Entrepreneurs can come from any background, any place and with any experience level. Yet because entrepreneurs task themselves with starting companies to develop solutions and generate value, it’s vital that they have a specific set of skills that help them get the job done. These skills are a necessary part of the entrepreneur’s tool belt.
However, there are some skills that are more valuable than others and some that are highly underrated. Here, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council examine some of the underrated skills that they think entrepreneurs should cultivate, even if others aren’t.
1. First Principles Thinking
First principles thinking boils down to breaking down any problem into its very foundational parts and starting from scratch. It leads to original thinking and often novel ideas. Why is this so important? Well, most people reason by analogy, which is to say that because something previously has functioned a certain way, everything that looks similar must function in the same way. This leads to groupthink and incremental innovation rather than radical innovation. Great entrepreneurs and thinkers start from first principles—the very basic building blocks—and develop their ideas independent of the widely accepted consensus. This leads to the most novel and unique innovations we see today. – Colin Darretta, Innovation Department
2. Prompt Communication
The No. 1 most underrated business skill is amazing communication. So many entrepreneurs and business owners fail to see the importance of being an incredible communicator. I make it a priority to always promptly reply to emails and initiate updates and information and outreach. I do my best to answer calls or return them ASAP. I see so many people act or pretend like they are too busy to respond to a business partner, client or networking relationship, when, truthfully, you waste so much time throughout the day on meaningless tasks or rabbit holes. I’m always beyond impressed with people who reply right away or take the time to provide detailed thoughts and information. I have far more respect and appreciation for them and typically never forget them. – Scott Levy, Fuel Online
3. People Skills
From managing a team to handling criticism, entrepreneurs should be ready for the worst. If the entrepreneur doesn’t possess people skills, these issues will eat their time. Experience is the best teacher. Allow yourself to learn from mistakes and take note of them. Handle negative people by practicing distance and space. Learn how to handle criticism by dealing with the ones that make sense and ignoring the ones that do not. Build people up and take care of your people without losing yourself in the process. Learn how to handle team issues by personally knowing who your people are. Go out there and know more people and their cultures and also hire people from different cultures. Be in the know by knowing real people, but at the same time, be authentic and sincere in doing so. – Daisy Jing, Banish
Entrepreneurs need to be decisive. The best business leaders do not get all of the facts for the decisions they need to make. Instead, they use the gathered information to make the best decisions to move the company forward. While some of those decisions will inevitably be wrong, it is better to quickly learn from those mistakes than be bogged down by indecisiveness. – Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
5. Writing Skills
Writing is an invaluable skill to have. You need it for all aspects of your business: the initial plan that you show to investors, advertising copy on your website or guest posts and press releases for interested news outlets. While you can outsource these tasks, knowing the basics will help you identify quality copy and edit during the preparation stages. You may even want to write a book about your experiences and not have to hire a ghostwriter for that particular purpose. Many entrepreneurs don’t focus on their writing skills, and two-year MBA programs may have one semester dedicated to the craft. It’s easy to neglect the skill or to not learn more about SEO and blogging trends. You can always improve on that and only benefit. – Duran Inci, Optimum7
6. Listening Skills
An underrated skill that entrepreneurs should possess is listening. Whether it’s listening to customers, clients, investors or friends, it’s important to learn the art of listening. When you listen to understand someone instead of to react to them, it helps you move forward and take the next step. Instead of letting your emotions take over, you listen to what the other person has to say and truly think about it. Coming up with solutions is quicker, easier and faster. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Financial Skills
Every entrepreneur should spend some time—especially before launching their company—cultivating solid financial skills. No matter how attractive your product or how strong your following is, your business will suffer if you do not have your finances in order or know how to manage long-term capital needs. Learning how to budget, for example, is absolutely critical; your budget presents a complete picture of your finances. It’s also important to understand credit and how it determines your eligibility for many financial opportunities. Knowing how to find capital, not just manage it, is also key. There are times when it’s necessary to seek capital from outside parties to improve your company; you will need to have an understanding of your company’s worth and how to secure extra capital. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
8. The Ability To Trust
Many entrepreneurs want to have their hands in everything, whether out of pure curiosity and interest or the need to control. But the businesses with success are often those led by entrepreneurs who are willing to trust that the team they hire can perform. They can step away from internal business tasks and functions and think broader and above and beyond the business. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
9. Public Speaking
One underrated skill that entrepreneurs should possess but many of them don’t is the ability to speak in public. When you learn public speaking, you can convince an investor more easily, you can motivate your employees and communicate your brand message and values in a way that will generate followers and evangelize clients. – Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME