and flexibility. You have to go with the flow and just take things as they happen. You will have your good days and you’ll have your bad days as an entrepreneur. It’s all about approaching your business with a “can-do” attitude – don’t give up.

Thanks to Therese Pope, Zenful Communications!

12) Ability to Write Lists, Solid Business Plans & Focus

Photo Credit: Ben Sayers

(1) Write Lists:  Lists are a big part of any plan for success.  One of the first things I do when trying to remember what I had planned for the day and what I should do next is to create a list, so I don’t have to think about it anymore. (2) Build Solid Business Plans:  Take the time to build a solid business plan and don’t ever expect it to be “finished” as it needs to live and breath in order to be successful. Be conservative in your planning and understate your market, capabilities and revenue. At the same time, make sure to over estimate your expenses.  (3)  Mind Your Focus:  It’s too easy to have too many great ideas and not enough focus.  There’s always time for the next great thing.  Focus on one major initiative at a time.  If you have the courage to start something on your own, have the sense to focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else.

Thanks to Ben Sayers, VoIP Supply!

13) Think Like Your Customers, Sell Your Benefits & Ask Questions

(1) Think Like Your Customers: Learn their unique challenges and needs, and then position your product or service as an essential solution that can help them achieve their specific goals. (2) Sell Your Benefits: Many business owners get caught up in extolling the features of their product or service, but doing this will not build your sales. Instead, emphasize the particular benefits that you’re offering, and that you have experience delivering. (3) Ask Questions: When interacting with customers, many business owners think that talking about the excellence of their product or service is the key to success, but it usually ends up killing a sale. Instead, ask your customer key questions that will logically lead to a discussion of the solution that you offer, such as: How can I help you?; How long have you had this problem/challenge?; What have you tried in the past to turn it around, and what were the results?

Thanks to Rafe Gomez, VC Inc Marketing!

14) Self Control, Good Judgement & Originality

Photo Credit: Melanie Angelis

(1) The top skill is self control. Staying professional during terse negotiations and “playing well with others” is especially important in alternative medicine businesses, where we serve patients best by having an array of local resources to best serve their needs. (2) Knowing when to follow your dreams and emotions and when to stay methodical and practical with a business plan also requires control and my next skill, judgement. Discerning the intentions of others and the needs of your clients and customers keeps you from wasting time providing services that no one is asking for. This involves knowing and being able to think like your target audience. Good judgement is also necessary for the barrage of marketing and advertising companies that all insist they can take me to the next level. (3) Finally, originality is indespensible, because larger companies can always make products cheaper and services more streamlined than you can. Creativity and fresh perspectives stand out in a crowd.

Thanks to Melanie Angelis, The Grecian Garden LLC!

15) Leadership, Influence & Creativity

Leadership is influence. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Entrepreneurs who lead their organizations (even if they only have a staff of one) need to be able to influence others if they want to grow. In addition to leadership skills and influencing skills, the successful entrepreneur needs creativity skills.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli!

16) Ability to Use Leverage, Plan & Seek Help

Photo Credit: Diane Conklin

(1) Use leverage in your business from the very beginning. You can’t do this alone and the sooner you stop trying the sooner your business will flourish and grow. Treat your business like a big business from the beginning and it will be a big business. (2) Hire a coach or a mentor who can guide you and keep you from stepping on the land mines. (3) Have a plan. Not a business plan necessarily but a marketing plan so you know where you’re going in your business and can stay focused.

Thanks to Diane Conklin, Complete Marketing Systems!

17) Ability to Forego Myopic Thinking, Find Comfort & Separate Oneself

Photo Credit Toni Purry

(1) The ability to forego myopic thinking. You will always need to have at least a 30K foot level perspective. From the smallest to the largest decisions, they can and will affect the big picture so always think long term. (2) The ability to find comfort in not knowing all the answers and to manage personal expectations. Entrepreneurship is a learning process that many figure out along a long journey. Get comfortable with admitting when you don’t know something. It’s not a sign of weakness and it will take the pressure off of trying to look like you know what you are doing as you are figuring it out. (3) The ability to separate yourself from your business. The saying that “It’s lonely at the top,” can feel very true even as a neophyte company, especially when making the unpopular decisions. For whatever reason, not everyone will see it your way and many will be quick to pass judgment.

Thanks to Toni Purry, Purry Communications Group!

18) Ability to Be Realistic, Positive & to Research

(1) Be realistic: A lot of people go into a business venture because they get excited about an idea (owning a restaurant, running a B&B, etc) without realizing how hard it is going to be. They need to be in a position to be able to take a loss at least for the first two years. (2) Be positive: Despite the need for realism, an entrepreneur needs to have a strong conviction that they can be the ones to get over the hump or the “you’re crazy” factor. No one wants to invest in or be a party to a venture with someone who does not convey a realistic positivity. (3) Research, Research, Research: Know the field, know your customer base, utilize focus groups and surveys. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by something you did not think of ahead of time. If you build it; they will come” only works in the movies.

Thanks to George C Thomas, The Institute for Christ Centered Manhood!

19) The Ability to Build, Manage & Nurture One’s Social Capital & Exceptional Customer Service

Photo Credit: Carol Heady

There are two priorities (top skills) that I believe every entrepreneur, business owner and CEO must be willing to develop. One being the ability to build, manage and nurture one’s social capital. Social capital includes networks of relationships defined in the following way: your inner circle-these are the 8-10 people who you bare your soul to, trust with your life-this is an exclusive group; the next circle would be those people you consider advocates-people who speak on your behalf, send you referrals, send you articles or other information that would be helpful, give you feedback when requested; “COP’s” represent all of the “communities” you belong to, personal and professional (business associations, professional membership associations, alumni associations, house of worship, volunteer work, etc.); lastly your outer most circle represents people you have met at networking events and you’ve collected their business cards that sit in your “rolodex” or all of the contacts you’ve accumulated that are in your contact management system that you haven’t developed a relationship. Your social capital is a wealth of opportunity ranging from business opportunities/development, referrals, strategic alliances, collaboration, to preventing isolation. (2) The second priority is the importance and value of being able to deliver exceptional customer service. Whether you are an entrepreneur, business owner or CEO delivering exceptional customer service is a business imperative, not an option. This requires relentless attention, especially during recessionary times. Its often the only competitive advantage a business has. Every business, no matter the size must develop a customer-centric business strategy to be a thriving, profitable, successful business.

Thanks to Carol Heady, Learning and Performance Solutions!

20) Curiosity, Tech-Friendliness, Building Balance

(1) Curiosity: I am constantly reading, listening, searching and and absorbing information that can help my business. This stems from taking a natural curiosity we all have and instead turning it into a skill you use each and every day you show up to work. I can’t count the number of times over the last few years that a piece of news, a website, or random email caught my attention, distracted me from the immediate work at hand, but later blossomed into a powerfully successful detour that helped my business. Hone your curiosity into a skill and you’ll learn to find those diamond in the rough pieces of information that can help your business. (2) Tech-Friendliness: The more technology proficient you are, the more responsive you can be to the needs of your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or large company executive, we often have to wear more than just one “job hat.” Your use and  understanding of key technology, apps, tools, software and computer programs is essentially to allowing you to run your business faster and smarter. Don’t let technology slow you down. Embrace it. (3) Building Balance: If it was up to me, I’d work non-stop from 6am to 10pm every day. Many entrepreneurs and CEOs, when passionate about building their companies, would do the same.  However, as the famous quote goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” rings amazingly true. From avoiding burn out to becoming a bore, CEOs must find time to balance their work with their personal lives. We all have friends. Family. Co-workers. The best CEOs use their balancing skills to create a positive work-life balance for everyone around them as they know this will keep a positive air around themselves, their families, their workers and inevitably their companies.

Thanks to Eric Thiegs, Stage of Life!

21) Ability to be Blind, Deaf & Emotionless

Photo Credit: Jesse Quist

To start a small business and to succeed, an entrepreneur must be blind, deaf and emotionless.  (1) Blind – you are going to read a lot of articles and see a lot of stats about 4 out 5 small businesses failing within the first year, you are going to read horror stories about bad experiences these business owners had and why it is safer to sit in your small cubicle taking orders from a boss , an entrepreneur must be oblivious too all these in order to apply themselves towards success.  (2) Deaf – this works on the same premise, there are going to be a lot of people telling you that your idea is stupid, that it is too ambitious. Most of these people will be your closest friends and your family, to be successful at what you do, you have to tune them out and focus on your goal. It is crucial to learn how to ignore negativity coming from your own brain too , which leads to the other point. (3) Emotionless– This point reminds me of the personality assessments financial planners perform before recommending mutual funds to clients. You need to be emotionless to be a risk taker, although all risks must be calculated, in business it is a guarantee that somethings will not go as planned; deadlines will be missed, you will be turned down for funding, not many people might come knocking the first few months after you open your door. Your own brain will start telling you it was a bad idea, but you must avoid sulking. A determined person will be a successful one, a person that keeps focused on the light at the end of the tunnel and not the present darkness he/she is walking in.

Thanks to Jesse Quist, Sika Accessories!

22) Planning, Organization & Communication

Photo Credit: Patrick McFadden

(1) Planning. Do you plan ahead? Every successful businessperson develops a long time perspective. Going into business with a detailed plan increases dramatically the likelihood of business success. If you are already a goal setter, you are more likely to succeed on your own. (2) Organization. Are you able to get all of the necessary information to make decisions? It has been said that indecision is the greatest thief of opportunity. Procrastination and clutter is the main obstacle to good decision making. In a successful business, important decisions are made on a daily basis, not put off. 80% of decisions should be made right away with good organization of all the information.  (3) Communication.  Can you sell yourself and your ideas? Many people fail with a great product or service because no one is out selling. Nobody will beat a path to your door even if you do have a better mousetrap. Those days are gone. You will need to sell constantly. And remember, 85% of you success will originate from your people skills – attitude, enthusiasm, self-discipline – and only 15% will be due to your technical skills.
Thanks to Pattric McFadden, McFadden Coaching LLC!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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