It is the age of a new individualism – many employees are leaving their positions to strike out on their own. Graduates entering the job market are not looking for jobs – they are looking for niches in which they can launch their own businesses – either as solo freelancers or as budding entrepreneurs looking to launch a company. There are several reasons for this:
- Employment with a company does not provide the security it once did. While our grandparents and even our parents could expect to stay with a company their entire careers, this is no longer the case. Downsizing and new technology eliminate jobs on a regular basis.
- The age of great company-paid benefits is over. Employees are now responsible for at least some of their health insurance and often their entire family members’ costs. Company-paid pensions are a thing of the past. Investment-matching is on the decline.
- Younger career-minded individuals do not like the idea of set work hours during which they must be physically present at the workplace. They prefer project work that they can complete in any number of locations, and they want to be paid and evaluated based upon their performance, not presence.
Entrepreneurship is Certainly the Answer for Some
The cold hard reality is that a lot of startups do fail. In fact, according to Failory.com, these failures can even be broken down by industry, with failure rates between 43 – 63%. This does not mean that as many entrepreneurs fail. Many learn from their initial failures and go on to launch new successful businesses.
So, what can make the difference between success and failure? Of course, ongoing enthusiasm and passion play a role. But more often, it is a skillset that entrepreneurs must have or develop as they nurture their businesses.
Here is a list of the six critical skills that seem to result in success.
- Developing a Personal Brand
You are your business. And you must develop an encompassing message about who you are, what you stand for, the trust that peers, customers, and followers have, and the public reputation you nurture. This is an ongoing activity, and you will need to guard and nurture your personal brand at all times. There are tools that can help you do this, of course. Getting a social monitoring tool, for example, will provide you with alerts whenever you are mentioned on the web, and you will need to access these mentions and respond immediately.
But it will take more than just reacting. You will need proactive approaches:
- creating amazing content on your site, your blog and your social media platforms,
- connecting with influencers in your niche,
- promoting your participation in and support for good causes, and
- featuring team members and customers who can provide social proof
All of these things take time, and it will be critical to carve out the time in your busy schedule for all of this. And, if you struggle with writing, your time can be eaten up with results that are not successful. This is one time to get help by finding the best writing service possible – one with a successful history in content writing – and turning much of this task over.
In their enthusiasm for their product or service, it is natural for entrepreneurs to want to control the message. They want to talk and talk some more, both in writing and verbally. But communication is a two-way street. Entrepreneurs who are not skilled communicators need to develop those skills, whether through coaching, coursework, or mentoring. Communication with team members, customers, and the public requires skills that can be learned. You must listen more than you speak. The feedback you get will give you great insight into how you can improve in any number of areas. And those improvements can garner greater business success.
- Developing Relationships
It truly is a consumer-driven marketplace now. And today’s consumer is smart and demanding. He is not interested in being “sold” a product or service via hard sales techniques. He wants a company that values him, his needs, and his priorities.
Developing relationships with potential customers begins with lots of research. Who is your customer? What are his values? What are his pain points? There is so much data out there that can be accessed and analyzed, but it requires research and analytical skills. If you don’t have these, find someone who can perform this function for you.
The next part of relationship building is empathy. You have to put yourself in your customer’s place and see everything from his/her perspective. All of your marketing must be focused on providing value to the customer and meeting his/her demands, not on your need to make sales.
- Financial Management
One of the biggest reasons for business failure relates to finance. In short, without correct financial planning and budgeting, a lot of startups simply run out of cash and can no longer sustain their businesses.
You must have a financial plan with real numbers. How much do you need to sustain yourself and your business while it is in its early stages? What will be the break-even point? When should you go for funding and where should you seek it?
Financial planning takes expertise, and many entrepreneurs with great ideas and passion may not have it. And just getting the right accounting tools will not be enough. Get an expert to help, enroll in financial management courses – in short, do whatever it takes to keep your finances on solid footing.
- Hiring the Right People
This is a skill that most entrepreneurs do not possess. There is a “science” to recruitment and hiring. It involves looking in the right places, posting compelling ads, and then screening and interviewing candidates. Going with your “gut” in putting together a team will not work.
Begin by identifying your most critical needs for now. What positions will these entail? What are the task responsibilities you need to cover? Until you have all of this identified, you cannot begin to post ads with clear position descriptions.
Developing a list of interview questions can be challenging, even for seasoned hiring pros.
Over time, you will get better at this, and, at first, you may make some hiring mistakes. Expect it, correct it, and move on.
If you feel inadequate in this function, get some professional help while you learn.
- Strategic Planning
You have a great idea; you have a great product or service; you know you are filling a need in the marketplace. But you cannot just launch and “play it by ear.” You need a strategic plan, with clear benchmarks, that will keep you focused and on track for the growth you want and need.
Strategic planning is the stuff of which business management programs are made. And chances are you did not major in business in college. Take an online course, get some professional help, and make it a personal goal to become skilled in strategic planning. You can’t survive without it.
This is Not a Wrap
These six skills are critical for business success, but they are certainly not exclusive. Each business is unique, with its own challenges, and identification of necessary skills and the challenges in developing them will also be unique. Begin with these six, however, and you may avoid becoming one of those failure statistics.
- Stress Management
Nothing worth pursuing in life is easy. So, expect episodes of disappointment, struggles, and stress. The key to staying afloat and winning your game is to manage stress and re-channel it towards a positive outcome. Whether you do that by being more organized, changing your mindset, or through prayer and meditation, stress management will keep both your business and your health in excellent condition.
- Testing and Experimentation
You won’t know if you never try. That’s the rule of thumb when it comes to product launches, market research and pivoting to new business models. Conducting regular small experiments and insightful tests can lead to huge new breakthroughs for your business. One of our own personal experiments to validate a business idea in just 30 days, has led to a deal to co-produce an online course with a very well-known brand. The best part is that the course is being promoted to the brand’s audience of more than 300,000 people.
Testing and validation has not only opened up new revenue streams but also laid the groundwork for new strategic partnerships.
- Failure Management
Stress can be… well, stressful. But failure can be devastating. Major failures can obliterate your motivation and affect your mentality for weeks, months or even years. Just like marriages and Hollywood careers, businesses fail all the time. The secret to success as an entrepreneur is to get back on your feet again, pick up the pieces and apply what you’ve painfully learned so that you’ll get different results the next time.
Every new year, entrepreneurs look back on their accomplishments and plot a new course with the goal of exceeding the previous year’s performance.
There are many ways to plan for future business success, but investing in yourself by building new skills or improving existing ones, remains one of the smartest decisions you can make as an entrepreneur.