The 3 most important skills every entrepreneur MUST master

I periodically assess where I am in my business and how I want to push myself and my business further. (It’s not a formal assessment but rather just a review of what is going well, what isn’t going well and where I need to spend more time.)

The same three results keep coming back and, as I talk to other business owners, I’ve come to realize that these three areas of growth aren’t exclusive to me. I believe they are the 3 most important skills every entrepreneur needs to master.

1. RELENTLESS FOCUS

Owning a business means wearing many different hats. And the more successful your business, the more hats you end up wearing (even if you try to delegate some of it). It’s SO easy to flit from one responsibility to another as you try to connect with prospects and customers and vendors and peers, as you try to market your business and deliver on the promises of your marketing, and as you try to achieve that ever-evasive “life balance” that we all hear so much about.

What happens (at least in my business and the businesses of some of my friends and clients) is that you touch different aspects of your business each day without actually moving those aspects forward significantly. You end your day feeling productive without actually having made a lot of changes in your business.

Achieving a highly skilled state of relentless focus solves the problem. Although it doesn’t take away from the number of hats you wear, it helps you to concentrate on just one thing until you’ve dealt with it.

There are two parts to this equation:

  • Focus: You can temporarily block out all of those other important things vying for your attention and concentrate on just one thing until you do something significant in one particular area
  • Relentless: You keep at it without fail until you’ve made progress

So entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses effectively need to improve their focus and their determination to be complete the activity. There are some good (and not-so-good) resources available online to help entrepreneurs learn to focus.

If you can get past the first 2 and a half minutes of this video, which are less helpful, you get to a fairly decent exercise on focus.

2. SALES

Owning a business is awesome. It feels good. But too many aspiring entrepreneurs get caught up in the idea of being a business owner and they forget one important thing: Businesses sell stuff… and selling isn’t easy. The marketing part can be fun and creative and easy but the sales part is much harder and takes… well… relentless focus.

The better you are at selling, and the more consistently you do it, the more successful your business will become. So developing a personal curriculum on selling will transform your business. (And I should add an important qualifier here: When I say that you should study sales, I mean that you should study the art of telephone or in-person selling EVEN IF your business doesn’t rely on these methods to sell. The skills you learn from studying these types of sales will translate into other aspects of your business.

To improve your sales skills, study the following things…

There are other things you should learn, too, like how to handle cold-call rejection and this 2-minute tip to proactively analyze your likelihood of making a sale. Here are 37 ways to improve your selling skills.

3. THRIVING IN ADVERSITY

If you had asked me six months ago what the most important skills of an entrepreneur were, I’d probably the list above two. But lately, I’ve come to realize that handling adversity is a HUGE skill that needs to be developed. (For that reason, it has become a top focus for me this year). Businesses face adversity all the time — sometimes of their own doing and sometimes outside of their control. It might include bad customer reviews or the turning tides of the economy or a vendor who decides to pull the plug or a customer who doesn’t pay their bills. There are so many things and I can’t possibly list them all there.

Learning to thrive in adversity is a two-step process:

First, entrepreneurs need to anticipate as many problems as possible and build contingency plans around them. Keep those contingency plans up to date, easily accessible, and step-by-step. That will minimize the amount of adversity you face.

But it won’t eliminate it. For that reason, there’s step two…

Second, entrepreneurs need to built a good adversity-handling system. It’s too easy to let adversity pull you off your game and grind your business into the ground. So an adversity-handling system is sort of a contingency plan when you don’t have a contingency plan! Your adversity-handling system might go something like this:

  1. Pause. Don’t act! Get some space from the situation. Check your attitude.
  2. Take some time to de-stress so you can approach the problem with a clear head
  3. Sit down and explore as many scenarios as you can, ranging from lose/lose to win/win
  4. Consider the costs and benefits and challenges of implementing some of the ideal solutions, as well as the motivations of the people involved
  5. Move forward with a plan

(There might be more steps than that but those are some of the bigger ideas you’ll want to include in your adversity-handling system).

To improve your adversity-handling skills, you need to develop your own adversity-handling system and then improve each aspect. Find creative tools to help you find solutions; strengthen your ability to bounce-back instead of letting fear or frustration freeze you solid; develop skills of decisiveness so you can act quickly; and (one of the most important of all) learn to shake it off so you can keep going.

MAKE TIME TO GROW

These three skills are foundational to any successful business. No entrepreneur ever truly finishes learning these three skills. They are skills that can always be improved.

Develop a personal curriculum for each of these skills and spend time weekly (or even daily!) mastering these skills.

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