This article was originally published with The Growth Masters Daily (www.thegrowthmasters.com) on May 19, 2011
Top Ten Must-Have Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs Part 2
(CEO of TeXT-Icon Mobile Marketing Communications)
Part Two of Two
As a bit of a refresher, the first half of this document highlighted five of the most important skill sets every entrepreneur must have at his/her disposal in order to be successful. The toolbox of skills is critical to the success of your project.
Here is the balance of the skill sets I personally believe make the difference.
6. It’s About the Message – Communications is one of the most important of the most important skill sets, as getting the marketing message out in both written and verbal forms at the highest level of professionalism is a must. Every person in business, whether they be an entrepreneur or a corporate employee; everyone must have the ability to get their point across. When growing a business, it is paramount to have the skill set that will make others listen, read and hear the message. The ability to be the voice of the business, using PowerPoint, live broadcasting, video email, texting or other forms of communicating is necessary for the leader of the organization. Just as important as presenting the message is listening to others. Detractors, supporters and/or critics have opinions and it would do well for the spokesperson to possess good communications abilities.
Because the leader typically possesses more passion about the product, service or business that it is beneficial if that person is also the spokesperson. That passion is evident in every communication, even body language. That doesn’t mean that no one else can fill the bill, but it helps if the founder is also the communicator.
Communications skills in today’s business environment are all about clarity, substance and sound bites. The marketing messages of world known products and services include tremendous bits of genius that people recognize in an instant. One of the most recognizable tag lines (slogans) is from Nike – Just Do It. In just three words, only eight little letters, the message is clear. Other world famous brands include iconic emblems like the blue oval of Ford, The Chrome Cat of Jaguar or the fruit image of Apple. The message is clear, the brand world recognizable and the ability to communicate without question.
Brands begin with the mission and vision concepts of their company product or service. The amount of time, research, market surveys, analysis and deliberation that go into the construction of the brand is nothing compared to the length of time and expense to re-brand a failed attempt at creating a winning brand and message. The expense of lost business or lack of brand acceptance is a cost that is almost impossible to enumerate, but that cost is often enough to put companies out of business all together.
Those with the natural ability to clearly state the importance of the brand and messaging will do well, but those that recognize they need professional assistance will do better, more times than not.
7. Non-Sales Sales – Every word, phrase or comment needs to be accurate, enthusiastic and positive to be able to influence others. Whether it be customers or potentials, employees or investors, your ability to educate and train is a skill that must be impeccably talent-filled. When speaking to customers or potentials, your job is to educate them on the value your product or service brings to them. You must be able to articulate the benefits and features, but more importantly, help them recognize how you can make their life better. People want to know what it will do for them, and secondly how much something is. People don’t want to be sold; they want to be educated. The choice to buy is theirs, and you shouldn’t try to “sell” them.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a sales person pushes a product or service on you, even if you are in the market for some version of what this person is pushing on you? For instance, you are in the market for a car, so you go out and check out the new models. Instantly a plaid suited (no offense to any car salespeople reading this) sales person is in your face, telling you all about the great this and that of the car, never even asking you what you need out of a car.
There are people in the sales industry from every occupation, but the ones that excel are those that demonstrate a genuine interest in you and your needs. If you need basic transportation, you don’t need to purchase a BMW, when a Chevy will suffice. If you need a watch that keeps time, you don’t need a Rolex, when a Timex will do. The effective sales person understands what the customer is in need of and fills that need. This is where listening and talking must be in proper ratio. Some say that people have two ears and one mouth; to listen twice as much as they speak. Sound advice.
8. Walk in Someone Else’s Moccasins – As noted in the New Testament, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others as you want to be treated; basic human relations. Empathy, one of those emotional attitudes and feelings; what everyone needs, but not everyone has. In fact, psychologists determine that one of the most important emotions is empathy; to be able to feel what others feel; how others experience the world. If one can clearly relate to what another person is going through, the overall level of basic human relations would change the world.
By nature, human beings are a judgmental species, and the ability to turn that emotion off, or better yet, minimize naturally by conscious thought will go a long way towards understanding others. Not everyone has a “super day” everyday. In fact, most people have so many things going on in their individual lives that their time on the job, in the office, or interacting with others is influenced so much by those “bothersome thoughts” clearly affect how they think, act, hear or interpret what is being said or done to them.
As a business owner, it pays terrific dividends to develop your empathetic skill set, regardless of the fact that it is good human relations to feel and understand those around you. Your staff, customers, vendors and affiliates deserve your understanding, positive relations and favorable thoughts. After all, why else are we here?
9. Money; Finding and Keeping it – There is a certain language that investors expect, and anyone approaching them with an idea needs to prepare him or herself. Cap Rates, Dissolution of Equity, Escalation Clause, EBITA, Regulation D, Rule 506, Section 4(2), Non-accredited investors, Private Placement Memorandums, SEC filings, S.A.R.’s, and an entire glossary of other terms particular to raising money, financial structure, deferred compensation, succession planning, financial targets and much, much more.
There is an art to raising capital; from seed money to the final round at pre-IPO. Today’s entrepreneur must have a handle on the language, because investors want to know how intelligent you are. They see dozens of business plans each day, so they won’t bother spending time reading through yours. The executive summary will get a quick look, but they don’t have the time or inclination to study it.
Investors want to know if your idea is worth their time; what’s in it for them? If you can articulate the steps involved in making sure they understand the increasing value of their investment, they may be more inclined to give you more than ninety seconds of their time. You need to make certain that when you agree to the terms of the investor group, you have sufficient investment to make it to opening. Investors don’t like to hear that things didn’t go according to plan.
So you have been successful in gathering investors, now what? You, as the Chief Experience Officer, need to ensure that the cash flows are kept in line, that you report your progress in a timely manner to the investors, and you also need to stick to the plan, unless your investors agree to alter it. A good CPA with significant start-up experience is in control of the accounting, and that all key personnel are tuned in to the fact that it is not an open check book; that every dollar is accounted for.
10. Master of All I Survey – A general management skill set is mandatory, like every other skill set on the list. What is important more than anything is the fact that the chief decision maker or the tiebreaker must be a thoroughly experienced manager of people, resources, finances, sales and marketing, public relations and supplier/customer relations? This person is the glue and overseer of the entire operation, the final word on all decisions, position and direction. This is where the buck stops; the ultimate responsible party.
This person need not be the entrepreneur, but the entrepreneur must rely and trust upon the person in that seat at the table. I have personally worked for the owners of companies that were unwilling, but mostly unable to, make the hard decisions, get out of the way and stop interfering with their own company’s success. I often refer to the process of having the owner stay out of the business is to “Owner-Proof” the business. That is, to hire the right people for the right job, provide the leadership but leave the decision-making and responsibility to the individuals in charge of their area of expertise. After all, the operation should run as good, and possibly, better than when the owner is present in the business.
Recently, an entrepreneur I am familiar with was speaking with potential investors, but had no expertise in raising capital. There is a particular language, and requires just the right skill set to be able to articulate the needs, and highlighting the returns on the investment being sought. This man had no idea how to pitch the venture capitalists, and made a fool of himself. He was fortunate enough to receive an offer, but it was conditional on him selling his business outright, and receiving a lifetime residual royalty for the remainder of his life. He would receive the amount he was requesting for a small percentage of the company, but the VC’s wanted 100% of the firm, thereby making the owner redundant. This man could have become a millionaire (over time), but he would not yield his position. His product was tremendous, with multi-million dollar, international distribution capabilities, but he had no skill sets other than passion. There was no team of experts in place, no ability to gain a bank loan due to the weakness of management, yet he turned down a very lucrative offer. Within a year, he was completely out of business. A competitor managed to talk him out of his intellectual property and his patents, and became the leader in the world for this type of product. He refused to get out of his own way. How unfortunate, but true. It seems that he was more interested in the bragging rights of ownership than he was concerned about the ability to share his dream, profit handsomely from it, and be able to retire at the age of 37.
The point is that, as an entrepreneur, it is important to know your limitations, fill in the shortcomings you have with competent people and let the experts do what they do.
Entrepreneurs and emerging enterprises have a major responsibility to their chosen project, and that is to perform at an exemplary level. After all, there are lives counting on your success, from your immediate family to the country at large. Small business generates more than fifty percent of the nation’s economic output.
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David J Dunworth is a business consultant to the entrepreneur and emerging enterprise sectors, and is the Chief Executive Officer of TeXT-Icon Mobile Marketing Communications (www.TeXT-Icon.com), a full service marketing company. For additional information, see his blog at http://www.theovercaffeinatedentrepreneur.wordpress.com.