If you want to become an entrepreneur, you’ve got to develop your skills.
It has been said that passion is not enough. Passion can never be a substitute for training as an entrepreneur. Whatever you do, you need to be fully equipped so that you will be able to deliver excellent results. In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later, said Harold Geneen. You might invest in advertisement to attract customer, you may not be able to retain them if you are not good at what you do as an entrepreneur. There is no sentiment in business. If you are good at what you are doing as an entrepreneur, customers will locate you. Satisfied customers will even help you spread information about your business. Being an entrepreneur, you need to identify and acquire the skills, knowledge and education you need in order to succeed in your business. Whatever you do, there will always be a room for improvement. Starting a business involves a steep learning curve and you must accept that you don’t know everything. An entrepreneur must ensure he improves upon the past. For examples, let’s look at software manufacturers, there are always updates to their products; car manufacturers produce new models, phone manufacturers always come out with phones with new and better features. Chris Corrigan said; “I’m a firm believer that to really understand a business takes years, not months. As an investment analyst you think you understand a business from the outside, but the reality is that, once you are inside, you can go on learning for five or ten years”. The competition in the market demands that you don’t only possess the right skills, you need to update yourself as an entrepreneur on a regular basis. Remember that the whole world is now a global village. Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you are not only competing with somebody in your street or locality. You are competing with other people you may not even know about. How do you acquire skills to stay on top of your business as an entrepreneur? These can be achieved by any or combination of the following:
Business Coaching and Mentoring
There is nothing new under the sun. Whatever you want to do as an entrepreneur, other people have done it before. There are people who are successful and are ready to pass the knowledge to the younger generation. This may not necessarily be limited to people in your line of business. They have wide perspective about business in general. Their wealth of experience is invaluable. These people will advise you on “dos” and “don’ts” about business. They have made mistakes in the past and they can teach you what to do so that you will not fall into such mistakes. As an entrepreneur, you may want to base business decision on emotion but these people will be ready to tell you the truth about the possible consequences of any step you want to take. They can help you develop long-term and short term goals and strategies, as well as improve your business in areas that you might have overlooked. You can also leverage on their network of friends for business opportunities. They are assets and are very rare. If you are fortunate to find one, please respect them, respect their time.
While mentoring can be free in most cases, there are some people that provide business coaching on fee. But the cost you pay is not comparable to the value you get. We also have organizations that provide regular business coaching programme for entrepreneurs. Enrolling in their programme can be a worthwhile investment. They will expose you to real life business situation and equip you with strategies for tackling challenges in the business world. Since there is no way you can truly get an objective answer from yourself about your business, having a business coach or a mentor will force you to be accountable.
Working experience as an employee or an apprentice
One of the best ways to learn is by becoming an apprentice to an entrepreneur. Even if you work for little or no wages, it is a free education that can be worth more in most cases than formal education. It is one important way of acquiring knowledge and skills but unfortunately a lot of people take this for granted. Little did some employees leave their organization before they realized the opportunities they did not make best use of while still working there. When you work in an organization as an employee, it is an opportunity for you to learn about business processes and procedures. You can make friends and learn from people from other departments. You can make mistakes and the mistakes might not be noticeable or the effect might not be significant to the company. You learn about finance, marketing, human resources, administration and operations of the company. Remember that you may likely be the one performing all these roles in the first few years of running your own business as an entrepreneur. The knowledge and skills you acquired as an employee make you to be aware of risks that are peculiar to your business especially when your business is similar or the same with the organization where you had worked before. I mentioned earlier that a lot of people take this for granted. That is why jobseekers will prefer high paying jobs that offer no transferable skills to the ones where they can be groomed as entrepreneurs. No wonder some of them don’t even know what to do when they lose their jobs despite the fat severance packages some are privileged to receive. I think we need to learn from Igbo tribe. They don’t take apprenticeship lightly. It is not a surprise that greater percent of them are very successful in whatever trade they do. Before they start their own business, they must have learnt the intricacies of the business. They know the risks involved and how they can mitigate them.
Training and workshops
There are several training and workshops on different topics being organized every year. As an entrepreneur, you need to know almost everything about your business. For example, you need to know how to be in control of your cash flow. The fact that you are not an accountant is not an excuse. If you are not good in the area of finance, you can attend training on finance for non-finance executives. Once you identify that you are deficient in a particular area of your business, attending training and workshops on the subject matter might be a good solution. Apart from the knowledge you will acquire from such training or workshop, it is an opportunity for you to network too.
Learn from other like-minded entrepreneurs.
As an entrepreneur, you should associate with other entrepreneurs both within and outside your industry. No one can claim a monopoly of knowledge. Since you can’t know it all, you can tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of other entrepreneurs.
There are books on different areas of life in the market. Book is the mind of the author in print. This means that with books, you can actually make somebody you don’t have physical contact with your mentor. It is commonly said that readers are leaders. As an entrepreneur, you don’t just read for reading sake. When you read, you gain insights and you develop your mind and expand your horizon.
Resources on Internet
Internet is a free source of information. There is nothing you want that you will not get on the internet if you know how to make best use of it. The best way to getting information on any topic is to search for the keywords using search engine such as Google. You will be amazed at the volume of information you will get in form of articles from different websites.
I like to conclude this article by saying that you don’t need to possess all the skills before you start your business as an entrepreneur. No one ever did. Some of the skills will be acquired in the course of running the business. You will make mistakes but the important thing is for you to learn from the mistakes. Mark Cuban put it this way; “ It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because… All that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are”.
Learning appropriate skills and developing other traits of good entrepreneurs will help you succeed as an entrepreneur.