Starting a business is hard. But starting a business without the right skillset? Dang near impossible.
Think about it: how are you supposed to get new clients if the thought of pitching them makes you want to hide under your bed? How are you supposed to get through the notoriously long days of #startup life if you can’t work for more than 15 minutes without getting distracted? How are you supposed to build a loyal team if you have a tendency to scream at people if they look at you the wrong way?
The answer is, you can’t.
But luckily, there is a set of skills that, if you master it, will provide you with everything you need to develop a thriving and successful business.
Here are the top eight skills you need to master if you want to kill it as an entrepreneur:
1. Saying no
No. It’s a simple two letter word. But for many people, it’s the hardest word to master.
We get it. Saying no isn’t fun. But if you want to build a successful business, learning how to say no is a non-negotiable.
As a business owner, there’s going to be times that you need to say no. You’re going to need to say no to clients when they want you to take on a project that’s out of your wheelhouse. You’re going to have to say no when a friend or family member asks you to provide your services for free (trust us, it’ll happen… a lot). You’re going to have to say no to product proposals, to design briefs, to people who want to work for your company who aren’t the right fit. Long story short, you’re going to be saying no a lot.
So you better get comfortable with it.
Because the alternative isn’t pretty. Either you’ll a) say “yes” when you should say “no,” which will end up costing you immeasurable amounts of time, energy, and frustration, or b) you’ll feel so guilty every time you have to say no to something or someone that it will throw you into an existential crisis that completely tanks your productivity.
Get used to saying no. Because every time you say “no,” you’re saving your time and energy for something that you—and your business—really, really want to say “yes” to.
2. Rolling with the punches and constantly evolving
In the business world, things change quickly. And if you want your business to succeed, you need to be able to keep up.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who grow and evolve at the same breakneck speed as the business world does. Because what works today might not work tomorrow, and if you want to stay competitive, you need to be flexible and willing to change your strategy and adapt to new changes.
Let’s use digital advertising as an example. Digital advertising is ALWAYS changing, thanks to Facebook, Google, and all the other head honchos constantly changing their algorithms. If you cling to your old strategies and refuse to continually change and evolve your ad strategy (“Let’s keep doing things this way—it worked so well before!”), you’re going to get left in the dust—and your business is going to suffer as a result.
Advertising is just one example; pretty much everything in business—interviewing strategies, design trends, content marketing—is always evolving. And if you want to kill it as an entrepreneur, you need to evolve right along with it.
3. Kicking procrastination to the curb and getting things done (you know… NOW)
True story: procrastinators typically don’t succeed as entrepreneurs. Why? Because there’s a LOT to do when it comes to running a business, and if you’re always putting off doing those things, guess what? Nothing is going to get done.
4. Knowing how to effectively manage your time…
When you’re the head honcho of your business, there’s going to be a lot of demands on your time. People are going to want to loop you into meetings. Investors are going to want to get you on the phone. Employees are going to want to meet for one-on-one’s and pop into your office with questions—and this is all on top of your day-to-day tasks. And if you don’t know how to manage your time well, you’re going to end up curled up in the fetal position under your desk, completely and utterly overwhelmed.
Time management is one of the most important skills you can foster if you’re planning on starting a business. Having a firm handle on how you spend your time will not only help you stay on task and get more accomplished through the day, it will also keep you from ripping your hair out and going insane.
Block out your calendar so you don’t double-book your time. Hold firm boundaries; let people know at the beginning of meetings and phone calls that you have a hard stop at X time, and when that time rolls around, leave the meeting or get off the phone. And stop trying to do everything at once! A lot of entrepreneurs think that the key to making the most out of their time is to multitask and answer emails while they talk on the phone or review a report while they’re sitting in a meeting with their team, but they’re wrong—multitasking tanks productivity, so by taking the time to focus on each individual task without distracting yourself with a zillion other things, you’ll actually get more done in less time.
5. … and your money
Another skill you 100% need to cultivate before starting off on the entrepreneurial path is money management.
As a business owner, a lot of your job is going to revolve around the green. You’re going to need to raise money to launch your business and keep it up and running in the early stages. You’re going to need to effectively manage your business cash to make sure you’ve got enough on hand to pay your team, run your ads, build your products, pay your rent, and cover all the other expenses you’ll incur while doing business. You’re going to need to effectively manage your personal finances so you don’t put yourself into bankruptcy while you’re getting your business off the ground.
The point is, as a business owner, you need to be really, really good with money. If you don’t know how to create or stick to a budget, pay your bills on time, or assess where and how to most effectively spend your cash, you’re not going to last very long as an entrepreneur—and neither is your business.
If the thought of managing large sums of money makes you sweat, consider taking a business finance class before you launch your company; it’s a small investment that can end up saving you a ton (both financially and emotionally) when your business is in full swing.
6. Letting things roll off your back
You’re going to deal with a lot of rejection as an entrepreneur. Investors are going to pass on funding your business. People (not all people, but some people) aren’t going to buy into your vision enough to come work for you. Your team isn’t going to like all of your ideas, whether they’re for products or design or ways to better manage company workflow. But if you let every single one of those rejections get to you, your business is never going to go anywhere (and you’ll probably feel pretty depressed to boot).
If you want to kill it as an entrepreneur, you need to grow a thick skin. The ability to let things roll off your back will allow you to look at your rejections objectively, learn from them, and move on—instead of wallowing in rejection and drowning in thoughts of “Why can’t I do anything right?!”.
If you’re a highly sensitive person, this is going to be a tough one. At first, those rejections are going to sting. But try to shift your perspective. Remember: every rejection and every “no” is just taking you one step closer to a “yes.”
7. Moving forward (even when all seems lost)
There are moments in every entrepreneur’s journey when all hope seems lost. The funding falls through, the product launch fails, half of the team quits to go start their own company.
These moments of darkness are universal; there’s not an entrepreneur on the planet who hasn’t had a time in their business when they felt like they had completely failed—and had zero hope of getting things back on track.
But the successful entrepreneurs? The ones that have built seven or eight figure businesses and are splashed on the cover of success magazines across the globe? They’re the ones that kept moving forward anyway.
You’re going to face challenges as an entrepreneur. And some of those challenges are going to seem insurmountable. But if you want to be successful, when you meet those seemingly insurmountable challenges, you need to keep moving forward.
Successful entrepreneurs aren’t the ones who haven’t had dark moments in their businesses. They’re the ones that pushed through the dark moments trusting they’d eventually find the light. And if you want to be successful, you need to do the same.
8. Focusing on your zone of genius—and letting your team handle the rest
Everyone has things they naturally do well. Maybe you’re a crackerjack negotiator. Maybe you’re a master interviewer and have a knack for assembling the best teams. Maybe you can dream up product concepts and flush out full proposals in the amount of time it takes other people to eat a bowl of cereal.
The point is, you have talents that are part of your DNA. We like to call that your “zone of genius.” And if you want to be crazy successful in building a business, you need to stick to your zone of genius—and let other people handle the rest.
Trying to do everything (Design! Copywriting! Customer Service! Email Marketing! Web Development! ALL THE THINGS!) is a one-way ticket to Burnout-land. The more effective (and less exhausting) strategy is to focus on the things you a) love to do, and b) are good at doing and then pass off the rest to your team.
If you’re not a person who’s great at design, you could spend days (even weeks) trying to design a logo. Or you could hire someone who’s amazing at design and let them do it, freeing up your time to focus on other things. In scenario A, you’re going to waste a ton of time and energy trying to manage the design on your own—and in the end, it probably won’t come out that great, because you’re not a designer. In scenario B, you leave the design to the professionals and you get to spend your time working on other areas of your business—areas you actually enjoy and excel at.
Which sounds like a better plan?
If you want to be successful, stop trying to wear all the hats in your business. Choose one and pass the rest around to your team.
Time to crush it as an entrepreneur
Killing it as an entrepreneur isn’t easy. But once you’ve mastered all the skills on this list, you’ll be well on your way to crushing your entrepreneurial goals and building a thriving, successful business.