In the Hollywood movie version of a success story, an entrepreneur has a sudden spark of inspiration and then—after a montage of office scenes set to peppy music—they debut their company on the NASDAQ, their fortune assured.
In real life, a lot of less-than-glamorous work goes into creating and growing a company. Launching a business website or opening a store is often the end result of a long process that requires much more from entrepreneurs than a single idea. Entrepreneurship skills are the mechanisms that help transform those ideas into a fulfilling, prosperous and successful reality.
There are 10 key skills that everyone should strive to master in learning how to become an entrepreneur. We’ll help you narrow down the list and send you on your way to self-made success.
Why entrepreneurial skills are important
Accomplished entrepreneurs come from all kinds of backgrounds, so there isn’t one singular path you must take in order to reach success. These diverse life experiences inspire the creation of companies that meet the changing needs of society.
Regardless of formal education or training, having a core set of entrepreneurship skills is essential for making sound decisions, inspiring employees to do their best work, overcoming challenges and capitalizing on opportunities for business growth.
Entrepreneurship skills don’t solely benefit your own bottom line, either. By transforming your ideas into reality, you can create products or services that improve consumers’ lives. And, as your company flourishes, you can create jobs and drive economic growth.
10 entrepreneur skills you need to succeed in business
01. Basic finance
Financial skills are an essential part of knowing how to start a business, let alone run one. At minimum, building and growing a business requires an understanding of smart spending, appropriate budgeting and tax compliance.
While you can recruit help in this area, financial skills can’t be fully outsourced. You can hire accountants and bookkeepers to manage day-to-day expenditures, but you’ll need to interpret their reports, answer questions and make decisions based on their findings. Required financial skills include:
Business planning: If you need a bank loan or additional outside funding, you’ll be required to create a business plan that quantifies the market opportunity and projects your income and expenses. This exercise is useful even if you don’t require financing— it’s a way to plan a solid financial foundation for your business.
Cost analysis and pricing: At the most fundamental level, you need to understand the expenses that go into your product or service, and how much to charge so you can strike a lucrative profit margin.
Revenue reporting and projections: Tracking sales is essential, and using those results to forecast future growth helps you plan ahead so that you can reinvest your earnings appropriately.
Even the greatest business ideas need a way to attract and maintain customers. That’s where marketing comes in.
Entrepreneurship requires an understanding of what marketing channels are appropriate for your business and how to leverage a blend of paid advertising and organic content to achieve growth. Specific skills include:
Customer-centric research: Knowing how to capture consumer preferences and apply findings to business decisions is a critical skill. Cultivate curiosity and ask plenty of questions in assessing your audience’s needs. This research isn’t just an item for your pre-launch to-do list; you should tap into your existing customer base to respond to input and foster loyalty.
Brand articulation: To stand out in a crowded marketplace, you need to define what’s unique about your brand. While you may collaborate with others to develop the overall brand aesthetic and voice, you’ll need to maintain ultimate control to ensure that your brand identity stays strong over time.
Digital savvy: According to HubSpot, many Gen-Xers, Millennials and Gen-Zers prefer to discover new products through social media ads, sponsored content or short-form videos (such as TikToks or Instagram Reels). Even if you plan to sell physical products exclusively in stores, you’ll need a digital presence and the means to monitor online brand visibility and campaign performance.
To generate momentum for their vision, entrepreneurs need to inspire and motivate others, from funders to employees, and from vendors to partners. Even “solo-preneurs” need the vision and gumption to lay claim to clients.
While these qualities can seem innate, there are many styles and types of entrepreneurship—and there’s much more to leadership than a charismatic personality. Specific skills and behaviors support strong leadership and help entrepreneurs realize their vision. Among them are:
Goal-setting: You must develop methods for clearly defining and articulating goals to ensure that your team stays on track. Consider using tools such as the SMART framework, setting mini goals within larger objectives and regularly updating goals to make sure that they align with changing conditions.
Decision-making: “The buck stops here,” as the old saying goes, and entrepreneurs need to find the courage to make decisions large and small. That doesn’t mean shooting from the hip—you must learn how to use data and evaluate the potential repercussions. Making reversible, low-stakes decisions quickly not only helps keep business moving forward, but instills confidence in your capabilities among team members.
Ethical actions: Ethical business practices start at the top, and by codifying and promoting expectations for the company, you can create a culture that fosters respect, honesty and fairness both internally and in customer interactions.
An entrepreneur starts communicating their vision well before the first product or service is created. Convincing others to join your venture takes persistent and dynamic communication.
Once you’ve launched your business, strong internal communication will help keep operations running smoothly, while communications with prospective and existing customers are core to winning business. Among the skills to develop:
Active listening: Thoughtful conversation helps to develop a rapport with individuals and groups. Give speakers your undivided attention and fully take in what they’re saying before you give your response. This shows respect and openness.
Writing: Fluent writing is more important than ever, especially with email and live chat being such prominent business tools. Don’t take shortcuts; while new artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT and Bard are grammatically correct, you’ll want to check that the tone, facts and voice are right.
Speaking: Whether on the phone, in a meeting or giving a TED Talk, you’ll need to feel comfortable engaging listeners and reading non-verbal cues, such as body language and eye contact. If you need to brush up on these skills, practice with friends or consider hiring a coach.
05. Critical thinking
Entrepreneurs are usually at the nexus of a web of information, concepts and experiences from different sources, which they need to apply within the framework of their business. The ability to synthesize this input helps solve complex problems when they arise and spot new opportunities for growth. Critical thinking skills include:
Observation: When you’re able to notice behaviors and spot trends, you can proactively identify problems and new opportunities for growth. Cut out distractions and take careful, clear notes during meetings and conversations.
Analysis: Understanding, comparing and interpreting information is essential in order to determine whether it’s relevant to your business. As one example, by spotting gaps in plans or faulty assumptions for financial projections, you can proactively address potential issues.
Problem solving: To address problems efficiently, entrepreneurs need to be able to gather and sort through relevant information, communicate with the relevant parties and collaborate creatively with peers. You should engage in diverse experiences, foster a growth mindset and practice critical thinking to develop better problem-solving skills.
It’s hard to achieve bold goals if the details aren’t aligned. Entrepreneurs need systems in place so that their personal environments are organized for maximum efficiency and their projects stay on track.
The internet is full of organization tips and planning tools. To avoid wasting time cycling through unworkable solutions, consult with mentors, other businesses in the same industry or trusted partners to see what works for them. Skills include:
Digital hygiene: You don’t want to waste time digging for items on your computer. Develop classification and naming conventions so that you can reliably keyword search for files you can’t quickly find. Make full use of email filters to automatically sort through incoming messages, and establish procedures for archiving old projects and files.
Project management: This skillset is so wide-ranging that professional certification is available. At a minimum, tracking long, multi-stage initiatives through to completion requires proactive communication and strong interpersonal skills—along with a detail-oriented disposition and a consistent documentation process to keep teams in sync.
Prioritizing: To stay on track, establish priorities for which projects to tackle as a company as well as for your own day-to-day tasks. Identifying the most important needs to address will help maintain focus.
Execution: This skill, simply put, involves completing the task at hand. It's important to follow through on promises and tasks on time in order to execute things efficiently and on time. Eliminating distractions and setting time deadlines can help you push through challenges.
07. Time management
There are so many demands on an entrepreneur’s time that the workload can quickly become overwhelming. It’s essential to avoid projects piling up on your desk; not only do bottlenecks slow your company’s progress, but they raise your stress level, which ultimately impacts your performance.
Maximizing productivity while setting healthy boundaries on your time are essential for long-term business health. To help manage time effectively, develop these skills:
Delegation: Entrust employees with tasks that aren’t necessary for you to complete yourself. If you struggle with letting go, try building in plenty of lead time and check-in milestones so that you have opportunities to lend support before the deadline.
Time blocking: Manifest your priorities as time on the calendar by scheduling them into your work day. Create time periods for focused work when nothing else may be scheduled. Leave other blocks open or even designate specific days of the week for meetings.
Automation: Use your technical savvy to streamline and automate short or routine processes. For instance, you can prepare multiple social media posts at once and then publish them automatically on a schedule. Wix users can take advantage of the powerful Wix Automations tool, which lets you send automated emails, remind clients about invoices, create tasks for your team and more.
Work-life balance: While entrepreneurs often embrace “hustle culture” and tout 80-hour work weeks, the truth is that having a life outside business is important for mental and physical health. Build a culture of sustainable work by modeling work-life balance for yourself.
They say “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This may not be 100% true—knowledge and skills are valuable, after all. But there’s no denying that your network of professional colleagues, mentors and other connections can be helpful as you launch and grow your business.
Not only can these individuals serve as sounding boards for your ideas, but they can help you stay abreast of trends and even connect you with potential hires. To make the most of your network, build these skills:
Relationship building: Building rapport with others involves communication, openness and emotional intelligence. Establishing positive relationships helps build confidence and support for your endeavors.
Personal branding: Self-promotion can feel awkward, but expertise and innovation are why entrepreneurs make good thought leaders. Establishing a reputation as an authority or innovator in your field can attract more relationships that help your business, so in addition to maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn, seek out appearances at industry events or contribute articles to trade publications.
Mentoring: By offering to serve as a resource for others in your industry, you can build your network—and maybe even meet future employees.
While your business idea is all your own, you’ll likely need help to make your vision a reality. The ability to harness collective efforts to achieve business goals requires you to inspire others, communicate clearly and provide timely constructive feedback. Crowdsourcing projects brings fresh ideas to the table, giving your company an advantage and empowering employees to contribute to the company’s overall success.
Teamwork can even improve employee morale and prevent costly employee churn. Businesses with effective internal communication are 50% less likely to experience turnover, according to Bit.AI, and 37% of employees say “working with a great team” motivates them to stay at a company. Skills to enhance teamwork include:
Motivating others: Positive energy isn’t the only way to inspire employees. Setting clear expectations and providing incentives can also provide motivation. And, of course, expressing appreciation for work well done is a great motivator, too.
Collaboration: Employees who are empowered to contribute their own ideas and manage tasks feel greater investment in the business, so find opportunities to step back and let them take the lead. Brainstorming sessions, open communication and shared project documentation can help stoke collaboration.
Conflict management: When disagreements inevitably arise, respectful communication and a clear framework for opposition can help teams resolve conflict productively. Whether you adopt the “disagree and commit” mantra of Amazon or another process, it’s important to be consistent and accept the final compromise or solution wholeheartedly.
10. Reception to feedback
No product or service idea is perfect from the moment of conception. Entrepreneurs need to not only collaborate internally, but actively seek out feedback and criticism, especially in early testing stages.
The ability to calmly receive suggestions and adapt is crucial to improvement and, ultimately, to success. Skills that support responsiveness:
Growth mindset: To put criticism in perspective, view setbacks as opportunities for learning and improvement. Seek support and expertise from your network and other industry leaders to remedy problems and learn new practices.
Customer service: Model patience, empathy and resourcefulness to resolve customer complaints. You should also develop consistent standards and empower other team members to provide customers with make-good offers and discounts. These strategies can help build business: for example, 97% of consumers say a positive experience when returning retail merchandise would prompt them to buy again, according to RetailDive.