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How to Develop the Soft Skills of the Successful Entrepreneur

How to Develop the Soft Skills of the Successful Entrepreneur
Image credit: Criss Cross Circus! | Flickr

Can you really teach entrepreneurship? That question gets asked a lot, both in business and academia. Some claim you can learn the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. Others say you either have “it” or you don’t, whatever the heck "it" is.

But I think we're asking the wrong question. It's not about whether you can teach skills to be a successful entrepreneur, but rather what skills need to be taught or learned. For instance, when it comes to the hard skills, anyone can learn them, either in a classroom or on the job. These include things like finance and accounting or branding and marketing or legal. They are the skills that lead to specific action… the “doing” of running your business.

But, more important are the soft skills. These are trickier to learn. They don't come in a textbook or a webinar. They don't even necessarily come from working hard at your job. They come from inside you.

Rather than be taught them, you need to unlock them and foster them. 

Related: How Technology Demands a Different Approach to Your Job

Fostering (or "learning") soft skills that don’t come naturally to you might seem challenging and even very uncomfortable. But know that you have more soft skills available to you than you’re currently using. Perhaps you’ve never considered some of them. Or maybe you’ve not had the opportunity to work with a mentor or boss to show you by example. But if you’re willing to look inside yourself and you’re open to making significant changes, you can learn to access and use the many soft skills available to you within yourself. Here are a few examples:

Drive, Ambition and Stamina.

Let’s face it -- being an entrepreneur is really hard at times. You have to push yourself every day to be better when things aren’t going your way. It’s a major effort to keep going when you feel like nothing is right. But that’s why drive, ambition and stamina are necessary. We all have it. We’re born with it. Some have more than others, but you can strengthen yours by looking for inspiration from those with a ton of it and following their lead. It’s like a muscle that if you exercise regularly, it will become stronger.

The Temperament to Manage Adversity.

It’s no secret that entrepreneurship is full of adversity. That’s why people with unbelievable ideas never take the plunge into the entrepreneurial sea. Some entrepreneurs have such trouble managing tough times that they go grey, gain weight, lose their hair and age 20 years from the experience. Then there are those who’ve never looked or felt better from it. These are the people who approach entrepreneurship with joy and who remain calm even in the worst of situations. They don’t let the worst of it get the best of them. While it looks like some people are just born with this kind of temperament, I can tell you that I’ve known many people who have learned how to be this way as they’ve grown as people and as entrepreneurs. They learned to let go and have faith that everything will be OK.

Related: Why You Don't Have to Be an Owner to Be an Entrepreneur

The Capacity to Embrace Change.

If you don’t evolve with the world around you, specifically with your customers’ ever-changing needs, your success will be short-lived. Most people hit a ceiling on growth and become stuck in their ways. Nothing can be more detrimental to running a business. If this is something you struggle with, consider forcing yourself to engage in one activity every day or every week that you’ve never done before that kicks you out of your comfort zone. Or perhaps try taking a new path to work, stopping at a new coffee shop or trying a new food that you’ve never had before.

A Ton of Chutzpah.  

You’ve heard the term, “Fake it til you make it?" Some people are just really good at this. We usually call them bullshit artists. But even if you think you’re well prepared for your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll more than likely uncover a few holes that you’ll have to mend on the go. At some point you’ll likely find yourself pitching for business that you are pretty sure is out of your league or you might have to pull out all the stops and get in front of people to sell your business who might expect you to be much more experienced than you are. I never advocate for lying about anything but there is a way to message your business that isn’t lying but makes you sound pretty darn good! But if you aren’t willing to fake it, you’ll never make it or it will take you a much longer time to.

Related: The 6 Words That Are Holding You Back