Entrepreneurs have immense passion. They have fire, drive, and faith in themselves and in their ideas. But sadly, many lack the basic skills needed to succeed.
Because these types of skills aren't taught in school, only those with mentors and valuable direct life experience will pick up the tools required to build lasting businesses. And with 60 percent of undergraduate Millennials eager to start their own ventures, the number of professionals lacking entrepreneurial fundamentals will likely continue to grow.
It doesn't matter how long you've been in the startup world; understanding the basics is crucial to your success. So put aside the textbooks and listen up--you might benefit from honing any one of these skills:
1. Focusing and following through on key priorities.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of attempting to do too much. Profitability and scalability depend on being able to zero in on key tasks, but when you're being pulled in a million directions, it's easy to veer off course.
UDesign, for example, set out to build an app for women to create and buy custom clothing. However, the company got distracted by flashy advertising materials and lost sight of how to provide real value. By spending too much money in the wrong areas, UDesign ended up without the resources or customer demand it needed to scale and grow.
To sharpen your focus, create clear goals and a corresponding road map for your team with milestones and success metrics, then use incentives to reward only those actions that help the team achieve those goals.
2. Engaging resources to shore up weaknesses.
No one is good at everything (although many entrepreneurs would like to think otherwise). It's important to understand your own strengths and weaknesses so you can surround yourself with experts who are strong in areas where you are weak.
I've seen founders run their companies into the ground when trying to save money by doing it all themselves. Because they neglected to find capable talent with skill sets that complemented their own, their companies eventually sputtered to a halt and died. It happens all too often.
To avoid this fate, entrepreneurs need to be willing and able to secure talent in the areas where they are lacking. If you don't have a key skill, invest in someone who does to create a well-rounded team poised for success (whether an employee, a mentor, or a consultant).
3. Optimizing interpersonal skills.
Poor communication and relationship-building skills can yield a host of problems, from constant turnover to the inability to attract and retain top talent.
For example, Bluebird, a company that created templates for websites, found itself shutting down early in the game due to inexperienced management.
Leaders who don't know how to show that they value and respect their teams by meeting needs won't last long as leaders. If you want employees to stick around longer--and perform at higher levels--you have to treat them well (honoring their unique individual needs and goals).
4. Clarifying and enforcing expectations.
I've been involved in many early-stage startups where expectations were unclear or were bypassed or ignored. The results are always the same: a flailing company awash in chaos that is doomed to run aground without intervention.
Without a clear picture of what's expected, employees (and vendors) lack accountability to honor commitments and will do whatever they think may be right, or worse, the bare minimum. When responsibilities are left unchecked, productivity and morale take a hit.
To prevent this, set clear standards and ensure everyone (including you) abides by them. As a leader, model correct behavior to demonstrate what your expectations are, how decisions are made, and how promises are kept.
Some entrepreneurs might never be able to master these basics, and their businesses will suffer as a result. If you don't want to end up stumbling through failure after failure, confused as to why your ideas aren't sticking, consider devoting a little time and energy into mastering these basic skills, and engage assistance and guidance from mentors and trusted advisers who can help.
You'll find yourself way ahead of the game (and with a better bottom line). Most important, you'll discover that your company boasts a much better likelihood of not only surviving, but also thriving.