Critical Skills for the Entrepreneur

Critical Skills for the Entrepreneur

Tool KitThe successful entrepreneur relies on a tool chest of core critical skills. Without them, success can be extremely hard to come by.  However, most of these critical skills are not something you learn in business school. They’re shaped and honed by experience in the real world. And these core skills adapt to businesses of all kinds.

What are these critical skills?


Leadership is one of the most important of all the critical skills. And Leadership skills are different than management skills. Take for instance, John Clifton “Jack” Bogle, founder and CEO of The Vanguard Fund, the largest mutual fund in the world. He defines leadership as knowing what’s worth doing. On the other hand, management is about knowing how to do something.

The critical skill of leadership is about the ability to define what’s important and what will actually impact the bottom line of your business. This particular skill is about being able to make moral decisions about when to go for profit and when to sacrifice them for long-term values.

Leaders need to be able to identify what’s really best for everyone involved, including clients, employees and shareholders, and make business decisions for the greater good. You can see how this is a necessary critical skill. It’s the bigger picture.

A manager is someone who understands things like time management, project flow, tracking employee performance and such. But they aren’t necessarily the right people to steer a company. While a manager needs critical skills as much as a leader, they are not necessarily the same ones.

A good entrepreneur needs to be a great leader. It also helps if they’re a good manager.

Persistence and Patience

In “Good to Great,” a highly acclaimed business book by Jim Collins, you’ll read studies on 11 public companies whose performance consistently beat the market average for 15 years in a row. One of the critical skills he revealed was persistence and patience. He likened it to a giant spinning metallic flywheel.

If you had to take this giant metallic wheel and make it spin, in the very beginning it won’t budge at all. You can put in immense amounts of effort, only to find it still not moving.

Yet once it does start moving, slow at first then getting faster and faster, it’ll build momentum until it starts to move on its own. At that point, it would actually be harder to stop the flywheel than to push it faster.

Building a business is similar. In the beginning, you’ll struggle to get going. But as momentum builds, it’ll get easier and easier. The trick is to have the critical skills of persistence and patience to stick it through.

Team and People Focus

“Take my 20 best people and, virtually overnight, Microsoft becomes a mediocre company.” — Bill Gates

Whether it’s Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, one thing is consistently clear across the most successful companies: a relentless drive to hire the best people.

More than anything else, the success of your company is going to be based on the kind of people you hire. Look for the critical skills you’re lacking and balance your team proactively. Aim to hire people who are smarter and more competent than you, particularly in areas where your strengths wane. We can’t do it all!

Developing these critical skills takes time but they’re skills that anyone can learn.

What critical skills do you feel are the most important? How have they played a part in your quest for entrepreneurial success?

  • Elaine Fogel
    Posted at 12:04h, 07 November Reply

    Loral, you hit the nail on the head in describing the importance of hiring people whose “critical skills you’re lacking.” I’ll take that one step further. It’s also about having the ability to delegate to those professionals and trusting in their stronger skills, i.e. NOT micromanaging. 🙂

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