Written by Annie, iPage Marketing Team on May 25th, 2016
Nobody starts their own business thinking they’re going to fail. In fact, most entrepreneurs set out with intentions of giving themselves every possible chance to succeed. This includes developing skills that are essential to “making it” in the modern world. This kind of learning and growing is crucial, because even though you can learn a lot from life’s failures, those lessons aren’t usually enough to carry you to the top. You’ve got to simultaneously be intentional about setting yourself up to succeed.
Here are 5 skills you’ll want to cultivate, learn, and practice in order to ensure a successful small business:
You may have heard this phrase before, but as a small business owner, it’s important to remind yourself of it daily: Just because someone says “it is so,” doesn’t make it so. Now, if you’re already the type of person who has learned to think for yourself, you might already feel that you live by this maxim. But thinking critically goes even deeper than this.
Thinking critically is about questioning everything. Yes, everything. We’re not saying this is easy. It adds time, energy and sometimes an initial awkward tension between who and whomever or whatever you’re questioning. But in order to truly cultivate your own mindset – which is of the utmost importance as an entrepreneur – you’ve got to questions everything, whether it’s a leading university professor or someone on Forbes’s rich list. Even if a leading figure in your industry says something, your job should be to question it. How? Think through the reasoning behind it, see if there are any ‘holes to poke’ in it, mull it around in your mind … challenge yourself to an intentional, internal conversation about whether you agree saying you do — every single time. Get the idea?
Quick Tip: If you’re unsure about whether you’ve applied enough critical thinking to an issue before taking a stance on it, try this exercise … Explain your assumed opinion out loud to yourself. It can feel strange at first — speaking out loud to no one beside yourself — but it’s a great way to determine whether you’re fully prepared to defend and support your position. Pretend someone has asked you what your thoughts are and why. If you can fully answer any and all questions that apply and provide a thorough explanation for your mindset, then chances are you’ve succeeded in thinking critically!
This skill involves embracing nuance, and being comfortable with shades of grey – not everything is black and white, after all. It also means forcing yourself to be independent and confident in your own thoughts, not relying on other experts in your field. Easier said than done, we know. But with enough practice, it’ll start to come naturally. And there are few things more important than getting to that place, because critical thinking is essential to making good decisions. Only when you are able to consistently and honestly question everything will you be able to clearly and boldly be confident in anything.
This skill is one that is truly for the modern age. As our society becomes more and more consumed with every new gadget and app and trend, we are all becoming more and more consumed by distraction. You know what we’re talking about! It is all too easy to see three or four hours of the day fly by in a totally unproductive state of mind, without even meaning to do so. And as challenging as this skill is in this day and age, it’s one of the most important ones to master for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Why? Entrepreneurs and business owners are some of the only people in this world who can say that they only answer to themselves. In many cases, entrepreneurs don’t have a supervisor watching over them, managing their time and the ways in which they use it. For those who do report to someone else, it can be easier to ward off distractions, knowing that someone is keeping them accountable and there could be repercussions if they slip into habits like checking their Facebook newsfeed too often.
For entrepreneurs and business owners, avoiding distractions requires a serious level of self-discipline and an unwavering understanding of long-term gains verses short-term satisfaction. For example, unlike someone with a boss, you’ll need to force yourself to see that four productive hours of working toward your business goals are going to far outweigh four wasted hours browsing through your brother’s friends photos from this past weekend — both in terms of benefits and ROI. (Because, let’s be honest, you’re likely not going to see much of a return on the investment that was clicking on the 67th photo in that album).
Quick Tip: As soon as you feel yourself starting to slip from your business obligations into the swirling world of distraction (because, let’s be real, it will happen), create this rule for yourself. Before you turn to social media or flip on the television or get lost in the latest version of Temple Run on your phone, you must first read one full article about productivity in the business world. If you don’t have any books on the subject, head to Google (and do not get distracted in doing so). Then simply search a topic like “the importance of productivity for entrepreneurs” or “how to avoid distractions in the modern world” or “tips for staying focused as a business owner.” Click on a reputable source and read the article from beginning to end, being sure that you do not become distracted by any side panel advertisements or popup notifications! Our bet is that after reading a relevant article in it’s entirety, you’ll likely be heading back to your work and leaving the man in Temple Run to escape on his own. By following this rule, you will not avoid deadly distractions, but you’ll have learn something along the way. It’s a win-win!
While this may not have been true as of only a couple of decades ago, the world is shifting toward a place that demands authenticity. In sports, Hollywood, the media, and even our interpersonal relationships, people are regularly shunning “fake” in favor of “real” and ignoring “bland” in favor of “interesting.” Why, then, in the business world, are so many of us building an false image of ourselves and creating an intentional persona for our brand that aims to be neutral, normal, and uncontroversial?
The answer is usually not that it will better our business or lead to greater success, but rather that we are afraid. We spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out what people want us to be, and what they’d like us to be, out of fear that if we were to simply be ourselves, we may not be accepted or appealing. This is becoming especially true now that we spend about as much time online as we do offline. At least in person, we’re forced in someway to expose ourselves for who we really are, but when we’re sitting behind a computer screen, it is all too easy to create an online persona based on what we think people want.
But if you look around at the successful entrepreneurs that you know, and the small business owners who have made it big, you’ll likely notice a pattern contrary to the above. The truly successful entrepreneur leaves fear at the door and refuses to sacrifice their confidence — both in themselves and in their brand — and therefore ends up operating under only one persona…their real one. Honing this skill of being yourself is more important than ever because truth is that people want authenticity. Human beings do business, so why strive to be anything but more human? At the very least, being real will set you apart from the rest who continue to put on a unauthentic show. And standing out among the crowd is always a good thing!
4. Get The Job Done
A common misconception among those that are considering the world of entrepreneurship is that “all you need is one great idea.” While it’s a nice thought, the reality is ideas are not enough if you’re serious about being a successful business owner. Unfortunately, while dreams can take you really far in some areas of life, dreams do not make money. And while we all wish they were, successful, lucrative businesses are not built by thinking about it or dreaming about it.
The key to turning a dream into a successful business is creating a vision around that dream and hanging on to it with all your might. You see, applying vision to a dream is what leads to list of jobs that can be completed. And as soon as you start getting the jobs done, you’ll start transforming your dream into a reality.
Quick Tip: Sit down and try to build a vision around your dream on a piece of paper. If the dream is to be a famous baker, what is the vision surrounding that dream? Do you have a brick and mortar bakery shop? If so, where is it? What are you planning to bake and what supplies will you need in order to make that happen. Will it just be you inside the bakery shop, or do you envision a team of people helping you? As soon as you have a vision for your business, jobs and tasks are going to begin naturally jumping off the page. Before you know it, you’ll have a few dozen jobs you can actually address and begin working on, each which will get you one step closer to your vision being realized and your dream coming true.
Our other piece of advice? Once you’ve got your vision and your list of jobs, share it. Share it all. Share it with with anyone who will listen, anyone who might know someone who could get involved, anyone who might support your mission…because your goal is to get the job done. And the more hands you have on deck, the faster this will happen. This is the one of best ways to get ahead of the competition, overcome difficulties, deal with negativity, and solve problems.
Everyone has heard the phrase “work together” and “there is no ‘i’ in team.” And don’t get us wrong, a cooperative, team-oriented approach is very important in a number of situations – politics, school environments, areas of scientific research and even some business situations, etc. However, the truth is, the hyper-focus on this kind of collaboration has actually led to a worrying trend of moving away from having a competitive spirit in business. And nowadays, in some fields, industries, and companies, being competitive is see as a negative and people are encouraged to tone down some of that drive in order to be seen as easier to work with or more of a ‘team player.’
But if you want to be a successful entrepreneur or business owner, it may be best to leave the above advice behind. Competition is essential in business, and being competitive is a must when you’re fighting for every inch you gain as a little fish in a big pond. While it may not always seem as likeable and it can even bit a bit lonely at times, a common thread among some of the most successful business owners of all time is competitive drive — they refused to lose and did whatever it took to get ahead of the competition. Even if it doesn’t feel natural to you, you’ve got to get competitive in order to be successful. And this doesn’t mean you’ve got to play dirty, or cheap, or so aggressively that you ostracize everyone in your path. But it does mean you need to play to win.
There’s no doubt that it takes a special kind of person to make it big as an entrepreneur. It requires a variety of skills and even if all of them are perfected, it’s a tough world to win in. That said, one thing we do know is that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. So if you’re serious about being a success story, start memorize these 5 skills and do all you can to strengthen them within yourself and within your company.
Good luck! You got this.
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