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6 Key Skills for Entrepreneurial Success

Serious business-woman writes on board in marker about business and success
Picture from Spellbrand

In the current era, the requirements for successful entrepreneurs are ever-changing: here’s everything you need to know.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is inching ever closer. Characterised by advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, autonomy, nanotechnology and robotics, the fusion between physical, digital and biological spheres will transform the way we live and work. The implications of this change are already evident.

In our current era, workers are valued less for their ability to contribute as part of a collective, and more for their ability to find new solutions to outpace the competition. Between 1955 and 2016, 88% of companies on the Fortune 500 list were out-innovated and replaced by newer players, many of which are now topping the list.

Consider it the new eating the old- a process which is rapidly accelerating. According to the Small Business Administration, the cost of starting a business from scratch has declined by 100% in the last few decades, from £500,000 to £50,000 during the dawn of the internet, to just £5000 today.

Conversely, less companies are being started. In fact, the number of new companies as a share of the whole economy is decreasing. Why? The World Economic Forum points to workers requiring skills in this new era that current educational institutes fail to provide. At the same time, the opportunity for anyone to cultivate those skills is there.

These skills happen to be integral to the success of any modern entrepreneur. Learning and mastering them will give you a major edge over competing start-ups; their effects are far-reaching and will prove valuable in more than just running your business.

So, without further ado, here are six key skills for entrepreneurial success.

Creative Thinking

The book The Innovator’s DNA defines creativity as the ability to not only generate ideas as a function of the mind, but also as that of certain key behaviours that optimise the thought process for discovery. Those key behaviours are:

Associating: Identifying connections between problems or ideas from different fields.

Observing: Finding new ways of doing things by scrutinising the behaviour of others.

Questioning: Challenging common wisdom to discover new ideas.

Experimenting: Drawing new insights from unorthodox reactions by creating new experiences.

Networking: Obtaining new ideas and perspectives from other people.

This model for creative thinking is rather astounding. It proves that creativity can be trained, as anyone can follow the above steps. With our problems becoming ever more complex, we can utilise creative thinking to develop suitable solutions. This proves useful in many aspects of running a business, from marketing to product design.

Complex Problem Solving

The more variables present in a system, the more complex it will become. For instance, adding a member to your team adds their own skills, competencies, perspectives and work habits. It also adds their interactions with other members. This makes the situation more complex.

A skilled individual can manage the increase in complexity and develop strategies that help them obtain the output they want. Having the framework to tackle more complex problems is critical to your success as an entrepreneur. Some useful tools for this purpose include the McKinsey Problem Solving Method, Root Cause Analysis and Ishikawa Diagrams.

People Management

People management is best defined by giving each word a meaning:

People: Being a leader. Inspiring, motivating and pushing your team forward.

Management: Being a manager. Hiring, training, firing and directing based on objective evaluation.

Most people believe that the two elements are at odds, but a successful entrepreneur can be both a leader and a manager. They are capable of getting the best out of their team, thus enabling success. Some useful tools to improve your people management skills include the 12 Mental Models, 360 Degree Feedback and NLP Perceptual Positions.

Just as important is the ability to coordinate with others. This is because there will inevitably be power imbalances. Take, for instance, manager and employee. The latter relies on the manager for a salary, while the manager relies on employees to be productive. You need to be able to understand people and act accordingly. See:  The 8 Steps Change Model and Enneagram System.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence isn’t exactly a skill in itself, but rather a term that encompasses three key skills:

Awareness: Identifying the feelings present in yourself and others. At the highest level, these feelings can be anticipated from certain stimulus and regulated. This is used in marketing when determining how the target audience will react to a specific strategy, for example.

Harnessing Emotion: After awareness comes acting on the identified emotions, in order to improve relationships with others. Being able to harness your emotions can be useful in many situations, such as when you need to diffuse a tense situation with a disgruntled employee.

Managing Emotion: This is a culmination of the above. It involves being able to manage your emotions proactively. For instance, you can create enthusiasm when motivating a team, or act calm when trying to focus on a task.

There will inevitably be stressful and often infuriating moments during your life as an entrepreneur. But what too many tend to forget is that you’re in control of how you respond to those less-than-desirable situations. Some useful tools for improving your emotional intelligence include Emotional Regulation and the Human Emotions Chart.

Modern Technology

Let’s go back to our point about Fortune 500 companies losing their place on the list. It is possible to point to numerous factors when it comes to what caused their downfall. But for many, it was their inability to keep up with the rapid evolution of modern technology. If you don’t take the time to become aware of and test new trends, you’ll quickly fall behind.

It’s good news then that keeping up doesn’t have to be a headache. Some light coursework on the essentials will give you a strong head start. The internet is a great place to do this. For instance, you can use a website like findcourses.co.uk to choose from a number of Excel courses of varying prices and lengths.

This is a great way to obtain a primer on essential applications that you’ll inevitably be using in the office moving forward. The better you understand them, the more efficient you’ll become in your daily workflow. Keep an open mind to new trends and solutions. They can mean the difference between gaining an edge and losing to the competition.

Decision- Making

Having strong decision-making skills can be described as the ability to analyse a situation, identify the possibilities, recognize the implications, utilise your available resources and carry out an appropriate solution. Consistently doing this isn’t easy. It requires strong focus and discipline.

Get it right and you’ll be able to successfully confront impending problems. Get it wrong and your camera company could miss the digital revolution, or your social media company could miss its chance to handle its data privacy issues before they get out of hand. In case you didn’t catch it, those companies were Kodak and Facebook.


Are these the only skills required for entrepreneurial success? Definitely not. There are many more, including communication, negotiation, strategy formulation, financial management and sales among others. Learning them all requires a certain degree of dedication.

But think of it this way- if you have the drive and ambition to take the dive and start your own business, chances are that you’re more than willing to learn the skills necessary to be successful. Being a happier and more interesting person is just a neat bonus.

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