Essential skills for young entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is the new buzzword for youngsters nowadays. Look around yourself and you'll see someone or the other founding a small business or a startup.
Out of the few that do turn out to be successful in the long run, how did they do it? Is entrepreneurship really as sexy as it sounds? What skills or sacrifices do you need to succeed?
More importantly, how do you overcome the numerous challenges you'll face along the way?
If you're a budding entrepreneur, here are some essential skills - from the ones who have walked the walk - for you to thrive as one.
Constant Learning Attitude
Attitude can make a huge difference on how you approach any situation. Especially as an entrepreneur. Undoubtedly, you will face myriads of challenges. .
In such situations, it is important to have the attitude of a student and be open-minded and versatile. Mistakes and failures will definitely be made. But, you have to do the hard work of swallowing your pride and being self-aware to not make the same mistakes again the next time.
Sayem Faruk, Founder & CEO, Remotely, says that versatility and constant learning attitude has helped him succeed in his initial entrepreneurship projects. "Out of these, here are the most important ones:
i. People Skills: It's not possible to do it all by yourself sometimes, you have to put your trust in people.
ii. Ability to Inspire: Making people believe in your vision and rallying them behind your cause has to be one of the greatest skills of an entrepreneur."
A good student never gives up, no matter what may come.
Sales & Communications Skills
This is the most important skill of them all. Sayem says,"As Mark Cuban says, 'Sales cures all.' Being a salesman is a skill that will come in handy not just when it comes to pitching your business but in personal contexts too."
The question is, how to learn and enhance those sales skills?
Samiha Tahsin, Co-founder & CEO of Bonton, agrees.
"I believe the first skills to acquire and master are sales and communication. When you are an entrepreneur, you are most likely solving a problem, and you should be able to sell that solution to your customers, your investors, your teammates and even your future co-founder. I have mostly learnt through rehearsing my ways of talking. I have rehearsed about what to say and how to say it by talking about the solution to different kinds of people and then work on those depending on the feedback I received."
Adnan Khan, Founder & CEO, Scratchboard has a few tips on this.
He says, "Understand that a salesperson is not a manipulator, rather a problem solver. And that requires a deep understanding of the product, the industry, the people in the industry and the common challenges. Knowing these makes you credible which increases the chances of you selling anything."
"You also need to know how to generate lots of leads who could be potential customers. This makes you come off less desperate to people who don't really need your product/service and more real to the ones who do," he adds.
The third tip is to understand pre qualifiers. According to Adnan, this means the best salespeople make the sale before even meeting the client by establishing credibility beforehand, whether with references, recommendations, a strong portfolio or just mutual connections.
Finally, setting up a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) like Zoho or Salesforce is absolutely crucial to systematically grow sales in this day and age.
There are plenty of books on enhancing your sales skills out there. You can even watch YouTube videos.
But remember, skill improvement comes through the effective application of what you have learned.
You have to think outside the box constantly.
This is one of the mantras of Tahsin Rob, Founder, Fatty Bun and Heartworld, Managing Partner, Rice & Noodles. "You must always compete with yourself and find ways to innovate so that you are better than your previous versions."
Samiha says, "The real challenge is to identify your shortcomings and your strengths so that you know what you are capable of and then take that leap of faith. After you know what you are capable of, you can learn and improve everyday and that will continue to become your source of validation. This worked for me in the beginning as I had to continuously learn new things being a student entrepreneur who was studying CSE."
At the same time, listening to customer feedback can provide great insights on how to level up your innovation.
Build a Proper Brand
A brand helps to make it easy for your leads and customers to identify exactly what specialty you have to offer.
"It's almost certain big businesses will seek out any possible cost cuts and have the ability to spend most on marketing," says Adnan. "A strong brand is the only opportunity entrepreneurs can use to build relationships with customers irrespective of the rationale. Whether it's personal branding or of a business, having an understanding of it is helpful."
Ensure Proper Customer Service (Check your ego)
Sometimes, our human emotions can cloud our thinking and dealing with people, especially customers. This is when ego comes.
Keep your ego at bay, says Tahsin.
"If you're having a good day and a customer comes up to you with three complaints, don't let it ruin your day. Don't lose your patience with them. Instead, listen to them and see where their complaints are coming from. Give them importance. This is essential to building good customer relationships, which is critical," she says.
Technology is here to stay, especially in the modern times of COVID-19.
Mastering technology doesn't mean you need to be an expert in CS material to find success. It means you learn to leverage the power of technology.
Machine learning, data science & analytics can be useful tools to help make data-driven decisions about your business.
Alongside, digital marketing (especially Facebook and Instagram marketing) can bring resounding results for your business. Here's a guide.
Sayem says that Product Management is an important skill to learn for budding entrepreneurs.
Learn how to Manage
While the average person usually struggles with time management and people, an entrepreneur unfortunately has to manage a lot more.
Adnan offers some challenges that all entrepreneurs need to take care of:
"Time management. Careful priority planning, defining milestones, execution, and iteration are all important.
Finance management: Having a deep understanding and being in sync with ROI and how different elements affect costs and margins is absolutely crucial to making the right decisions.
Strategic thinking: There are lots of ways of defining this one but to me it's the ability to look at a successful business and to reverse engineer it and then contextualizing it to your own geography/demography/industry to find the an edge (or what we can a USP) in how things are done."
Confront Challenges Patiently
Challenges are aplenty.
Ensuring a constant supply, finding reliable suppliers, receiving payments, finding a good delivery service, dealing with various kinds of people (including some rude ones), marketing, never giving up, innovating to come up with new products and making hard decisions.
"To handle rejections, failure, burnouts, stress or just slow progress - it is hard to keep it going, without a resilient attitude and a belief that things will work out," says Adnan.
Where do these end?
Samiha says, "The first lesson that I learnt was how to take criticism, and it was quite demotivating at first, but this is probably the most important one. Sometimes, you have to keep your head low and work through it. Being an entrepreneur you have to know good times only last for so long (bad times too). You have to innovate, get feedback and iterate. The second lesson would be to accept that it's never going to be perfect, this is a process that you have to get used to."
Tahsin too says that bad times never last. You have to hold on and keep going. People will definitely notice you and turn things around for you. "You must have great patience."
Female & Young founders face extra challenges
There is no doubt that in our country, it can be extremely difficult to survive, let alone thrive, as an independent woman. Or as a young person seeking to do something other than studies. The system isn't supportive.
According to Samiha, as a female entrepreneur, you will probably face discrimination at times. She cautions that this is not something she says to discourage any female from pursuing entrepreneurship. "But the best way you can overcome this is to have enough supporters around you who know your capabilities and not let you doubt yourself."
Adnan's challenges lay in him being extremely young. "Being 16, being taken seriously was the main challenge. Additionally, I didn't have the best grades so getting permission, trust and just blessings from parents was a challenge."
Today, the current challenges for any entrepreneur are slightly different. "Having a proper setup and working professionally, the challenges now are more about finding the right people and recruiting them is the challenge," opines Adnan. "I believe I'm only as good as how much I'm growing and finding the time to learn and grow has been a challenge amongst the hustle."
Having a strong support system is essential.
Take Care of Yourself
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. Sayem says, "Countless nights of sleep and outings with family and friends are a given cost of being an entrepreneur. Sacrificing my health and peace of mind are perhaps the most expensive sacrifices I made. Not knowing how you'll pay everyone's salaries next month is a scary place to be in."
"Being self-aware comes first. But in order to achieve that, one needs to educate himself on it. Once that foundation is laid, then comes fixing the basics - waking up and eating on time, exercising, having support systems can go a long way in taking care of our mental health," he says.
On the other hand, Samiha says, "You have to enjoy life and not let the journey consume you. It's important to turn off your business mind and let it rest so that you can have the energy when you need it."
Tahsin is adamant that nobody should take their mental health for granted.
"Solve your mental health issues. Don't ignore them. Don't stay busy or mingle with other things to distract yourself from your problems. If you're sad, don't listen to sad songs. Listen to motivating or upbeat songs.
Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you and uplift you. If they do yoga/ meditation which helps them, try doing it. This can benefit you too."
It's important to understand where your motivation for entrepreneurship originates from. If it's for glamour, this field is not for you.
Samiha believes, "Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the hardest jobs out there, and it is sometimes more than a job because sometimes you go to sleep thinking about how to keep your customers happy or how to pay your employees next month, so if you are not really passionate about what you are doing, you will constantly be demotivated."
Entrepreneurship is also a luxury not everyone can afford. Sayem says, "If one has financial obligations towards their family, they should opt for the safer route of taking up a job. This is absolutely alright."
Adnan adds, "Entrepreneurship stops being glamorous real fast. It is definitely not for people who seek a work life balance.
It is also probably not for individuals who are extremely talented at a very specific thing. It's easier and more profitable for them to leverage that talent in someone else's boat than to build the entire boat themselves.
More importantly, entrepreneurship doesn't have to be forever. A lot of people transition in and out of it."