I’ve heard too many friends and colleagues talk about how “scary” or “impressive” it seems to start your own business. I don’t know about impressive, but entrepreneurship can certainly be scary. It’s also amazing, crazy, and incredibly fulfilling. This post deviates from the usual educational material you’ll find on the Spear IP Blog. It’s time for some real talk about entrepreneurship and the must-have skills for taking the leap (in my very humble and non-expert opinion).
This post isn’t going to give you tips and tricks for starting and running your own business. Moving through the Idea Frame, setting measurable goals, and creating a business plan are all great exercises if you’re thinking of starting a business. If you’re thinking seriously about it, though, I believe there are certain skills you have to have (or be open to having) in order to push through. Here is a heart-on-my-sleeve list of those skills.
Entrepreneurship Skill #1: Ability (and Desire) to Wear Different Hats
It’s a story I love to tell because it’s the perfect example of the multiple hats you wear as an entrepreneur: In December 2015, I sent out a holiday card to a handful of clients and referral sources. It had a Christmas-themed variation of my logo.
The following week, I spoke with an attorney that was a recipient of the card. “I love the holiday card you sent, it was so clever!” he said with enthusiasm. “Who is your marketing person?”
A mere four months into running my business? Me. I was my marketing person. And book keeper, administrative assistant, brand ambassador and, oh yeah, legal department.
Sometimes, when you start your own business (and especially in the first few months), you have to run to the post office, answer the phone, or even design a holiday card. If you’re unwilling to wear these hats, at least at first, you’d better be sure you have the budget to outsource. If not, entrepreneurship may not be for you.
Entrepreneurship Skill #2: Ability to Sell It (Effectively)
Never in my life have I thought of myself as a salesperson. I still don’t (not really, anyway). But being a business owner means being able to tell someone, in thirty seconds or less, what you do and why you’re different. Even folks that you don’t consider potential clients or customers should know what you do. That’s “Sales: Part One.”
Part Two? Listening. “Sales” is not being pushy or obnoxious. A few weeks ago at Brandology (a branding and sales seminar from the Nashville Fashion Alliance), Travis Gravette from Nisolo explained it perfectly. You’ll often hear the phrase “he could sell ice to an Eskimo” to describe a good salesperson. “That’s not a good salesperson,” said Travis, “that’s a bully.” He went on to say that a good salesperson sells to someone that needs his product because a good salesperson asks questions, listens, and helps that person address a pain point or otherwise makes that person’s life easier. To make it as an entrepreneur, not only to you have to sell yourself, but you have to listen and, therefore, sell yourself effectively.
Entrepreneurship Skill #3: Humility
You might have a great idea for your business — whether it’s a marketing opportunity, new service, or other new facet to implement into your business. You could spend hours designing it, thinking it through, walking through the pricing structure — after all of the time you put into it, you’re ready to release it to the masses!
Then, it flops.
Maybe it doesn’t flop entirely, but the audience of 1,000 you hoped to reach turns out to be an audience of 100. Don’t take it personally, and don’t fight it. You have to be able to acknowledge that you tried something different and it didn’t work. Entrepreneurship certainly requires some humility.
In the end, you can completely ignore my thoughts when it comes to entrepreneurship. They’re just thoughts, and I’m just another entrepreneur trying to pave my way in an industry that’s very different from others. But if you’re thinking about starting a business, you’ve planned it out, and you think you have all of the skills I’ve touched upon here, I encourage you to go for it. It’s crazy, stressful, wonderful, rewarding, and ever-changing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.