Entrepreneurship is quite literally the backbone of America. The “American dream” is founded on the idea that anyone who is willing to put in the hard work can achieve even the loftiest of goals. So it is no surprise that hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs start new business ventures each year in the U.S.A. alone. What may be difficult to understand is why so many of those new enterprises do not succeed. The marketplace is constantly changing and our economy continues to struggle; but in spite of our economic situation, and of all of the changes that naturally occur with the passing of time, certain entrepreneurs continue to thrive. Here are a few key traits of successful entrepreneurs that stand the test of time and that set successful entrepreneurs apart from those who fail.
Understanding the Entrepreneur
Wikipedia defines an “entrepreneur” as “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so.” Definitions from Merriam-Webster and other respected sources are quite similar. Clearly, one of the key skill sets that a successful entrepreneur must have is the ability to plan for, adjust in the presence of and outlast risk factors. As you will see, many of the skill sets successful entrepreneurs have revolve around the management of risk. This is also why many budding entrepreneurs decide to earn their MBA or other advanced degree to ensure they are standing on a firm foundation of their own making before launching a new business.
Must-Have Entrepreneurship Skills
The following skills will add to your education and any prior on-the-job training to help you build an unshakeable foundation from which your new business can grow and succeed.
- Learn how to be a boss.
- Know what to do yourself and what to delegate.
- Say yes and no at the right moments.
- Always take good care of the financials.
- Define key goals.
Be a Boss
Perhaps the most important skill any successful entrepreneur bears is the ability to be the boss. This is harder than it sounds. Many entrepreneurs are expert visionaries and find the start-up phase of a business exciting and exhilarating. But when the whirlwind dies down and business becomes dependent on taking care of the day-to-day operations, many entrepreneurs flounder. The ability to hire, fire, coach, manage work flow, delegate and more can be learned — but only successful entrepreneurs begin learning these skills before they are needed.
Delegate Where Possible
As the boss and the chief visionary, you cannot possibly do everything your business needs you to do all by yourself. It is critical to have trustworthy people working alongside you and to be able to assign key tasks to these people. Companies that succeed have leaders who are macro-, not micro-, managers.
Saying Yes or No
Sometimes a great opportunity comes along at the wrong moment. This can be a very difficult temptation to resist, especially if such an opportunity is part of your long-term plan for the business’ success. But if you say yes at the wrong time, you risk straining your new company’s resources and even setting it up for failure.
Business coaches, consultants and entrepreneurship educators are clear about one thing: businesses that ultimately succeed always make it a priority to keep their financials in good working order. This may mean that the very first task you delegate or outsource is your bookkeeping and accounting function. Outsourcing financial tasks is a common practice and many successful entrepreneurs take this path.
Successful entrepreneurs spend much of their precious energy and talent working with their team to clearly define the venture’s goals. When you know what success looks like, you will be able to steam ahead when you are on track and course-correct when you wobble. Without clearly defined goals in key areas like business growth, profitability, debt burden, market share and others, you lack a rudder to steer your own ship. Successful entrepreneurs know where they are going even if they need more planning time to figure out the best route to take to get there.
If you work hard to cultivate these five skills that all successful entrepreneurs have, you will have a greatly improved chance to see your own new business grow and prosper.
About the Author: Carl Scheung cut his teeth in entrepreneurship by interning for his father’s start-up web company. After graduating with his one year online mba last year, Scheung carried on the tradition by launching his own start-up.