Let’s get one thing clear first: every good entrepreneur is a jack of all trades.
An entrepreneur has a little more than a basic understanding of everything a business needs to be successful. This makes it possible to operate on a macro level while seeing the entire picture and not just a fragment of it, and being more agile.
I liken it to a chess game: it’s far easier to understand how specific pieces move once you get to know both what they’re capable of and not capable of doing.
So, the more noteworthy skills you have, the better you’ll be as an entrepreneur because you can leverage them when managing different people and projects.
That being said, some skills (tangible or not) are more valuable than others.
In almost 25 years on my entrepreneurial journey, I can filter out five key skills every entrepreneur should develop at some point.
In no particular order (because they are all super important):
- The ability to reverse engineer
There are very few rules of thumb in entrepreneurship. One of those is that every successful entrepreneur has to be an effective communicator.
Entrepreneurs often grapple to realize their full potential without good communication attributes. There will be plenty of people you’ll be communicating with on a regular basis: your partners, investors, peers, employees, clients, mentors… The list goes on.
Hence, mastering various forms of communication is critical, especially since there will be a variety of situations you’ll find yourself in. From face-to-face and group conversations to email and other forms of virtual communication, the key is to maximize your opportunities in sharing your ideas and presenting them clearly.
Most fellow entrepreneurs place the importance of accomplishing technological skills over acquiring good communication skills. Often, this hinders the business profitability. If you can’t communicate your values in a straightforward way, you likely won’t achieve success because people won’t work with or for you.
Pro tip: use brutal simplicity to communicate everything.
As much as it sounds corny, successful people really do think outside the box.
That is what creativity is all about – being able to solve various types of problems by approaching them from different angles and giving new twists to old solutions. It’s also about being able to adapt to new situations and circumstances, and navigate around obstacles and uncertainty as they emerge.
As the landscape changes over time, all businesses have to evolve. In the highly competitive world of entrepreneurship, where startups fail left and right, being creative is a must.
Being creative is about constantly pushing yourself and never settling. Successful people are creative, free thinkers, so don’t be afraid to let your imagination loose when trying to solve a problem. Conventional thinking is likely what led you to it in the first place – be open to change.
Pro tip: this likely isn’t for everyone but give psychedelics via microdosing a thought. I certainly felt more focused and creative.
I cannot praise how massively important empathy is as it can form an unbreakable bond between you and others. I have a habit of calling it the best sales pitch you can give at any time, whether it’s trying to get people to work with you, for you, invest in you, and so on.
If you can’t put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling, or what makes them tick, then you can’t really manage someone.
Trust me – you will need to, a lot. It will be nearly impossible for you to motivate the people around you or get more out of them, or even understand how to work together.
Think about what you want to accomplish but be realistic by looking at it from the other person’s perspective. Be empathetic to what they can and cannot do, whether it’s from a cognitive, emotional, or compassionate aspect.
Pro tip: empathy relies a lot on your verbal and nonverbal communication skills, which is another reason to prioritize those. Be willing to actively listen and make yourself vulnerable as a leader.
This is a bit of a paradox because you can’t learn it directly. It takes time and practice to master the methods that work best for you and to differentiate which resources are the most beneficial when acquiring new information and skills.
Many underestimate the importance of learning: there’s so much you need to absorb to avoid as many failures as possible.
My father always said that he’s just maximizing his potential whenever someone asked him about his eagerness to learn. If we are open to new perspectives and ideas, we can learn to do extraordinary things.
We live in a knowledge economy where continual learning is critical, not an option. Hence, knowledge is among the most valuable currencies, particularly when it drives innovation.
That’s why learning is arguably the most important investment you can make in yourself. Staying hungry for new information can give you and your business a much-needed edge in an ever-changing and competitive market.
Pro tip: read with a broad scope in mind, from classic entrepreneurship books to news and fiction. Also, learn from your mistakes. A failure is really only a failure if you don’t learn from it.
5. Reverse engineering
My favorite skill of them all as it’s arguably one of the greatest superpowers an entrepreneur can have.
This is a mix of critical thinking and planning where you pinpoint an endgame and work your way backward from it.
When you start from the beginning toward the end (the usual way), things/processes don’t work like that. The breakdown you make will lead in all sorts of different directions because there are too many paths to explore, too many possibilities that complicate things.
However, if you know directly what the endgame is, you can break it down so that every step of the way is a checkbox you have to tick in order to advance – only you’re doing it backward.
If you get really good at it, you gain this amazing ability to solve literally any kind of problem quickly, up to the point where it becomes a reflex. Thanks to the power of reverse engineering, I’ve learned that there is always an answer to any business question.
Pro tip: imagine an endgame and weave your own story from the end. Have an outline, create a framework but always make sure you know what your ending will be.
I could go on and on about the benefits and virtues of every one of these skills – and also add a dozen more of them. While these five skills are probably the most important, there are others, like sales, that could easily crack the top five.
Entrepreneurs need numerous, yet very specific skills in order to be successful so don’t pigeonhole yourself to just five. There’s so much risk involved with starting and running a business – one thing you don’t want to have is a narrow focus.