More Great Skills from Great Entrepreneurs

Last week, I shared with you six great skills that you can learn from six of the greatest entrepreneurs throughout history.  But if you think that six skills alone are going to take you from wannabe business owner to entrepreneurial success, you’ve got another thing coming!

Today, I want to wrap up this series with another six important lessons that you need to learn if you want to make it with your own company.  Start working on these skills within your own life and I guarantee you’ll see faster progress – no matter what your business goals might be!

Skill #1 – Curiosity

Simply put, you can’t be an entrepreneur if you aren’t curious.  Entrepreneurs see the world as being full of opportunity and rife with the potential for change – but only because they’re curious enough to look past the world as it is and envision better alternatives.

At the same time, entrepreneurs must be curious enough to learn about things they don’t know, in order to bring about the alternatives they envision.  An entrepreneur can’t say, “Well, I just don’t care to learn about outsourcing manufacturing overseas.”  If he wants to run a business that utilizes this technique, he needs to be curious enough to find the necessary information.

Entrepreneur: Benjamin Franklin

For a great lesson in curiosity, look no further than one of America’s earliest entrepreneurs – Benjamin Franklin.  A natural inventor, Franklin’s innate curiosity allowed him to identify solutions that represented both personal improvements and business successes.

As an example, in colonial America, most families used fire to heat their homes – though this was both dirty and dangerous.  After exploring different possibilities for remedying this situation, Franklin used his curiosity to invent not just the iron furnace stove (known to this day as the “Franklin stove”), but also the first fire company and fire insurance company to help people live safer lives.

Skill #2 – Creativity

That said, entrepreneurs don’t just need curiosity to find success – they need creativity as well to bring their proposed solutions to life.  Creativity allows entrepreneurs the freedom needed to experiment without getting hung up on logistical concerns.  As most business owners know, these details can always be ironed out later – but without a creative idea, there can be no true success.

Entrepreneur: Sam Walton

Certainly, Walton’s success as the founder of one of the world’s largest retail businesses qualifies him for inclusion in this list under any particular skill.  However, what’s fascinating about Walton’s story is that – when he first started buying up stores and launching the Walmart brand – big-city discounting was entirely un-heard of in America’s rural town.  It was Walton’s creativity that allowed him to see an opening in this market, leading to the type of success most entrepreneurs only dream about.

Skill #3 – Persuasive

It’s not exactly a secret that entrepreneurs need to be persuasive.  No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always somebody who needs to be persuaded – whether it’s convincing a customer to buy products at the price you’ve set or compelling a supplier to offer the better terms needed to make your product or service affordable.  Becoming more persuasive should be at the top of every would-be entrepreneur’s “to do” list.

Entrepreneur: Ruth Handler

And when it comes to being persuasive, you can’t learn from a better role model than Ruth Handler – the co-founder of Mattel who’s responsible for the introduction of the Barbie doll in 1956.

At the time, girls played exclusively with baby dolls, making Handler’s idea for a grown-up, adult doll a radical departure from the popular toys of the era.  In fact, her idea was so “out there” that it took her more than three years to agree to make her proposed dolls – a decision which instantly ratcheted Mattel to the top of the toy industry.

Skill #4 – Reality Distortion

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you simply can’t afford to see things the way they are.  You have to be able to look past the world as it exists and see a totally different reality – the one you’re going to bring about as a business owner.  Essentially, this skill is the coming together of curiosity and creativity.  It’s a hard one to master if you aren’t born with it, but reality distortion is so vitally important to entrepreneurial success that you can’t afford to overlook its importance.

Entrepreneur: Neil Patel

Steve Jobs is a really great example of this skill, but since I covered him in last week’s post, I want to focus on my mentor Neil Patel here instead.  I’ve been working with Neil for several years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how he can set totally ludicrous goals and somehow find a way to bring them to life.  I’m convinced that it’s because he doesn’t see the same world that I see.  He sees one that’s better and by distorting reality in this way, he enables himself to reach the goals he sets.

Skill #5 – Communication

Simply put, entrepreneurs need to be able to communicate.  You can have all the ideas in the world, but if you can’t effectively convey them to your family members, your employees or your customers, your business is going nowhere.  At that point, you’ve got two choices – you can either invest the energy needed to improve your communication skills, or you can outsource your communications needs (as I describe in this blog post).

Entrepreneur: Oprah Winfrey

Interestingly, Oprah’s innate communication skills initially proved to be a weakness in her intended line of work as a journalist.  Because she was so deeply empathetic, she had trouble distancing herself from the emotional toll of her work – often causing her to fight back tears while reporting on difficult stories.

Fortunately, a manager at Oprah’s TV station recognized a way to leverage her communication skills, moving her into a talk show role intended to compete with Phil Donahue’s successful program.  It was a natural fit, giving Winfrey the credibility needed to translate her talk show experience into success as an actress, talk-show host and communications mogul.

Skill #6 – Being Scrappy

Finally, if I could give you one last piece of advice on how to succeed as an entrepreneur, it’d be to get scrappy.

Entrepreneurs can’t be soft, and they can’t give up whenever the shit hits the fan (believe me, it will and it will do so often).  Instead, business owners need to be scrappy.  They need to move forward with determination and a will that says, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to be successful – get out of my way.”  They need to be the runty kids on the playground, swinging away at the bullies until the older kids learn to just leave them alone.

Entrepreneur: Sujan Patel

Now, I’m not saying that I was a playground runt, but I definitely attribute much of my success as a business owner to being scrappy.  I’ve had some pretty huge business failures, but I’ve never let them stop me.  Instead, I look at challenges as opportunities and use them to find ways to be better.  I don’t give in and I don’t give up – whether I’m trying to lose weight, grow a company or undertake any other personal project.

So what do you think?  Are there any other skills or great entrepreneur examples that you think should have a place in this list?  If so, share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below!

Comments

  • I’ve never experienced anything quite like hearing “Welcome To The Jungle” blasting through Dodger Stadium while “Game Over” flashed across the scoreboard when came in to close another game. I’ll never forget my brother hugging me when Manny hit his grand slam on bobble head night; I don’t think he’s ever hugged me as hard for as long and I don’t think he ever will again.
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About Sujan

Sujan Patel is the VP of Marketing at thisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work & Wage Base. Previously Sujan founded Single Grain, one of the top Digital Marketing agencies in San Francisco, CA. With more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force,…