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Top 11 Entrepreneurial Skills

By Krysten Godfrey Maddocks - Southern New Hampshire University

January 09, 2023

By Krysten Godfrey Maddocks
Southern New Hampshire University


While you might be passionate about pursuing an entrepreneurship, motivation itself isn’t the only characteristic you’ll need to launch a successful startup. While grit and determination are important, you’ll also require a strong business foundation and a creative startup idea that sells, according to the Small Business Association.

Entrepreneurs don’t only exhibit creativity and business savvy, but they tend to have a higher tolerance for risk in comparison to their counterparts, said Dr. Clare Ralph Greenlaw, associate dean of business administration programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

“Entrepreneurs have an interest in embracing uncertainty while fully understanding the consequences of their actions,” Greenlaw said.

Sound daunting? There are steps you can take to both deepen your business acumen and develop the skills you need to be a profitable entrepreneur.

What Are the Most Important Entrepreneurial Skills?

Entrepreneurship requires a mix of business management and soft skills. It also requires an ability to see ways to reconfigure new combinations of resources or competencies to make a product better, according to Greenlaw.

“Think about the floppy disk, landline telephone or even fossil fuel vehicles. They were the dominant players or technologies in their industries until someone came up with a better combination of intellectual competencies and resources,” Greenlaw said.

While you need to be passionate about your product or service, there are 5 key entrepreneurial skills to be successful, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

1 – Accounting

Entrepreneurs need to be able to interpret financial statements, pay taxes and make strategic decisions about their expenditures. You’ll also need to understand the systems for tracking your financial activities to be able to report your balance sheet to funders.

2 – Persuasion

Getting others to see the potential market value of your idea is critical to winning over investors and customers. By persuading people to see your point of view, you’ll be able to attract more people to your startup.

3 – Product Design

Before you bring your idea to the marketplace, you’ll need to have a good understanding of what people think about it and how they’re using it. By testing your product with focus groups and using surveys to capture feedback, you’ll be able to gauge what features resonate with your stakeholders.

4 – Public Speaking

If you want to sell a novel idea, you’ll need to be able to talk about it to potential partners, funders and customers. While public speaking might seem intimidating at first, it’s a skill you can improve upon with practice.

5 – Writing

You must be able to communicate in writing what’s different about your product or service and why others should invest in it or buy it. You’ll also need to market your product or company through blogs, fact sheets and proposals.

“Effective communication and people orientation skills are key for entrepreneurs to successfully gain support through the stages of growth for a business or venture,” said Dr. Kimberly Blanchette, executive director of business for SNHU’s online programs. “The ability to tell your story to inspire support and shared vision is crucial from concept to fruition.”

What Are the Personal Qualities of a Good Entrepreneur?

While it’s important that you develop the right business expertise to run your startup, embodying key personal qualities will help you more effectively see your business through. The Small Business Administration (SBA) identifies 6 qualities most commonly associated with successful entrepreneurs.

  1. Adaptable Lifestyle

    Entrepreneurs rarely only work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While you can enjoy more flexibility in your schedule as a business owner than you would if you were working for someone else, you also have a bigger financial stake in a startup’s success or failure. As you launch your business, you’ll need to shift your lifestyle expectations to meet its demands. Entrepreneurship requires hard work, and you might not see the fruits of your labor until much later.

  2. Creativity

    In addition to identifying profitable startup ideas, entrepreneurs must come up with new solutions to diverse problems. Your business challenges will vary, and you’ll need to find creative ways to improve upon your product design, marketing strategy or pricing, for example.

  3. Stamina

    Most entrepreneurs fail because they’re unable to see their ideas through to completion. They may run out of money or time or not have the energy to continue. “A never-give-up attitude is a common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs,” according to the SBA. Prepare to stick with your idea and keep putting your energy behind it — even if you’re unsure of the outcome.

  4. High Tolerance for Risk

    Do you thrive in ambiguous situations? Startups are unpredictable and may not even allow you to collect a paycheck at first. You may experience financial success down the road, but you should also expect lean months, particularly during the launch phase of your business. Being able to navigate the ups and downs of owning a startup — as well as new product or growth opportunities — are paramount to establishing your business and getting it to profitability.

  5. Independence

    Are you able to make hard decisions and stay motivated without a boss’s direction? As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to learn to trust your instincts and make decisions quickly and often. While you may consult with others in the process, it’s important to possess the confidence to forge your own path.

  6. Sales-driven

    A big part of growing any startup includes selling your idea to other investors, customers and employees. In an entrepreneurship, you must feel comfortable presenting your product or service — and selling yourself — to individuals and groups.

Is a Business Degree Worth it for an Entrepreneur?

business degree - entrepreneurial skills

Entrepreneurs are responsible for a wide range of activities — from developing a business plan to conducting market analyses and securing early startup funding — all of which require a strong understanding of core business practices. A degree allows you to explore and experiment around entrepreneurial competencies and skill sets before they have a financial impact in the real world. Business degree programs can also help you learn the fundamentals of accounting, economics and management, Greenlaw said.

Many undergraduate and graduate business degree programs offer concentrations that allow you to dive deeper into topics specific to entrepreneurship, such as building a business from scratch or launching a startup. You can expect to take classes in small business management and business plan development, in addition to core business courses that cover managerial accounting, marketing strategy and general management. You may also have opportunities to pursue elective courses that relate to the sector you’re interested in exploring – such as healthcare or technology.

“A concentration in entrepreneurship is invaluable to learning subject matter that applies to real-life business operations,” said Dr. Mark Hobson, SNHU senior associate dean of business programs. “The course content (which includes) business law, management, business planning, financial and operational principles are all necessary skills you need to operate a business successfully.”

At the graduate level, some MBA programs include an entrepreneurship concentration, where you can connect with business professionals and dive deeper into key areas such as small business management, consulting and franchising. Designed for budding entrepreneurs, current business owners and corporate executives, the MBA in Entrepreneurship at SNHU connects you with business professionals and covers key areas of running a business — including small business management, consulting and franchising.

Business degrees can also provide a positive return on your investment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). People working in business and financial occupations made a median annual salary of $76,570 in 2021, according to BLS — much higher than the median salary for all occupations of $45,760, BLS reports. In addition, employment in business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 7% through 2031.

A strong academic background in entrepreneurship, paired with the right skills and personal qualities can get you to the finish line.

“Most entrepreneurial ventures fail because of a few fundamental errors by the founders,” said Greenlaw. “While it may be possible to get started with three or four classes around entrepreneurship, all entrepreneurial ventures need to become sustainably competitive on more than their brainstorm ideas or founding technology.”

If you don’t feel you possess all of these qualities yet, don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing an entrepreneurial career. By adopting a growth mindset — a way of thinking that adapts to change — you’ll increase your tolerance for risk and be more comfortable with making mistakes and “failing forward,” Greenlaw said. While you may not yet possess all of the 11 top skills needed to be an entrepreneur, you can gain experience and confidence by taking business courses and learning from other entrepreneurs.

“Learning from actual practitioners is a key advantage to avoiding simple mistakes early on,” said Greenlaw.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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