3 Essential Soft Skills for Young Entrepreneurs – Part 2/3

3 Essential Soft Skills for Young Entrepreneurs – Part 2/3

skills

In a previous post, I stated that I believe entrepreneurial success involves our natural gifts, technical skills and soft skills.  TECHNICAL SKILLS BUILD PRODUCTS . . . SOFT SKILLS BUILD COMPANIES.

A list of my top three soft skills for young entrepreneurs starts with COMMUNICATION.  Many of us believe communication is transmitting our message.  However, listening and clarifying are also required for communication to take place.

My choice for second of the top three soft skills is team orientation.

TEAM ORIENTATION

THE SKILLS – I’m a big fan of team activities.  I grew up in a small town where sports were the primary team activity.  I played team sports from age 8 to age 20.  Although I haven’t played competitively in many years, I use the skills I learned playing team sports almost every day.  How to work in a team, lead a team, work with people you don’t like, listen, play your role in the team, put aside your personal agenda and commit to the team mission, work hard in service of others, handle competition, win as a team and lose as a team, and make decisions.

Just as we place a high priority on being intentional about our effort and measuring the results regarding product development, customer acquisition and operations management, we must also do so when building our team oriented skills.  As part of any team, we must account for the role we are playing in the team and observe the team dynamics such as how the team works, and doesn’t work, together, what causes dysfunctions in the team, what strategies, remedies and personality types lead to success.  Observe, gather data, analyze and learn.

THE TAKEAWAY – Team sports, boy and girl scouts, school clubs, robotics teams, ROTC or other the military activities, professional organizations, or start your own club or organization.  Even if you aren’t comfortable around people or leading others, just do it.  Find or create a team with a mission you can be passionate about, become immersed in the process, and remain purposeful about acquiring the skills you need.

3 Essential Soft Skills for Young Entrepreneurs-Part 1/3

3 Essential Soft Skills for Young Entrepreneurs-Part 1/3

Communication

I believe entrepreneurial success involves our natural gifts, technical skills and soft skills.  The importance of soft skills to entrepreneurial success, and success in life as well, is confirmed every time I advise or mentor a young entrepreneur.  Young entrepreneurs are usually pretty knowledgeable about the technical aspects and functionality of their product or service.  That is great, but it’s not enough. TECHNICAL SKILLS BUILD PRODUCTS . . . SOFT SKILLS BUILD COMPANIES.

So what are the essential soft skills that every young entrepreneur must have?  There is certainly plenty of debate about this.  From my years of advising and mentoring entrepreneurs, this series of blogs will identify my top three:

COMMUNICATION

THE SKILLS – The greatest idea in the world is useless if you can’t communicate what the product or service does and why it matters.  Communication requires both transmitting and receiving.  In addition to speaking, young entrepreneurs must also learn to listen intently to questions and guidance.  The questions inform us about the interest of the questioner and elements of our pitch that we left out or didn’t communicate clearly.  Seems intuitively obvious right?  Still, many young entrepreneurs do not do this well.

One must be able to speak the language of business as well as explain the functionality of the product or service. Right now some technical cofounder is reading this with the title of Chief Technology Officer and thinking “Dude, I’m the CTO.  Someone else does all the business stuff”.  Nice try.  The word “Officer” in your title means you have an obligation, as does every officer in the company, to be able to speak about the company and its products and services on some level.  The company leadership needs to be able to speak the language of business (run rate, burn rate, strategies and cost of customer acquisition, EBITDA, etc . . . ) in a simple, articulate, passionate manner.  That means no acronyms, limiting the use of the terms “like”, “you know”, “uh”, and one of my least favorite practices, starting the response to every question with the word “so”.  In addition, one must look people in the eye when speaking, and have the posture and manner of someone who is confident about the topic.  So . . . let’s move on to the next topic because it’s like, you know, also important.

Most of us are not very good listeners.  However, for entrepreneurs, this skill is critical.  In the early stages of a company, there is so much that we don’t know.  We must always be in the mode of discovering, researching, and learning about things that will improve our product, connect us to helpful people, or improve how we manage and lead the company.  Unfortunately, we are usually so focused on pitching our product and responding to questions with our well-rehearsed answers, that we fail to fully listen to questions and guidance.  We tend to keep our communication dial on transmit and forget to switch to receive.  A saying I’ve heard many times in my life is that “God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason”.  Let that thought serve as a reminder for our communication priorities.

THE TAKEAWAY – Research the language of business, key concepts and terms.  Take speech or drama classes, join Toastmasters, sell products door to door or work on a political campaign.  Like most things, you get better with practice.  Pitch your business to anyone that will listen.  Record your pitch, study the video and make adjustments.  Yes, I know you feel silly practicing in front of a mirror.  Would you rather feel silly and be prepared, or wing it and take the risk that your great idea never sees the light of day?