So, what do you think is the secret ingredient, or as Colonel Sanders put it, the 11 secret herbs and spices of running a successful business.
Surely all it takes is the technical skill and knowledge that you have built up over the years in your chosen area, and some good old-fashioned common sense also built up from lessons learned due to experience and away you go. However, after a while, you start to realize that there is a lot more to it than that and you are not making the money that you thought that you would.
Why is this so? It’s not because you have a bad product or service. You may be an exceptionally good lawyer, chef or plumber and you may have a lot of common sense as well. The problem is that you may lack fundamental business skills. It is good to offer the best product or service mindset, but success is not just about the quality of your idea. How you turn your idea into reality, the quality of your execution is just as if not more than important than the quality of your idea.
If it is not technical skill what is the key?
When you start up a business the first thing that you are doing is building a business, not running a business which is a trap that a lot of people fall into. The idea of building a business and brand awareness, particularly in the social media age that we live in comes first. This means that Entrepreneurship is the first business skill you need to develop. The skill of entrepreneurship is the skill of making an idea a reality profitably. Running the business comes later.
So how do you tell who a good entrepreneur is and who is not? A good entrepreneur is judged by the number of ideas they have successfully launched into the market and profited from. You can have a million ideas, but you need to be able to take your idea and turn it into something people want to pay for. Unless you have successfully done that you are not an entrepreneur.
So, what are the skills of a successful entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs are the ideas people and the ability to think up ideas is creativity. To be creative, you must be able to see something new from something old. Creativity is the use of your imagination to make things that didn’t exist before happening.
Creativity is simply thinking about “what could be” rather than focusing on “what is”. It is the search for a better alternative other than what is available. As an entrepreneur, you should always be looking for new ways to do old things.
A quick word of caution here, creativity does not absolutely mean originality. Meaning, it doesn’t have to be your idea, it can be a borrowed idea from others. The creativity is in your ability to successfully integrate the idea into what you are doing.
2. Strategic planning
This is the ability to see the end from the beginning or begin with the end in mind. Strategic planning is how you define your goals, clarify the required process, estimate the needed resources and integrate all the various aspects into one overall blueprint. It is about defining and taking meaningful action using the resources that you have available. The reality is that you cannot pursue all your ideas at the same time and you need to take calculated actions that minimize failure and maximize success.
3. Market research
This involves understanding the target market that you want to sell into. It involves understanding issues such as who they are, where they are, what they like and don’t like, how they think, why they buy, what they do, how much they earn, and every fact about them from the point of view of both Demography (physical attributes of your potential customers) and Psychography (emotional attributes of your target customers)
4. Competitive analysis
This is the patience to understand your competition. Market research is about target customers, competitive analysis is about your industry, niche or competition. These are other businesses targeting the same market as you and selling them similar things as you.
You need to understand what they are doing and perform a regular SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) Analysis.
5. Be resilient
In business, you will have good days and bad days and sometimes things will not always work according to your wonderful business plan. You need to able to roll with the punches and come up smiling
6. Look long-term
You need to be patient and take a long-term view of things. It can sometimes take 10 years to be an overnight success
7. Effective communication – written and oral
Since entrepreneurs are the ideas people, most of what will make you or break you is the quality of your ideas and how well you communicate them to the world. Your ability to effectively communicate your ideas will determine whether the world will accept or reject you.
Why is this skill so important? Because being an entrepreneur begins with your idea for a product/service and in most cases, you will require the help of others to make your idea a reality.
The survival of your idea is dependent on whether you get the support of these people or not. At every time in your entrepreneurial journey, you will be asked over and over again to explain your idea. Whether it is to a panel of investors, a strategic partner, a possible buyer or even your employees.
If you can’t win them over with your words, then you’ve lost out before you even began. Effective communication skills include listening, copywriting, public speaking, presentation skills etc.
You also need to master social media. Make sure that you are on the major platforms and that you have business pages as well. Post regularly and if you have a website make sure that you are an active blogger.
Every entrepreneur is selling. The key to success is being there when the customer is ready to buy and knowing when to move on when the customer is not.
9. People management
You must be able to enlist the help of others much smarter than you. As Steve Jobs said “We don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do “Most of these people you might not be able to pay as full-time workers, but this doesn’t hinder your working with them. This is where your networking skills come in handy. Collaborating with these smart people will enable you get more done with less.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot accomplish much alone. So, it’s very important you seek out early in your journey those who will complement your skill set. These are people I refer to as vision partners -you are passionate about the same cause. Collaborating with them will greatly impact your wealth of information and experience.
10. Self-reflection and reliance
You need to allow downtime to reflect on the past and plan. Always working only leads to burnout physically and emotionally. You also need to understand that while there is a lot of help available this is your business and you need to ultimately depend on yourself.