Finding success as an entrepreneur is not easy. A whole host of business and interpersonal skills need to be honed before an enterprise can be launched with confidence. According to a recent article published in Forbes Magazine, 90 percent of startups fail. This rather shocking figure is the result of a whole multitude of codependent factors. One of these factors is an underestimation of the sheer breadth of the skillset needed to succeed in the high-risk world of entrepreneurial enterprise.
The skills needed to succeed in business change alongside technological and economic development. The factors that decided the success of a startup 60 years ago will not align with those that are important in the current market. In recent years, the development of software that can effectively harvest and make sense of big, diverse datasets has shifted the ideal entrepreneurial skillset – necessitating a more analytics-heavy approach.
This article is a very brief guide to some of the areas entrepreneurs need to be confident in if they are to have any real chance of succeeding.
Strategic thinking is vitally important to the long-term success of any business, which explains why the best online MBA programs and in-person MBA courses often focus heavily on developing strategic acumen. Strategic thinking involves the use of analytics and research to develop an idea of what the long-term goals of a business might be. Most entrepreneurs will use their strategic thinking skills to develop a set of aims.
Realizing these aims is often down to the development of sound strategic plans. Strategic plans need to be actionable – able to realistically be achieved using tactical steps. Developing a good strategic plan involves a comprehensive knowledge of the market, competitors, expenditure, and available resources. Distributing resources to the right areas in order to meet strategic goals is never easy. Ultimately, strategic plans should be focused on the promotion of growth, but the road to growth is often winding. Entrepreneurs need to fixate on their long-term strategic goals when developing tactical solutions to problems.
Entrepreneurs will encounter problems in the achievement of their strategic aims. Good entrepreneurial problem solving is the process of using innovative and creative solutions to overcome hurdles on the path towards growth. Problem solving is distinct from decision making or strategic planning because it involves the identification of a gap in capability. Closing that gap involves the finding of a solution to that problem. Decision making and strategic planning typically do not involve the identification of a gap in capability. There are two problem solving styles widely used by successful entrepreneurs: adaptive and innovative.
Adaptive problem solving is the more conservative approach. Adaptive problem solving involves the use of known solutions to fill gaps in capability or other problematic occurrences. This method is concerned with the solving of problems that emerge as opposed to the seeking out of potential problems.
Innovative problem solving involves the seeking out of potential new problems (or issues that were not previously considered problems) and using novel methods to overcome them. Many entrepreneurs gravitate towards this style of problem solving because of its potential for provoking positive change in a business while eliminating bumps in the road.
Data Analysis and Forecasting
We live in the age of the data deluge. There is an exponential quantity of information being produced in our networked society. This has influenced business in a big way. Entrepreneurs are more and more reliant on data collection and analysis when strategizing, researching, or developing products.
Every entrepreneur worth their salt has utilized big data in some way or another. Big data – a term that is bandied around business circles like a football – refers to huge and diverse datasets that can only be collected and made sense of using powerful software. Entrepreneurs use these huge datasets to build accurate pictures of a market. Skilled data analysts can use huge datasets to make accurate forecasts of how a market might look in the future. This helps them design and market products and services to match predicted trends and reduces the risks involved with entrepreneurial investment.
Whether they love it or hate it, entrepreneurs must become great networkers. The world of business resembles medieval royal courts in many ways. Favors are traded for favors, and kindness is replayed with kindness. Wine is consumed. Deals are made in spirit as well as on paper. Networking involves the cultivation of great interpersonal skills that serve an entrepreneurial purpose. You don’t have to be slimy, sinister, and two faced: honest, friendly, and keen behavior will serve a business leader more adequately. In business, your contacts are worth more than gold dust. Industry conferences are no longer the primary spaces for business networking. Instead, the online world creates myriad opportunities.
Sound product management is at the core of any good entrepreneurial endeavor. The product (or service) that a business offers is, after all, the key concern of its customers. Product management involves the research, development, production, and pitching of products. Although larger companies usually have dedicated product management staff, entrepreneurs starting a business from scratch will typically have to do this job themselves. Learning some key product management skills is necessary for the successful pursual of an entrepreneurial enterprise.
Entrepreneurs need to be shrewd and innovative marketing thinkers. Making use of a hybrid mix of traditional and contemporary marketing techniques in order to get a message (and your product) to the right consumers takes a finely balanced set of skills. Entrepreneurs need to become familiar with market research and data analysis in order to hone their marketing efforts. Search engine optimization and influencer marketing efforts help entrepreneurs to target specific audiences with their marketing materials. Marketing skills needed by entrepreneurs are immensely varied and deserve an article in their own right. Marketing agencies and consultants are often hired in by startup entrepreneurs in order to take some of the weight off their shoulders.