Success is a natural consequence of consistently applying fundamental skills.
Not everyone who starts a business has all of the skills necessary to succeed with it from the beginning. Most people have a lot of learning and personal growth to work on along the way. Here are 8 essential skills we all need to develop to succeed in business.
You must be able to talk to strangers
No one succeeds alone. Throughout your business journey you will need to connect with total strangers and be able to ask for direction, assistance and guidance. As a business owner, you’ll also need to provide the same for others.
For example, you will often be serving clients and customers you’ve never met in person prior to that first transaction. To grow your network and your own knowledge and skills, you’ll be attending conferences, networking events, and other in-person meetings. And, as you grow, you will be leading your team and managing professional services providers, most likely consisting of talented professionals working remotely from home.
Talking to strangers – respectfully and with the ability to forge a connection – whether it be in person, in writing, or online, is a learned skill. You will make mistakes; we all do. Apply the lessons immediately in your next round of practice. Ultimately, even if you are an extreme introvert like me, you must master the flow of conversation, the art of communication, and learn how to correctly interpret body language and deal with verbal self-defense, both in person and in writing, in an emotionally intelligent way.
You must be able to get around independently
Oh the places you will go! New neighbourhoods, unfamiliar cities, perhaps even foreign countries. If you never leave home, you’ll be missing opportunities to learn and connect with others you can serve and who can help you move your business forward.
Of course, all forms of travel involve moving out of your comfort zone and require being able to deal with the logistics of transportation: from sorting through a multitude of options, to setting objectives and planning an itinerary, to coping on the fly with the unexpected without falling apart.
Business travel is a growth experience like no other. You won’t necessarily need to do it forever, but you do need to get comfortable with and highly efficient at managing it.
You must be able to manage your commitments, workload, and deadlines
Running your own business is a much larger responsibility than many realize. No one is there telling you what to do when or how. It’s your primary job to become highly skilled at setting priorities, managing workload, keeping commitments and meeting your deadlines, without the assistance of someone looking over your shoulder all the time holding you accountable.
If you do not master managing yourself, it is unlikely you’ll be any better at managing others. Worse, over time you’ll develop a reputation for being unreliable or for being someone who is all talk and no action. This is the kiss of death for any business and it’s very difficult to reverse, if you ever allow it to happen.
You must be able to contribute to the success of others
I get that you have “needs” when building your business, but so does every other person you’ll ever meet. For your business to be successful, you must first facilitate the success of others.
This is one of the hardest lessons new business owners must learn. That, and patience. For, when putting the needs and interests of other business owners in your network first, you will learn that reciprocation has a long incubation period and it’s not uncommon for it to be absent altogether.
You must be able to handle conflict and deal effectively with interpersonal problems
Even when you run your business from a position of solid professionalism, i.e., setting the right expectations, negotiating win/win deals for all parties involved, putting proper contracts in place, and so on, you are going to have to solve misunderstandings, confront the odd dishonest person who slips under your radar, and soothe hurt feelings for a lot of people, whether you think their reaction is justified or not.
I’ve never really understood why they call these the “soft” skills because using them is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do in the course of running your business. Depending on your personality and level of maturity, it can take a lot of time to get comfortable dealing with negative interactions but, I assure you, it is an absolute must!
You must be able to weather uncertainty and cope with ups and downs
Building a business is hard work. Often, this work must continue with no sign of positive impact or reward on the horizon. If you are not able to deal effectively with the stress this imposes, you are likely to suffer enormously from your decision to take this journey.
In the normal course of events, things won’t always go your way. There will be many disappointments, aggravations, and setbacks. In fact, there are likely to be more downs than ups (although the ups are a high like nothing you can imagine).
These are all opportunities to test your mental strength. To hone your persistence. To grow some balls (even, no especially, if you are a woman). Whatever happens, you need to know you’ll be okay. That’s what they mean when they say “fall down seven times; get up eight”.
You must be able to generate money and manage credit and cashflow
We live in a disposable society. One of the downsides of that is many people lose touch with the real value of money.
If, prior to starting your own business, money came easily to you and your every material need was satisfied by others, you might not have learned a true appreciation for the cost of things or any sense of how to manage your income, expenses, credit, and cashflow.
This is a recipe for disaster! As a business owner, you now have full accountability for all of it. There will be hard financial lessons ahead and there is a lot at stake, even for those who are financially responsible. For a few, this could even be the first time ever that they experience what it takes to truly earn a dollar.
And, even when you succeed and the money starts to flow through your business, there are still lessons to be learned. Having a lot of money at your disposal only makes you more of who you already are. In fact, having money exponentially amplifies everything you are and exposes your true character. What will being in that spotlight say about you?
You must be able to take risks
Depending on what kind of childhood you had, you may have grown up without realizing success comes only after trying and failing. And that this is not the end of the world.
Failing helps you build resilience. You are going to need a lot of that to be able to go the distance with your business. While there is no shame in failure, there is a need to learn how to assess and quantify risk. As well as how to manage and mitigate that risk.
Success is never certain and it can be elusive. When it feels like it’s a constantly moving target, that you’re never going to get there, chances are you need to revisit one or more of these 8 skills and work a little harder at growing them.
More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.
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