Some studies indicate an entrepreneur's social skills play a huge role in his success, but few skill sets are directly correlated with success.
Knowing how to make someone comfortable, being able to engage socially, creating a favorable reputation, and developing relevant experience all provide an entrepreneur with tremendous access in social/networking settings.
At an entrepreneurship conference where I represented the Entrepreneurial Alliance of the University of Missouri, I saw a group of students raising money by selling T-shirts that said, "We're not partying, we're networking." In general, more successful entrepreneurs are very outgoing -- if they want to understand their customers and market, they have to get out and interact with people. But social skills are only one part of the equation.
Social interaction is key to entrepreneurs' success, but good interactions are dependent upon intelligent insights, imaginative ideas, and passionate, confident communication.
Here are the five key traits an entrepreneur should develop for any situation:
- Think critically. Successful entrepreneurs are critical thinkers, more often than not. By processing the information and details you have, you'll prevent yourself from jumping into a venture without analysis, which is detrimental to success. With so many start-ups failing, you have to ask yourself about your tolerance for risk. Good feasibility studies and a sound business plan can drastically reduce the risk involved because they force entrepreneurs to investigate the market, the product, their management, their finances, and their prospective cash flow. The key to risk-taking is to minimize the unknowns.
- Be confident. Without confidence in your actions, there will be little to no reward. You have to believe that you will accomplish your goals, even if they seem lofty or unmanageable. Risk management is both an art and a science. It involves thinking about the unknowns. What could go wrong? What could be done to mitigate those risks? Additionally, you need to put risk in perspective in order to analyze the benefits against the pitfalls.
- Have a keen sense of imagination. When faced with a problem, oftentimes the solution that seems the most reasonable just isn't enough. By being able to come up with creative ways to solve problems, you're more likely to come up with a solution that benefits everyone, while also showcasing your ingenuity.
- Communicate successfully. Sooner or later, you're going to have to sell something to someone -- whether it's your product, name, or ideas. You have to understand your customers and how to communicate with them. You will also need to communicate with investors and suppliers. Having confidence in your product/service and yourself goes a long way toward being able to communicate effectively.
- Be passionate. Above all, you have to believe in what you're doing. If you don't have passion for your own idea, nobody else will. It takes a lot of time and effort to successfully start and operate a venture. Don't become discouraged if all aspects of your endeavor don't work out perfectly at first; your driving passion should be enough to realize what will make you successful.
Of course, these five traits play important roles in helping entrepreneurs make solid decisions. Making good decisions is vital to success in entrepreneurial ventures. The choices present may not always be optimal, but at least satisfying solutions to problems are easier to come by with a developed skill set.
Remember that not making a decision is making a decision, too -- and it's usually the worst option available. Adopting a decision-making process like the one below will not only help you make decisions that are good at the time, but are also flexible and long-lasting.
- Define and clarify the issue/problem.
- Gather data and facts -- and understand them.
- Brainstorm possible alternatives.
- Evaluate the alternatives based on the pros and cons presented by the data.
- Select the best option.
- Follow up to see how your decision played out.
Interestingly enough, your customer base goes through an eerily similar decision-making process when deciding whether they should buy your product/service or your competitor's.
- They identify a need.
- They gather facts.
- They look for products/services that meet their need.
- They evaluate the different products/services.
- They make a purchase.
- They determine if it was the best choice and apply that conclusion to their next purchase.
That's why it's important to ensure that you're providing your customers with the data to ensure they understand how your product/service is better than the competition's. You've got to make their decision-making process as easy as possible; it's one (necessary) way of being a good communicator. They'll go through the steps -- you just have to simplify it for them.
Entrepreneurs, more than corporate businessmen, need to be adept at reading others accurately, making a great first impression, and being passionate and persuasive about their ventures.
Tackling these skills will make every other obstacle that much easier to deal with -- and, as an entrepreneur, there's no doubt you'll have your fair share of them.
Photo credit: lincolncountyedc.org
Dr. Greg Bier is a Professor of Management at the University of Missouri. He leads the newly formed Entrepreneurship Alliance in the Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business. He is also a partner with Entrepreneur MO.