Or maybe you’ve questioned your own abilities and wondered, “Are there things I should know but don’t?”
You’re not alone in that thought.
The truth of the matter is: entrepreneurs need many different business management skills, character traits, and habits to make them successful. But there are certain business management skills that seem to stand out as highly important—both in research and polls.
In fact, one study found that skills such as persuasion, leadership, accountability, goal-orientation, and interpersonal abilities were commonalities among serial entrepreneurs. Another found that successful entrepreneurs were highly social creatures.
But what do entrepreneurs themselves—the ones who are in the trenches every day—see as the most important business management skills? We’ve collected 10 suggestions from a lively LinkedIn discussion highlighting what business owners see as the abilities that define a great business owner.
1. Ability to manage money
Marshall Davis said, “I have seen many companies go under due to mismanagement of what money they had. They would acquire venture capital and then spend through it all before they had a product ready for release. Many examples exist of how mismanagement of money has killed companies. I think this is a skill the business needs to take responsibility for.”
Accountability when it comes to fiscal responsibilities is hugely important for any business owner. Without it, objectivity is lost—and many companies find it’s their ultimate demise.
Like Kelly Riggan said: “The skill of conveying to all that your business is built on a solid foundation of your passion for it. If it completely matters to you, that confidence will affect all other aspects of your business abilities.”
If you don’t love what you’re doing, it shows. Passionate business owners are excited to get up and go to work each day—although it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun!
3. Ability to make connections
You might agree with Eric Byrd if you understand the power of making connections. “The ability to make connections is critical for any business owner. Business is about relationships… customers, investors, employees, partners and vendors. An owner who knows how to connect with people genuinely and effectively will succeed where others may fail,” he said.
Whether it means finding new partners, meeting potential clients, or finding mentors—making connections is a skill business owners always have in common.
Ah, the power of open ears. John Heinrich II said, “Listening. To Customers. To Employees. To anybody who walks through your physical door, or your online door.”
The listening skill often goes overlooked but is essential to business—and communication in general. When we’re only sending out messages but not hearing anything that comes back in, it creates a very one-sided picture. And that’s dangerous.
Sticking it out when the going gets tough isn’t always easy. That’s why Marie Leslie said, “Perseverance is the ability to keep going even when success is delayed. I don’t want to just wait for my business to be successful–I want to be able to stay motivated and keep pushing forward even when success doesn’t come as quickly as I’d like.”
It takes a thick skin, a lot of will power, and a driving force to be a successful business owner. Persevering isn’t always easy, but it’s a key skill to anyone who wants to withstand the highs and lows of business.
6. Knowing your business AND your competitors
Jim Habernicht discussed the skill of knowledge. “Know your business and your competitors. Think out of the box. Know that you will fall. But, believe enough in yourself, your idea, and your dream to get back up… and make it happen.”
As a business owner, you not only have to know what you do well—but what others do well, too. Being aware of the ups and downs as well as your business’s strong points and weaknesses means you’re always on your toes. And that’s a key skill.
Sometimes being an entrepreneur is frightening. There’s uncertainty that comes with the job title. But Dave Monk names the most important skill as, “Strength and Courage during the slow months.” He also cited his strong faith as a source of courage.
Having the courage to enter a world of uncertainty entails means entertaining a certain level of risk. Without courage, most business owners would probably be curled up in the fetal position at home.
8. Keeping your word
Trust is earned and is a powerful skill that only certain business owners retain over time. That’s why Valerie VanOrden said, “I think the most important skill for a business owner to have is the ability to keep his/her own word. I’ve studied business law, and contracts are really only written agreements to keep a promise, keep your word, back up your work. What good is it to do business with someone who won’t keep their word? A good name is to be chosen above riches.”
Keep your word as a business owner and the other skills will follow.
Where would a business owner be without vision? Lost. Michael Davidson explained by saying, “We are our own bosses. We have to decide every day what is the most important thing we need to do today, tomorrow, next week, over the next 5 years. We can’t do everything, can’t be everything to please everyone, and we certainly can’t exceed our limited budget! Focus.”
There are so many opportunities for distraction. When you can employ the skill to focus—your leadership path becomes much more clear.
10. Great customer service
Not everyone understands how to handle customer service. Cindy Gwalthey said, “A business must supply something most people need, with good customer service, and a niche to make yourself stand out and different. Passion about your business, good decisions, trained employees and hard work adds the icing.”
Providing and training for great customer service is a skill successful business owners keep at the top of their priority list. Without it, your great product falls between the cracks of miscommunication.
There are many, many more skills a business owner needs to be good at what he or she does. But this foundation is a starting place—tested by business owners who employ these skills each and every day. It’s a reminder to sharpen the skills we let fall to the side.
What skills would you add to this list?
Brad Farris is the founder of EnMast.com, a small business owner community where members get access to a library of tools, templates and support to grow their business. He’s a huge 49ers fan, loves to ride his bike along on Chicago’s Lake Front and spend time with his wife and 5 kids.