5 Critical Skills for Entrepreneurs

by / ⠀Startup Advice / April 16, 2013

Entrepreneur SkillsThese are 5 essential skills that every entrepreneur needs in order to be successful and effective. The world’s best CEOs are masters at these skills. You should aim to master these skills also.

1. Sales

When you are first starting out on your own, being able to sell will be the single most important skill that can determine whether your business will succeed.

You will need to sell to consumers on the internet, to businesses on the phone, to corporations in person — you are always selling, selling, selling. When you are networking, you are not just making contacts — you are selling yourself. When you are presenting your idea to venture capitalists, you are not only selling your concept. You are also selling yourself. The venture capitalists will be thinking to themselves:

Can this person deliver?

Can this person execute?

Is this person passionate?

Does she have what it takes to make this thing succeed?

Rarely does an idea by itself get funded. A great sales person can make even a terrible business idea get funded if it’s pitched right. A brilliant idea that’s terribly presented will not typically be considered.

So it goes for any product or service you may have to offer. As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats. You are CEO of sales, advertising, administration, website, recruiting, customer service. The single most important hat that you will wear is sales. This will determine whether you will bring in revenue.

The art of selling is not to hit people over the head and get them to buy from you. It is not about being pushy. It is much more subtle. It is about asking the right questions. Communicating your viewpoint persuasively. Listening. It seems counterintuitive but some of the best sales people are the best listeners.


Look for opportunities to sell yourself or an idea. Look for opportunities to persuade people. You can stop people on the street and persuade people to do a ‘quick’ survey for you. Doing simple things like this will teach you a lot about selling.

2.   Communication


The ability to write effectively is essential to succeed. This is as true as it has ever been, especially in the online world with search shifting to high quality content. Great writing can bring plenty of qualified traffic that convert into millions in revenue. Top copywriters charge $10,000 for a single sales page.

You will be writing content on your website, blog, newsletters, emails. You will write persuasive sales letters and proposals. You will write magnetic headlines. You will write advertising copy that sells. You will write emails to website owners to get back links. You will write press releases to try and get media coverage. You will write letters to venture capitalists to try and get a meeting. You will write proposals to business executives to hire your firm. No matter what industry you are in, you will need to write. It pays off handsomely to write well so invest in your writing ability.

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Remember that you are not writing for yourself. You are writing for an audience. Never lose sight of that fact. The audience you are writing for should always be on the back of your mind. You will find the worst kind of writing on large corporate websites and press releases. They’re impersonal, confusing, and self-promoting. Nobody reads them because they’re not written to be read. Don’t make the same mistake.


  • The best way to improve your writing skill is consistent practice. Use 750words.com — Go to this website and make a goal to write at least 750 words a day. You can write about anything you want and whatever you write remains private. Doing this consistently will improve your writing skills.
  • Read Stephen King’s On Writing — Even though this book is written for novelists, it is a great book for anyone that wants to write in an engaging content
  • Read The Elements of Style— This is an essential book for writers. I keep this one within arm’s reach.


The ability to speak in public will make you an expert in your industry. It will win you trust and credibility. It will open doors to many opportunities. You may find yourself having to present your case to investors or a board of directors. Develop your ability to speak in front of an audience and you will deliver a more powerful presentation.

Speaking at conferences and industry events are the best way to promote your service or product in the market place. As your business becomes more successful, the need for you to speak at public events becomes even more crucial.

Public speaking can of course be a scary thing. People are reportedly more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. But like all skills, you can improve your ability to speak in front of people with practice. And that’s the key — to keep at it. Can you imagine the CEO of a billion dollar company being afraid to speak in public? I can’t. In fact, if they weren’t able to speak in public, they wouldn’t be selected to be the leader of any organization in the first place. But these CEOs weren’t all natural public speakers to begin with. Many simply practiced, over and over again. Some still aren’t great at it. But they all do it. And you can also.

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Take a Public Speaking Course such as the Dale Carnegie one. Join Toastmasters, a debating club or any other organization which will allow you to speak in front of an audience.

3.   Desire to Learn

You need to be constantly learning. About business, about the industry you have chosen, about your customers, about your own mistakes. To be master of your trade, you need to know as much about it as possible.

If you want to be in the finance industry, you should be reading all of the top finance books, read the FT, the WSJ, the Economist, follow the experts. If you want to be in the software industry, read the best software blogs, attend software conferences, keep up to date with the latest technology, read hacker news.

When you are reading, you should not necessarily read only about your industry. You should read widely and with an open mind. This will allow you to explore different ideas and come up with new ones.

Never stop investing in your own learning and development.

This will help you write better content, write better speeches, sell more intelligently and push your business to new heights.


As an entrepreneur, start by reading the best sales, marketing and business books. Read publications that are relevant to your industry. Follow bloggers and experts in your industry. Aim to be an expert.

4.   Focus

The most successful people in the world are the ones that focus on doing one thing well. Warren Buffett, the world’s richest investor, once said that absolute focus is the single most important element in determining a person’s success. The focus of his own life has been dedicated to investing, in finding great companies at good prices. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has gone from $8 per share in 1965 to over $153,000 a share. Not bad, right? Bill Gates says that it’s ‘maniacal focus’ that got him where he is today. And it’s that same laser focus which will allow you to be the best in your game.

Do you have 7 things all going on at the same time? Then stop.

Choose one thing and make a conscious decision to do it well.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that trying to execute multiple business ideas will maximize your chances of success. It’s doesn’t. It’s exactly the opposite.

You will do a mediocre job, or more likely, a poor job at all of them. You will stretch yourself thin and none of your business ideas will get the time and attention they deserve. Further, you will find yourself stressed out and a lot of your business ideas will remain dead in the water without ever seeing the light of day.

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Be the master of one trade, not the jack of all trades. Focus your efforts on one idea. If you don’t know which idea to focus on, I recommend the book ‘The Lean Start Up’ by Eric Ries. You will learn how to test concepts and ideas with minimum viable products (MVPs) on the market. This concept is applicable to most business ideas and it is well worth reading no matter what industry you’re in.


Write a list of things that you are working on. Apply the 80/20 rule to it — identify which 20% of your tasks will give 80% of the result. Focus on those tasks.

5.   Time Management

The best entrepreneurs and CEOs are effective time managers.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners have a reputation for being extremely busy people and working excessively long hours. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough time in the day. CEOs that manage hundred billion dollar companies with hundreds of thousands of employees have the exact same amount of time as we do. The only difference is in the way we manage our time (and the system that we use).

We are constantly responding to distractions which really doesn’t help us focus on the tasks that matter. We respond to emails as they come up, read articles here and there, go on Facebook or YouTube, and we end up losing track or interest of what we were working on.

To be effective, we need to work smarter and be more proactive about time management. To do this, we need to focus on the 20% which brings 80% of the result.

6.   One More Critical Skill: Persistence

As an entrepreneur, you will inevitably have ups and downs. Not everything you try will work out. In fact, a lot of things you try will not work out at all. It’s just the nature of the game. Don’t get discouraged if an idea fails. You just get up and keep trying again, and again. James Dyson famously created 5,126 prototypes for a vacuum cleaner whilst drowning in a sea of debt. But his 5,127th design was the breakthrough he needed and with it came the start of the Dyson company. The Dyson company today earns over 1 billion in sales annually.

Rui Zhi Dong is a Sales and Marketing Consultant and the owner of several successful online businesses. You can read his blog for more tips.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.