Becoming an entrepreneur is an exciting journey, but it can also be a little bit scary. There are no guarantees when starting your own venture and the responsibility is entirely on your shoulders. As a business owner, you’ll make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them to achieve your goals.
Starting a business and making it profitable long-term requires a number of skills that you should start to develop before you actually begin to establish your own company. Many businesses fail in the first few years, so you’ll want to manage risks as much as you possibly can.
Whether you’re graduating and getting ready to start your business in the United States or you’re an international student building skills while on a work visa, there’s a lot to think about to set yourself up for future success.
What skills should you prioritize to become a successful entrepreneur? Here are some of the most critical.
Basic Business Strategy
You don’t need an MBA to start a successful business. However, you do need to know enough about basic business strategies to create a solid business plan and budget. If you’re looking for outside investors, they will need to know that you have what it takes to lead your company to profitability.
Getting started without knowing how all the pieces of running a business work together is likely to lead you into trouble. If you have no experience in the business world, it’s a good idea to at least take some online courses and read some books on running a business to get you on the right track.
Market Research & Analytics
Knowing your company’s position in the marketplace is critical to its success. Before you start your business, it’s important to have at least some skills in market research and analytics. Learn how to find information about your target market and your ideal customer, and get familiar with the analytics tools you’ll be using in your business.
Data is used for everything from improving operational efficiency to planning out marketing campaigns. Even if you don’t want to be in charge of data analysis forever, it’s important to know the importance of collecting market research and company data for business insights.
The basis of a business’s success is always relationships. Over time, you’ll need strong relationships with investors, fellow entrepreneurs, employees and freelancers, suppliers, and customers.
Building a strong professional network is a great way to get new opportunities, learning experiences, and mentorships. Your network can help you grow your business, sometimes in ways you wouldn’t expect.
Networking is a skill. If you start practicing and building connections now, you’ll get more and more confident in your ability to network as your business grows— which will help you strengthen your connections even more.
Communication is an absolutely critical skill in the world of business. There are many reasons people might struggle with communication, from language barriers to social awkwardness to a simple lack of practice.
Getting your written and verbal communication skills up to where they need to be can be daunting. However, if you practice, actively listen to others, and aim for honest, kind communication, you can build up your skills and become a better communicator over time. You’re never “done” learning to be a great communicator. It’s a lifelong process!
A lack of financial literacy is one of the biggest reasons new entrepreneurs struggle to keep their businesses afloat. It’s very easy to overspend and get into financial trouble when starting a business.
As a business owner, you’ll need to know about more than just making a budget. You’ll also need to learn about business taxes, expenses and assets, and how to invest your capital into projects that will help your business grow. Financial literacy is an absolutely critical skill for anyone who wants to start a business.
Regulations & Ethics
Depending on the business you’ll be starting, there will be different rules, regulations, and ethical standards you’ll need to understand and follow. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry or there are questionable ethics involved in your line of business, then you’ll need to fully understand your responsibilities and liabilities.
Marketing & Branding
When you first start your business, you’re going to be doing almost everything by yourself. Unless you have a lot of investor capital to work with, you probably won’t be able to hire many people to help you with tasks like marketing and branding. Setting up a solid foundation of marketing and branding will help your business down the road.
You don’t need to be an expert in marketing, but you do need to understand enough that you can get your strategy off on the right foot. Knowing a little bit about different facets of marketing will help you when you can afford to help and you need to hire some talented people to help you.
Being proactive is necessary for entrepreneurs. When you’re starting your own company, no one is looking over your shoulder to ensure you’re doing the work (unless you have outside investors) and it’s easy to procrastinate on important tasks.
Working on your time management skills is likely to be an ongoing process, but you should try to get some baseline routines sorted out before you start your firm. Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to stay disciplined when they’re no longer under school or work-based deadlines!
Entrepreneurs Must Be Adaptable and Willing to Learn
As an entrepreneur, you need to be adaptable and constantly willing to learn. You need to know enough about different aspects of business operations so you can delegate where and when it makes the most sense. You need to stay humble and never take success for granted.
Starting a business and keeping it going is a challenge. However, there are also great rewards for those who can make it work. Sharpening your skills before you get started will help you create a successful, sustainable business you can be proud of.