Brad Zomick from SkilledUp.com – the leading source of reviews and ratings including online courses, is providing the following guest post. You can find them online at SkilledUp.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
5 Key Skills in Entrepreneurship
He’s built many successful startups, is a prominent philanthropist and humanitarian, invests in and advises fledgling startups, and is a full time family man. We are all wondering how does Richard Branson do it? And Branson is not alone. He stands in an elite group of entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jack Dorsey, and the late and great Steve Jobs. All of these entrepreneur wunderkind, have their hands in many cookie jars, and somehow are able to turn each cookie jar into a full scale cookie factory, without breaking a sweat. While they are all smarter than your average bear, they all possess a combination of crucial skills that have helped them every step of the way. If you hope to follow in their footsteps, and become the latest Silicon Valley entrepreneur, you are going to want to develop your skills in one or more of the following areas:
Leadership & Decision Making
It takes a special type of leader to be at the helm of a tech startup, and that person is one part manager, one part technician, and one part evangelist. That leader needs not only needs to monitor what is going on within the company and figure out how to do it better, but also prioritize and figure out what needs to be done now while keeping pace with competitors in the marketplace and maintaining the inspiration and drive of employees. It’s a delicate balancing act and there are many tough decisions to be made that will leave the most confident people second-guessing themselves. Many tech entrepreneurs are not natural born leaders but they learn quickly! Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg and Groupon’s Andrew Mason cut their teeth in leadership via public trial-by-fire, since their companies IPO’ed last year. Both made questionable leadership moves that were publicly lambasted by Wall Street and news media. Save yourself some public embarrassment and start looking for leadership opportunities ASAP.
Communication may have most of you saying, “No duh!” but more often than not the pace and tempo of a startup is so intense and quick, people forget to communicate and important ideas and messages get lost in the shuffle. So it’s best to over-communicate, communicating early and often ensuring all of the major stakeholders are on the same page. Messaging is equally as important, and good leaders communicate a positive vibe that keeps employees engaged and excited about their company and products. Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, knows this because his ability to share collective passion around a common purpose is what took Starbucks from a single coffee shop to the global chain it is today.
Sales & Persuasion
Being able to sell and persuade is not just about closing the deal. It’s also about being about to motivate and inspire employees, customers, partners, and investors. A lot of this boils down to people skills, which can be rehearsed and refined. One tech entrepreneur that has mastered this skill is Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com. He is not only the Chief Executive Officer but also the Chief Evangelical Officer, and has rallied a loyal army of Salesforce.com employees that share in his vision and help him evangelize the Salesforce product. Go to one of Salesforce’s free Dreamforce conferences and you witness them not only dishing out the Kool-Aid but drinking it too. Not everyone is a natural salesman, so get a leg up on and start putting yourself out in positions that require to you to promote yourself or a product or service.
While this one seems like a no-brainer, we would be remiss if we did not mention it. All the rock star entrepreneurs listed above all had serious programming chops, and worked at it for years before achieving mastery. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to get to a level of mastery in a subject. It’s no surprise that Bill Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, started coding in junior high at the age of 13. Similarly, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started tinkering with computer boards at age 14. Recently, the 10,000 Rule is being contested by serial entrepreneur and meta-learning guru, Tim Ferris, but until you master meta-learning, the art of mastering subjects in a short period of time, we suggest picking a programming language and start coding now!
As an entrepreneur, you can’t prepare for every emergency scenario but you can be ready to think and act quickly. Sometimes the pace of work is frenetic so when an issue pops up, a good entrepreneur can face it head on or duck, swivel, and move in another direction. Peter Thiel exemplified this with a classic business pivot. He founded Confinity in 1999 to process payments between Palm Pilots. We all know the Palm Pilot fizzled out, but Thiel changed directions and Confinity became what we know today as PayPal. Being able to flex does not just apply to tough situations, but also to being able to read the tea leaves of your industry, understand what consumers want, and evolve to meet those needs. In this sense, Steve Jobs was a true visionary. He realized that there was an opportunity in the MP3 player space and developed the iPod, which not only revitalized Apple’s brand but revolutionized the music industry as we know it.
Sadly, there is no go-to guide for becoming a successful entrepreneur. Each successful entrepreneur has his or her own unique story. However, they all have one or more common threads, and those are the core skills that it takes to successfully take a product or service from an idea to a market launch. All of the aforementioned entrepreneurs possessed at least one of the above skills, if not more. So if you fancy yourself to be the next Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos, or Bill Gates, don’t just sit there, get out and start trying to develop your entrepreneur skillset!