Successful entrepreneurs are often jacks of all trades — and never experts at none.
Running your own business means you have to pull from a deep toolbox of hard and soft skills to push your business off the ground and keep it growing. But because entrepreneurs are constantly on call and keep never-ending to-do lists, it can be difficult to prioritize learning the entrepreneurship skills that will help you and your business stay healthy.
Whether you’re getting ready to transform your side hustle into a new business or want to audit your current skill set to improve your ability to lead, working on your transferable skills is a great way to bolster a growth mindset. And though you can’t master everything, building well-rounded know-how will empower you and your teams to support the business.
The importance of entrepreneurial skills
As an entrepreneur, your responsibilities may feel never-ending and all-encompassing. After all, turning your dreams into a successful business doesn’t happen overnight — and once your business begins to gain traction, the work required to keep the lights on never ceases.
Business leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit must accept this challenge and continuously make calculated and informed decisions to keep their business plans moving forward.
It’s up to you to identify opportunities, make smart decisions, and chart the course when challenges arise. And as your startup grows, you must learn to effectively allocate your resources and create value propositions for your employees and clients.
But don’t worry — this hard work pays off. According to the U.S. Business Administration Office of Advocacy, small businesses employ 46.4% of private sector U.S. employees, meaning business owners stimulate local economies and create important lifelines for local communities. Here are a few other ways your entrepreneurial skills leave a positive impact:
While you don’t have to excel at everything, developing a breadth of know-how helps you delegate tasks realistically and empathize with your employees
12 essential entrepreneurial skills
Getting a business off the ground and moving is no small task. In a world of ever-changing market trends and economic challenges, you have to think on your feet without losing sight of your company mission. Being able to switch from one competency to another is crucial to maintaining a solid business foundation.
The following skills aren’t exclusive to entrepreneurs — they’re indispensable to any industry and job role. If you’re getting ready to make the transition to entrepreneurship, you may be surprised by how many transferable skills you already have under your belt.
Of course, others may need a little cultivation or refining. But fine-tuning them will ensure you’re qualified to roll with the punches and keep your business moving forward.
Here are 12 key skills every entrepreneur should strive for:
Budgeting: All business ideas are limited by budgets. Successful entrepreneurship requires a firm grip on your business’s financial reality, which means learning to manage budgets, analyze financial data, and understand cash flow patterns.
This knowledge is invaluable to your business’ security, as it facilitates sound decision-making and allows you to build realistic action plans for investments, expansions, and cuts.
Problem-solving: Entrepreneurship has no finish line, no matter the industry. Your business journey will be chock-full of new challenges and obstacles requiring problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Strategic thinking is what allows you to step back from today’s problems and see the bigger picture, aligning short-term goals with long-term objectives.
Communication skills: Business owners are the voice of their companies. Whether you’re emailing a client, delivering an elevator pitch to a potential investor, or delegating tasks on Slack, practicing adaptability in tone and delivery is essential to effective communication, no matter the scenario.
Time management: With so many responsibilities and decisions to make each day, you might feel like several tasks are competing for your time and attention. Learning to manage your time and leave room for flexibility provides you with the necessary structure to move through your day without wasted resources or missed deadlines.
Creative thinking: The business landscape is ever-changing, and adaptability is essential to staying competitive. An entrepreneurial mindset means inserting creative thinking into every aspect of your business strategy, from differentiating your products from the competition to creating incentives that retain the best talent.
Practice keeping an open mind by challenging traditional ideas, embracing new perspectives, and encouraging experimentation. It’ll keep your teams inspired and your business forward-thinking.
Leadership skills: As the head of the company, your team looks to you to set the tone. Whether you demonstrate a strong work ethic or cut corners, your behavior tells your employees what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
Leadership is a 24/7 responsibility, but fostering a positive and productive work environment will pay off in strong collaboration and continuous improvement from your teams.
Management skills: While you may be tempted to juggle a dozen roles, you (and your mental health) can’t do it all. When small-scale day-to-day tasks constantly occupy your time, becoming a future-minded leader is difficult.
As your business grows, building structures that allow your employees to thrive and take on more responsibilities is vital. That way, you can delegate to your growing team and dedicate more time to overseeing long-term planning.
Decision-making: As the head of the business, your days are fraught with important decisions. Successful entrepreneurs mix analytical thinking and intuition, as they may face situations with limited information or uncertain results. Learning to weigh pros and cons, consider risks, and surround yourself with diverse perspectives empowers you to navigate complexities confidently.
Networking: Hard work is just one part of the equation to keep your business healthy. The relationships you cultivate are the other. After all, your familiarity with industry peers, potential partners, and clients keeps your business on people’s minds.
Regular networking helps you gain insights into your target market, stay up-to-date on emerging trends, and open doors to new opportunities.
Collaboration: You depend on your teams to keep business moving forward, so you need to arm yourself with tools to give them support and guidance. Demonstrating gratitude, open-mindedness, and reliability are interpersonal skills that build the trust that keeps your workforce productive.
Active listening: Team members want to feel heard and respected. After all, we all dedicate a lot of time and energy to our jobs. Workers who feel understood are more productive, so aim to practice emotional intelligence and value your team’s work-life balance. You’ll see happier and more effective teams.
Public speaking: Management is the face of the company. Throughout your career, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to speak in front of a crowd. Whether delivering a TED Talk or leading a team meeting, you can motivate and inspire people to rally around your vision.
More entrepreneurial hard skills to brush up on
Hard skills are explicit knowledge that helps you perform specific tasks. Most people learn technical skills through formal education and refine them through supplemental training and on-the-job experiences.
Here are 15 of the most important skills that’ll come in handy while building your business:
- Social media
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Inbox management
- Basic financial knowledge
- Sales and negotiation
- Digital marketing
- Market research and analysis
- Project management
- Customer service and management
- Data analysis
- Legal and regulatory compliance
- Supply chain management
- Basic computer skills
- Presentation development
How to improve your entrepreneurial skills
Entrepreneurship is a commitment that requires continuous learning and skill refinement. When you’re ready, choose from the entrepreneurship examples above and get to work on your skills.
Here are a few tips to help you constantly improve your ability to lead a business:
Take online courses: There’s a class for every aspect of business management. Quick courses in social media advertising, financial forecasting, and supply chain optimization can help you develop your skill set.
Even if you don’t directly oversee a specific task, developing a working knowledge can improve your collaboration with other departments and your ability to make informed decisions with your team.
- Seek out mentors: You’re not alone in the business world. Plenty of entrepreneurs have already navigated decisions that are brand new to you. Mentors can provide you with a sense of connection and bolster your confidence. Tapping into an experienced professional network can give you the clarity to help you move forward, no matter your business situation.
- Create a practice plan: You don’t have to learn everything at once. Identify the most pertinent skills to your success, and create a plan to refine them. This could mean being more conscientious of writing clear communications, regularly showing gratitude, or attending a seminar every month. Regardless of your goals, practice and consistency make perfect.
- Join a local business organization: Running a business is difficult, but having the support of colleagues navigating similar professional spheres can help you maintain your sense of purpose. Local business associations are also great places to network, stay up-to-date on trends, and find new opportunities.
- Work with a coach: Entrepreneurs provide constant guidance to their teams, and they benefit from the same support. Coaches are incredible allies to entrepreneurs, and they can assist you in setting clear goals and staying on track to reach your wellness and professional objectives.
Lead a successful business (and life)
If you have the characteristics of an entrepreneur, you already possess valuable soft skills, including passion, drive, and self-confidence. Now it’s time to level up your entrepreneurial skills and equip yourself with the tools to transform your dreams into reality.
Practicing time management, learning to lead a team, and developing know-how about various business management topics can all help push your business forward. And as your company grows and earns successes, so will you.