Be able to sell anything
This is one of the most important qualities an entrepreneur can have. As an entrepreneur you are selling a lot. You will have to sell your ideas to customers, investors and potential employees. You sell your skills to these same audiences. You sell your leadership, your confidence, your vision and the importance of the values you promote. Aside from these things, you have to sell your products and services. Being a good salesman can be more difficult than it sounds. Are you able to step in front of a venture capital firm or a bank and defend that your idea is not only great, but is logical, convincing, and better than any other business who is seeking funding out there? You must be very convincing. If you are second guessing your idea back and forth, your idea is not ripe to take action, or you are not cut out for it. Don't waste your time and money on something you can't dedicate your whole heart to.
Don't leave things undone
If you have a problem finishing things, entrepreneurship is not for you. You cannot leave a business almost complete. Halfhearted attempts at starting a business will result in a business failure. If you are the person that people want on their team because they know you won't put your stamp of approval on a project until it is excellent, you should pat yourself on the back. Have you heard of entropy? Entropy is the tendency that things have to move from order to disorder. Businesses are no different. Businesses, without constant direction, can move from order to disorder if not appropriately shepherded in the right direction.
Vanilla, chocolate, or twist?
You must be comfortable with your gut instincts. There is a lot of information out there, and the truth is, you can't gather every bit of information possible before making decisions. You have to be able to have the judgment to know when to decide that you have sufficient information to make a decision and when you need more. If it takes you an incredible amount of time to make decisions, you need to find a way to change that before jumping into business as an entrepreneur. It is great to think things through, but if you think about it too much, you will still be on decision number 3 when you should be on decision number 5. Time is a finite resource, making it very valuable. You cannot repurchase or reproduce time once it has been used. You must understand and be ready for the actual volume of decisions you will be making as an entrepreneur. Are you ready to make dozens of big decisions on a daily basis?
Confidence is an important skill to have. You should have confidence in your ideas, in yourself and in others. You have to trust others to do their job and to do it well. No matter how amazing you may think you are, you cannot work everyone else's job along with your own. If you are confident in the abilities of others, you can allow them to shine. Your ideas are not always the only ideas or the best ideas. By showing confidence in the abilities of others, you allow for new ideas to emerge into the business. Also, in my experience, people try harder to do a better job when they know people trust in their abilities and can count on them. Being confident in your own abilities is critical to your success. Confidence is not only an attribute, but a skill to be mastered. Many people can show confidence when certain things are going in their favor, it takes a great leader to have confidence even when things are not going well.
Time management & planning skills
As mentioned earlier, time is a finite resource. If you let time get away from you, you will have a hard time starting a successful business. Your planner should be your best friend. Learn to prioritize and plan. I suggest setting aside several hours each week to plan for the entire week and to make daily adjustments. I also suggest having quarterly and yearly planning sessions. Just like diets, most people know they should do it, but there are few who actually are successful at it.
Communication & Persuasion
It is a skill to be able to express an idea in a clear and concise manner. You should be able to pick out the most important concepts of your ideas and speak about them with clarity. You will also need to understand thoroughly the business industry in order to be persuasive. If you are talking to a potential investor and you get asked a hard question, be prepared to be asked an even harder question if you are unable to answer the first question. If you don't have an answer, it shows a gap in your knowledge. Too many gaps and you are out of a deal. You should also have enthusiasm. If you are not enthusiastic about your idea, it is hard to persuade others to believe it is good one.
Being a daredevil in high school or college does not guarantee that you are going to be a great entrepreneur, though it may help. A person can be fearless and stupid. When you have courage, however, you recognize the risks, but take action regardless. You accept the risk before you start and try to do what is possible to mitigate the risk while moving forward. There is a lot you can be fearful of when starting a business. As an entrepreneur you need to be able to overcome your fears and ensure they don't keep you from reaching your potential.
Learning is a skill. As an entrepreneur you need to be a quick learner. You have to be willing to learn new skills constantly. One business owner I know is a great example of this. He has set aside the first hour of every work day to read about the current things happening in his industry. I know many other successful entrepreneurs who continually set aside time to learn new skills. You will need to learn how to gain understanding and find meaning that is deeper than the surface. You must learn to make your own arguments (not just those made by the media), synthesize new knowledge, memorize information, gain new relevant skills, and be able to utilize all this knowledge to create new things and make old things more efficient.
Good luck to all the new entrepreneurs, the world needs your enthusiasm and your new ideas. Let me know if you have any other thoughts on the skills needed by entrepreneurs.
Starting a company is scary stuff in any environment. It takes vision, capital, courage, conviction and, yes, even a touch of arrogance. Indeed, lack of confidence can kill a young company. But so, too, can thinking you’re all that when you’re not.
How to strike the right balance between confidence and arrogance? Start by avoiding the following classic traps. I wish they were clichés, but sadly they aren’t.
"Business plans are for dummies"
Think business plans are just for investors? Wrong. Those plans are primarily for you. Compiling a business plan forces you to think through the fundamentals, from financing to marketing. The plan also communicates the same vision to employees, lawyers, accountants and other key players.
Better still, the mere fact of writing this stuff down allows you to measure the performance of your business. If you can’t measure it, you surely can’t manage it. (For more on business plans, check out.
“This is so cool!”
Just because you think your new mousetrap is extraordinary doesn’t mean the whole world will agree–or at least agree enough to pay a price that translates into a profit after manufacturing, marketing and distribution costs. There is no substitute for understanding the market and sizing the opportunity before you place your bets.
“If we build it, they will come”
The hot term these days is “viral marketing,” meaning: “We won’t do any marketing, but our product is so great that everyone will know about us anyway by word of mouth and through online social networks.” Reality: Viral marketing only takes off after you prime the pump with real marketing–and real marketing dollars.
“We have no competitors”
Venture capitalists and angel investors hear this one all the time. Cold truth: If you haven’t identified a competitor–in the form of a maker of a similar product or service, or the provider of a different product or service that might serve as a substitute to yours–you either 1) haven’t looked or 2) there isn’t any market for what you are selling.
“Me, myself and I”
I recently watched a promising start-up wither and die for lack of funds because the founder refused to step aside as chief executive in favor of a more experienced candidate, a condition of a $1 million venture capital investment. I reminded him that, within the stipulation he could easily kick himself up to chairman, but he wanted it all. So much for ego.
“We’re too nimble for the big guys to keep up”
Usually the reason large companies don’t seem to pose a threat is that the market opportunity is too small to have much impact on their prodigious top lines. Serving a relatively small customer base well can yield a tidy little business, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re going head-to-head with the likes of IBM and Microsoft –and certainly don’t let investors think you’re fooling yourself, either.
"We have more features than anyone!"
So you wrapped all the features of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn into your new social networking software, and you’re wondering why everyone isn’t flocking to it. Truth is, marketing a flurry of features often puts off customers who would rather not have to deal with complexity, or the costs to switch to a new product or service. Simple sells.
"There’s no need to risk my own money"
Investing your own capital is, in the eyes of investors, the difference between “involved” and “committed”–and investors like commitment even more than they like sweat equity.
"We’re funded, now we can relax"
The real work starts when the money comes in–tasks like managing budgets, hitting milestones, inspiring employees and, yes, keeping investors happy.
The Executive Summary
While appearing first, this section is written last. It summarizes the key elements of the entire business plan.
An overview of the industry sector that your business will be a part of, including industry trends, major players in the industry, and estimated industry sales. This section will also include a summary of your business's place within the industry.
An examination of the primary target market for your product or service, including geographic location, demographics, your target market's needs and how these needs are being met currently.
An investigation of your direct and indirect competitors, with an assessment of their competitive advantage and an analysis of how you will overcome any entry barriers to your chosen market.
A detailed explanation of your sales strategy, pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, and product or service's benefits.
An outline of your business's legal structure and management resources, including your internal management team, external management resources, and human resources needs.
A description of your business's physical location, facilities and equipment, kinds of employees needed, inventory requirements and suppliers, and any other applicable operating details, such as a description of the manufacturing process.
A description of your funding requirements, your detailed financial statements, and a financial statement analysis.
Appendices And Exhibits
Any additional information that will help establish the credibility of your business idea, such as marketing studies, photographs of your product, and/or contracts or other legal agreements pertinent to your business.
Welcome To The...