Month: May 2020

The Most Important Skills

Shelf of Books

Sitting at home under lockdown does not prevent us from thinking about creating a new endeavor or starting a company after this is all over. While this is a challenging period for everyone, we can approach it in two different ways: either waste our precious time watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram or use it to cultivate new skills. Entrepreneurship can be learned, and at its core it’s divided into two parts. The first is the mindset one needs to embrace to be successful, and the second being the actual skills an entrepreneur needs to execute against.

Learning and education are important, but what is equally important is putting into action all that we have learned. No one was able to build a world class company by willing it into existence or reading a few books. But reading a few books can, in fact, help reduce the number of mistakes (and there will be mistakes, lots of them) when building a company. We’ll cover some of the important skills that are needed when launching your endeavor, as well as the actions steps one can take today in order to build up those skills.

Nothing beats action and the experience of doing something first hand but there is something to be said about taking small steps despite the challenges stacked against us. There are no excuses, as some of these skills can be learned from a remote location on your laptop and are low cost/no cost.

Skill: Productivity

If you can’t sit in front of your computer for a relatively medium period, you probably won’t be able to accomplish much (and that includes writing a term paper.) The good news is that despite all the “hustle porn” out there, your average person cannot do more than 3 or 4 hours of real, focused work in one day. Author, professor, and focused work expert Cal Newport defines deep work as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” As an entrepreneur you’re not going to have the luxury to do shallow or busy work; rather, your time is going to be spent on building your business, and most likely in the early stages that means getting business in the door. The good news is 3-4 hours of meaningful work a day is manageable, leaving you time to do less mentally constraining tasks like checking email or chatting on the phone with potential customers.

What you can do today

It would be easy to state that getting your butt in a chair is simple, but this is a challenge for everyone, including the author of this piece. A productivity hack includes writing down on paper your 3-5 most important tasks every day and sticking with them. Not 10 or 15 tasks, just 3-5, and really focusing on what are the next steps to take your business to the next level. Additionally, when it comes to sitting down and doing actual work, sites like Brain.fm help your concentration, and the famous Pomodoro Method is a game changer in focusing you to do the hard and necessary work.

Skill: Communication

We have mentioned before this skill is vital. You need to be able to sell, and if you’re not able to do so, you won’t have a business. But the reality is that sales can be either in person (ideally) or in written form. Even if you don’t have a good product-market fit, or you’re not there yet when it comes to where you want to be in the business, the ability to sell will generate cash and be “oxygen” as serial entrepreneur and influencer Gary Vaynerchuk states. Though many entrepreneurs believe selling is an icky thing, this is a skill you must learn, and you can learn. No one is a natural-born salesperson, but some people are just more comfortable doing it.       

What you can do today

Once we get through this pandemic, we’ll want human contact. Enrolling in a Toastmasters class or similar public speaking course could get you started feeling comfortable speaking (and pitching) in front of an audience. Even if you improve by a little bit, you’ll still be better than most people out there as no one is asking you to give a TED talk, but you’ll need to practice your pitching skills. While you’re at home, looking up a cheap copywriting course is a good way to start, and even giving a piece of content you wrote to a friend who writes well to edit is an action step. You’d be surprised how many people don’t utilize these resources, and how much they can benefit your business.

Skill: Networking

It is not what you know or who you know, but ultimately, it’s who knows you. The ability to parlay your network, and quickly and authentically create new relationships are key in building your business. No one does it on their own, and if you’re well connected, you’ll find things will move easier than if you didn’t know anyone. This has become such an important part of any entrepreneur’s toolkit that there are whole courses and communities about building relationships in order to advance your business. However, all the amazing relationships in the world mean nothing if you sell a product people don’t want to buy, or you don’t work hard. On the flipside, one phone call from the right person can open doors for you which you never imagined.

What you can do today

If you’re in quarantine reaching out to people for phone or Zoom calls is something you can do right now. Even if you’re emailing 5 people a day to catch up, it does not need to be something transactional. You’d be surprised what opportunities you’ll be able to source just by reaching out and making a connection. If you’re still in college, start networking today with your classmates but in a way that you’re looking to offer something. Relationships take time to build but are ultimately worth it. People want to do business with people they like, trust, and with whom they feel comfortable.      

Skill: Hiring

This is probably the hardest thing for any founder or small business owner to do. The reality is no one is going to be as invested in your business’s success as you. Hiring is difficult and hiring the wrong people could potentially create a negative culture for your company. This skill is one that you learn with experience; we’ve seen good advice out there stating that just because you need a role filled fast does not mean you should hire the first person who can fill it. “Hire slow, and fire fast.”

What you can do today

Mentorship and speaking with entrepreneurs who have done this before is a good start. If you’re running a solo business or just working with freelancers this is less pressing, but you still need good people to do the work. Have in mind who you’d like to hire, but also remember that working with family and friends can be dangerous, so have those conversations but don’t commit to anything until you’re sure it’s a good fit.

 

 

 

Skill: Hard work

There is a great quote by serial entrepreneur Lori Greiner that states: “entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” There are stories about people who built companies while living on an island in Bali but assume that’s not you. When you’re the boss you’re going to have to put in the work, but that does not mean burnout. Instead, remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. The reality is that as you figure things out and make many mistakes (you will, everyone does) hard work and moving forward every day will ultimately compensate for your learning curve.

What you can do today

You need to show up. Every single day. It’s part of the mindset (and there are plenty of good books on that.) Getting organized with a 90-day plan and your daily 3-5 tasks is a good start; just look to win the day. Small wins consistently add up to big successes. Many people get overwhelmed by what they believe it will take to realize their vision, but everything can be broken down into daily actions. It does sound like fluffy self-help advice, but Rome was not built in a day, and it was completed brick by brick. Learn to lean into the process and enjoy the hard work as it will give your life more meaning.

No one ever said this was going to be easy, but if anything, with what the world is going through now is the ideal time to seriously consider launching your new business, even if it is a side hustle. At the very least you’ll start developing skills that could be applicable to both an entrepreneur and someone who works a 9 to 5 job. There is never an excuse not to learn new professional skills starting today.