Taking the leap from young professional to entrepreneur takes courage, creativity, and passion. We all know these are the main characteristics of any budding business leader, but unfortunately, many young entrepreneurs have only these traits, and very few skills to support them. Having courage and passion is elemental to an entrepreneur’s success, but there are other skills you’ll need to learn as you venture out into your market space.
Do you have these five traits that make an exceptional entrepreneur? If so, you’re on the right track to becoming the next Forbes 30 Under 30. If not, you still have plenty of time to cultivate these skills and improve your business simultaneously.
Emotional intelligence. Leadership takes emotional intelligence. It’s not just about being likable, but about being honest, a good listener, and understanding and accepting of your team for both their strengths and weaknesses. Many entrepreneurs mistake aggression, arrogance, or stubbornness for confidence, but they aren’t the same. Learn to be empathetic and trusting, and you’ll build your team up even more.
Sales skills. Unfortunately, many young entrepreneurs lack real sales skills. Nowadays it’s very common for those in their 20s and early 30s to come out of college and land a corporate job, without having to spend time learning how to sell in the real world. Sales, like most other facets of your business, comes down to relationships. You don’t need to convince someone to buy if they trust you to help make the decision that’s right for them. If you’re just starting your business, be the one to do the sales calls. Learn how to sell and do it well and you’ll increase your chances for success.
Networking skills. Networking is much more than handing out business cards. You must learn to speak with confidence, and balancing a mix of being both personable and professional. Be friendly and approachable, but don’t beat around the bush if you believe you can truly offer value. Being able to speak confidently one on one and in front of groups is also elemental to success. You must bring confidence with you everywhere you go.
Self-reflection. This one is hard for most people to master. Because we can’t see ourselves clearly, it can be hard to tell where we are going wrong. Plus, not everyone who shares their opinion is necessarily unbiased. Nonetheless, in such a volatile environment as a startup, it’s important to be able to self-assess and take constructive critique when you know it comes from the heart of those you trust. Trust your gut, but always be willing to improve.
Self-fulfillment. This may not make sense for some, because oftentimes starting a business is a form of self-fulfillment. But even the most exciting new venture or lifelong career dream can become draining if its the only thing you give your focus. Give yourself time to relax, to pursue other creative interests and hobbies, to spend time with friends and family, and to seek new experiences outside your company. You will be much more productive if you are happy outside your career.
If you want to cultivate a better entrepreneurial skill set, consider hiring a professional career coach. With a bit of training and one-on-one consultations to improve your business, you’ll be able to learn from the pros what you would have had to learn on your own.