Some people are good with numbers. Some are skilled at coding.
Others, like me, are great at telling stories and simplifying complex ideas.
How about you? What are you good at?
In business, finding your strengths and actively playing to them is key to succeeding in any industry.
In fact, your strengths (talents, skills, passions, character traits) may have been the spark that drove you to want to start a business in the first place.
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However, before moving into the process of starting and growing a company of your own, it's important to first make a clear distinction between your soft skills and hard skills, as they'll combine to make up your entrepreneurial strengths.
Soft skills: Personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
Hard skills: Specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured.
Here are my eight steps to finding your strengths in business.
1. Determining Your Soft Skills
As we mentioned above, soft skills are your personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
In short, these are the skills you possess, that you can’t necessarily quantify. This is your EQ (Emotional Intelligence), not your IQ.
Here are some examples of soft skills:
- Having a strong sense of self-awareness
- Being optimistic
- Being resilient
- Having patience
- Being a good listener
When I started my first side business, I pretty much only possessed soft skills. I had to teach myself how to create a product with absolutely no past experience.
What I lacked in hard skills like coding talent, marketing chops, and writing abilities at the time, I significantly made up for in determination, optimism, and people skills that would help me build the meaningful connections I’d need, to get my business off the ground without doing everything myself.
Later on, I trained myself to become proficient with the hard skills my business (and future companies) would need, and I painstakingly learned how to use all the best tools to start an online business.
My skill assessment for entrepreneurs walks you step-by-step through the process of both looking inward and getting outside feedback to help you discover which soft skills are your strongest assets.
This is an essential step in the process to defining how you'll interact with others, and which complementary traits you should look for in potential business partners and employees.
2. Breaking Down Your Biggest Wins
During the week I launched my very first online course on winning freelance clients, I slept an average of four to five hours each night and still made it into work at my day job.
Yet still, I felt energized every single day of that week.
I was emailing back and forth with people who were considering buying my course, answering tons of questions, and giving away some of the content for free to the motivated people that simply couldn’t afford to buy it at the time.
I built so many great relationships that continue to flourish. I absolutely loved it, even though it was an incredibly difficult week. This was a huge win for me.
From the events that transpired that week, I learned so much about myself in terms of which soft skills of mine continued to bubble up to the surface and help me become successful.
To name just a few, I learned that I very naturally fall into the role of becoming a personal mentor to people, I learned that I was even more open to critical feedback than I previously believed, and I got to see a direct, positive impact on how my sense of humor helped me drive clear business results.
This launch experience taught me a lot about which soft skills I'd need to continue leveraging within my business.
Now, it's your turn. Think of a time you did a great job on challenging work project, or a time you felt particularly accomplished with something you worked on.
Ask yourself what exactly were you doing at the time, and which soft skills you employed to help you achieve your end result.
3. Figuring Out What Comes Naturally to You
Part of determining what your strengths are as an entrepreneur, is taking an inward look back into the past and figuring out what you've always been a natural at.
What have your friends, coaches, teachers, managers, or even your parents always told you you’re a natural at?
This can fall into many different categories, so don't get hung up on thinking of this as a strictly "on the court" or "in the classroom" type of strength.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Did you always find yourself being the mediator between your group of friends?
- Was is always easier for you to pick up complex physics in class?
- Were you often the one making plans and figuring out the logistics of getting from point A to point B?
- Are you a naturally talented athlete?
- Do you have the ability to make others smile and laugh?
Focus on coming up with at least five things you're a natural at, and then breaking down which soft skills of yours have helped you be such a natural.
These are most likely your strongest soft skills. Ones you've possessed since very early on in your life.
4. Asking Others What Your Strengths Are
Once you've done some introspection and come up with a handful of strengths that you believe to be your strongest assets, it's time to turn to the people you know and trust, to get an outside opinion.
Left completely to my own devices a few years ago, I would've thought that one of my most valuable strengths at the time, was my ability to build my own WordPress website without needing outside development or design assistance.
And you know what? That is definitely still a strength in my book. However, in the grand scheme of things, working on website features really isn't the best utilization of my time and it's not what I'm best at.
I decided that in order to be as successful as possible with my business, I need to be only doing what I'm absolutely best at, and leveraging my strongest skills in the process.
It was my close group of friends and business mentors that helped guide me to a place where I could identify the fact that I'm much better suited at spending my time writing (one of my greatest strengths) and connecting directly with the people in my community, as opposed to getting deep in the woods of working on website features.
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Without that clarity, I would've been wasting some of my talents.
So, reach out to three to five people who know you very well, trust you, and would give you honest feedback.
You're going to ask them to share with you, what they believe to be three of your biggest strengths, and if they can include any examples of when you demonstrated those abilities, that's a major plus.
Your goal is to get a consensus back from those who know you best, about what they perceive to be your strengths.
The responses could completely surprise you, or validate what you already believe to be true about yourself.
5. Run Through a Hypothetical Scenario
Imagine your boss, coach, or teacher gives you a group project that needs to be completed by the end of the week.
Your success at your job, on the court, or in the classroom depends solely upon completing this activity well, and it’s a great opportunity to show what you’re made of.
Seriously, think of an example in your head. Create a hypothetical situation that's relevant to your life and where you're at right now, in which you have three team members joining you on this project.
Now, ask yourself which role you naturally assume within your group. Do you become the organizer, leader, creative, a moderator, take a back seat, or something else entirely?
Is there a specific part of the project you're more naturally inclined to take on? Do you like the overall planning phase, or do you prefer getting straight down to business and doing the actual legwork during the project?
Do you take the initiative to assign responsibilities, or do you prefer to be given your role within the group? Do you interject if someone else starts to take over the role you want within the group?
Answering all of these questions for yourself will tell you a great deal about how you work in teams, and which strengths you'll naturally play to. From there, you can take a look back at which soft skills help you through the process of working on a group project.
6. What Are Some of Your Hard Skills?
Hard skills are your well-defined, easily measured strengths and abilities. These are what most people think of when it comes to "skills," but they aren't in my opinion, what are most important when it comes to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
They can always be learned over time, whereas a soft skill like being a strong leader, isn't acquired by attending an online class on nights & weekends.
Nevertheless, acknowledging, understanding, and focusing on using your hard skills is essential to maximizing your success potential.
Here are a few examples of common hard skills that entrepreneurs possess:
- Design: Proficiency with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.
- Writing: Being able to take complex ideas, break them down into digestible bits, and craft them into compelling stories.
- Analysis: Advanced financial modeling abilities in Microsoft Excel, complex statistical analysis, data mining.
- Marketing: Search Engine Optimization, SEM, proficiency with social media platforms.
For me, my most prominent hard skills are my writing ability, an advanced working knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, and a deep understanding of SEO.
The combination of these three hard skills is what helps me create high quality blog content, downloadable guides, and visually appealing content for my online courses.
7. What Do You Love to Do?
How would you spend your time if you didn't have to go into work every day?
Look first to the things you already do in your limited free hours around work and spending time with friends and family.
Do you like helping your friends talk through difficult situations at work or in their personal lives? Do you spend your free time writing about life lessons you’ve learned through your travels?
Do you go on outdoor adventures every weekend?
If you’re anything like me, then you love to do the things you’re already good at. It’s human nature.
Trying new things and risking failure can be uncomfortable at first.
At this point in my life, I have a true love sharing my experiences in business through my writing, and pushing myself to my personal limits with long-distance running.
If I could do the two of those things completely full-time, I would (and that's the plan). I'm using my Launch While Working Formula to scale my side business into eventually becoming my full-time muse.
By my own measure, I’m already good at both writing and running.
However, when I think back to how painful it was, as I was just beginning to sharpen my abilities at both, there were many times I contemplated giving up. Once I got my first handful of breakthroughs, I had the momentum and confidence to keep pushing, and slowly I began to love them both.
Taking a look at the things you truly love doing, and identifying which soft skills you employ most when doing these activities will help you further narrow down your core strengths as an entrepreneur.
8. Deciding What Comes Next
Once you've gone through the process of identifying all of your core soft and hard skills, the real question is, what will you do with this knowledge?
What you decide to do with this knowledge is completely up to you. The easiest thing to do is to stay content with what you're doing at your day job, even if your work is meaningless.
I challenge you to start looking for a more meaningful job where you can focus on building your core skills, engaging your strengths, and continue discovering what you're truly passionate about in life.
Personally, I've found that starting a side business can often be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. Mine has been an instrument by which I've gotten to have a connection, however small, with hundreds of thousands of people over the past couple of years.
Now that's motivating.
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The Power of Finding Your Strengths as an Entrepreneur
The next step toward finding a way to launch into a meaningful self-employed career, is to combine your soft and hard skills, to come up with profitable business ideas that'll engage your strengths and areas of interest.
If you're passionate about cooking, naturally step into a role of mentoring others, and have a knack for writing and speaking, I'd be willing to bet that you'd stand a strong chance of success in creating a food blog, or offering one-on-one cooking classes in your area.
Naturally, you'll need to pick up some more skills and learn a bit about digital marketing along the way, but by starting in a place where you're engaging your interests and strengths, you'll be motivated to push forward.