Being a business owner requires a set of skills and characteristics. Do you have the skills necessary? If not, how will you get them?
Being a business owner is not easy, and it is not for everyone. It requires a number of skills and characteristics that do not come naturally to all of us. However, anyone can learn, develop, or acquire all of the skills and characteristics. What are the skills and characteristics required to be a successful business owner? Here is a list of a number of important skills. It is not exhaustive or in any particular order. It is simply intended as a starting point in your quest for business ownership.
•Hardworking: Although you see a lot of advertisements about how you can make a lot of money while working only a few hours a week, there are very few businesses in which this is actually true. To make money, even a little money, you have to work, and at least at the beginning, you have to work hard.
•Common sense: Common sense gives you the ability to be empathetic and to see things from your customer’s point of view. It is what tells you that the lights should be dim in a romantic restaurant but bright in a fast-food burger joint.
•Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills include the way you greet your customers when they walk in the door or call on the phone. They include the emails you send and the relationship you have with your banker, lawyer, and accountant. They also include how you interact with your audience when you make that big presentation in front of the local Chamber of Commerce.
•Management skills: Some of the things you must manage in business include time, people, finances, marketing, payroll, schedules, priorities, inventory, and planning. Not only must you have the ability to manage things, you must also be able to establish the extent to which they need to be controlled. It is possible to spend all of your time managing and none of your time doing. But it’s the doing that brings in the sales.
•Creative: People often overlook or belittle this characteristic. “I run a dry cleaner company. Why do I need to be creative?” Probably, the more mundane your business is (I am not suggesting that dry cleaning businesses are mundane), the more creative you must be. Why? Using the dry cleaning example, most of these businesses do an adequate job of cleaning your clothes. They all charge about the same price and provide the same level of service. So what distinguishes your dry cleaner from all other dry cleaners? Creativity is what makes the difference. It helps you look for new approaches and solutions. It helps you find how to make things work and helps you stand out among the crowd. If you lack the creative thinking ability then Innovation Consulting can be the best option to go for.
•Perseverance: Every business suffers setbacks, disappointments, and failures. As a business owner, you must have the ability to look beyond setbacks. You must continue to push forward. Perseverance is that ability to push forward even when the odds seem to be against you.
•Drive: A business owner must have the drive to succeed and to be the best. Drive is what keeps you on the course when things start to go wrong. It keeps you focused despite all of the distractions.
•Focus: Can you ignore distractions around you? Focus allows you to tune everything out except the current task. There are many instances in the daily operation of a business in which you must enclose your mind behind an impenetrable wall and concentrate on only one thing.
•Vision: A business owner must be able to see where it is that he wants to go. The vision is the target, what the business must accomplish. Besides providing the owner with a livelihood, the vision is the reason for existence. A business owner must have a vision, and an ultimate goal, and then be able to define the steps that will get him there.
•Self-sacrificing: Let’s say that your business is experiencing a problem with cash flow. There is not enough money to pay all of your staff and yourself. Who should get paid? As the business owner, you get paid last, after your employees, and after your suppliers. This is self-sacrifice. Of course, with proper planning, you should never be in this situation. See my article on cash flow for input on this subject.
•Optimistic and confident: If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? If you don’t believe that things will work out, why should anyone else? As a business owner, you must have an optimistic and confident attitude about your business. You must be able to function with the confidence that you are doing the right things to ensure the continued success of the business. You must wear that optimism and confidence on your sleeve. Everyone with whom you come into contact must be convinced that you know what you are doing and that the business will be around for the long run. Otherwise, they won’t do business with you.
•Leadership skills: Leadership skills differ from management skills in two important ways. First, management skills deal with all aspects of the business while leadership skills deal only with the human aspect. Secondly, management skills relate to your ability to control things. Leadership skills are about motivation, inspiration, delegation, mentoring, and other intangible factors. When you learn to lead your employees and motivate and inspire them, they are much more likely to go that extra mile without anyone asking.
•Foresight and intuition: These go hand in hand with common sense. I separate them to make an important distinction. Common sense is associated with logic. Given a set of circumstances, it makes sense that something is true or that you should take a certain course of action. Foresight and intuition have to do with your gut. It is your ability to go out on a limb and to take a chance.
•Lucky: There is evidence of luck having a direct impact on the success or failure of a business. What is luck in business? Basically, it is coming upon an unexpected circumstance, good or bad, that has an impact on your business. The result comes from recognizing what is happening and reacting to it in an appropriate manner.
Do you need all of these characteristics to become a successful business person? No. But the more characteristics you have, the better your chances of success. Some characteristics are absolutely essential for any person trying to run a business while others depend on the type of business that you are running. You can learn, develop, or acquire all of the characteristics. The fact that you are lacking some of them does not mean that you may not be an entrepreneur. It simply means that you must find some way to compensate for them. You can do this by bringing on a partner who has characteristics or skills that are complementary to yours or by taking courses to learn the skills or develop the characteristics that you are lacking. There are courses that address every one of the requisite characteristics (well, except being lucky and hardworking).
If you are thinking about going into business for yourself, do a “skills assessment” (see the attached image) to determine how you rate each of these areas. Be completely honest with yourself. Then develop a plan to learn, develop, brush up, or otherwise acquire the skills that are necessary.