It is an exciting time to be a young entrepreneur. We are living in an age of rapid technological advancement, with bigger markets and lower costs than ever before. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more adventurous and diverse. In short, the possibilities are endless. But what are the core skills that an entrepreneur should have? How can you ensure success in the fast-paced business world? This blog will take you through some of the answers, such as:
- Learning from the best
- Believing in yourself and your product
- Finding and understanding customers
- Networking Skills
- Building the right team
Some of these skills are technical and some of them are personal, but they are all highly important. Becoming an entrepreneur is always a challenge, but by breaking down and understanding these core skills, you can give yourself the best chance of success in whatever exciting project you put your mind to.
1) Learning from the best
Young entrepreneurs are often inspired by the incredible success of people like Mark Zuckerberg (co-founder of Facebook) and Larry Page (co-founder of Google). These titans show us what’s possible and inspire us to be ambitious, determined entrepreneurs. After all, if they could do it, why can’t you?
That’s why it’s so important to do your research and learn from the people who have done what you want to do. Determination and a good product are vital, as we will see below, but before starting on your entrepreneurial journey you need to read up and get prepared. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Chris Dixon started out as an internet entrepreneur, co-founding the successful website Hunch, but now he works as an investor in start-ups. This gives him a unique perspective on the world of modern technology and investment, which he shares through his Twitter account and his website.
- Startup Digest is a personalised online newsletter which gives you the latest inside knowledge from the world of start-ups and connects you with the start-up community. Their website features a blog with posts such as “What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Build Your App Idea” and reading lists for countless different topics.
- If you need to brush up on your tech knowledge, websites like Codeacademy teach coding in an interactive way for free. Skills like this are vital for succeeding in the exciting world of online start-ups, so make sure that you are up-to-date.
Of course, these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg – there are countless blogs, apps and sites which explain how the start-up world works. Learn how to use these resources to your advantage and make use of other people’s knowledge and experience.
2) Believing in yourself and your product
This one sounds obvious, right? Well, actually it’s not so simple. Self-confidence is a skill just like coding, and it’s really important for young entrepreneurs because it goes hand-in-hand with confidence in your product.
After all, some people who see the wealth, fame and success of internet billionaires might forget about the hard work and innovative ideas needed to get there. The fact is you need to believe passionately in your product, and that’s why finding the right product is so important. You can’t expect to convince team members, investors and customers about your idea if you can’t even convince yourself.
Likewise, you need to trust yourself and persevere. In the risky world of online start-ups, there is always the potential for things to go wrong. If this happens, you need to have enough self-confidence and inner-strength to learn from your mistakes and keep going. This is a crucial skill. Just because things aren’t going to plan doesn’t mean there isn’t a way forward, and sometimes you need to go off the beaten track to find your own solutions.
3) Finding and understanding customers
You’ve done your research, you have a great product, you believe in yourself. People will be lining up to buy your app, right? Not exactly. While a tiny number of start-ups fail because of problems with software, the vast majority don’t succeed because they can’t find the right market for their product.
Of course, having a great product increases your chance of finding customers, but only if you actively search for them. You need to target your audience with laser precision and test your product to make sure it is the best it possibly can be. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Who is my target audience? A good product may seem like it’s for everyone, but in reality, every new venture needs a target audience. Startups.co.uk has lots of handy blogs about how to do market research.
- Who will adopt the product first? Within your target audience, who is likely to adopt your product in its early stages before it’s cool? Launchrock is a website which specialises in helping entrepreneurs with the crucial job of finding those first customers and getting their feedback.
- How can I use feedback to help me? When you get feedback from your customers, listen to it! Always be adaptable and prepared to take on board the views of the people who are actually using your product.
In summary: products don’t sell themselves. It is up to you to find your customers and then listen to what they have to say.
4) Networking Skills
Business, just like life, is all about relationships. Just as you need to find the right customers, you also need to have the right contacts. That’s why at every stage of your journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur, one skill is perhaps more important than any other: networking. You’ll always need people to help you along the way.
However, networking isn’t about asking for help. Instead, it is about making connections with as many people as possible who might be able to work with you or help you at some point down the line. This can be anyone from potential business partners (see the next section for tips on building the right team) to angel investors. But what does networking mean in practice? Here are some top tips:
- Attend events. Thousands of events are held every year which are designed to connect young entrepreneurs with each other, as well as with potential investors and mentors. A good example in the UK is Techstars Startup Weekend, but similar events are held all around the world. Remember, face to face contact is always the best way to network.
- Send emails. When you can’t meet someone face to face, email is the next best thing. This might mean sending “cold” emails to people who you don’t know. While many of these might get no reply, some will lead to exciting things. The Yesware Blog has some tips on how to write cold emails.
- Use social media. Internet technology means that we are more connected than ever before. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and, especially, LinkedIn are perfect for young entrepreneurs – not only to learn about what others are up to but also to make contact. Use them as a way to reach people.
- Be nice. Whenever you meet, email or message someone, be nice. You never know whether someone might be able to help you in the future even if you don’t think they can help you now. Take an interest in what they have to say and ask lots of questions.
By following these tips, you can build an extensive and effective network which is at the heart of everything you do as an entrepreneur, from market research to selling your company.
5) Building the right team
As we said in the previous section, business is about relationships. No one achieves success all on their own – the people you put around you are incredibly important in making sure that you can build a prosperous business. As well as a strong network, you also need a strong team. When building that team, remember:
- Trust is everything. You need to work with people who you can trust, which means being a good judge of character. Choosing trustworthy people in the very early stages is vital.
- Variety is good. Don’t just work with people who are like you. A good team needs a variety of skill sets and personalities. For example, you might choose to work with people who have skills that you don’t have, or who will bring a positive energy to the team.
- Share the load. You can’t do everything, so don’t try. Trust others to do what you can’t do or don’t have time to do.
Remember most of the internet companies which have taken over the world – Google, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat – were co-founded by more than one person.
Now is the best possible time to become an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A huge amount of hard work, dedication and cooperation are needed. But, if you have the core skills above, you will be well on the way to success in the wonderful world of online start-ups. Good luck.