Acquiring the Entrepreneurial Skills You Need

Guest post from Derek Lidow:

Entrepreneurs can come
into their livelihood already possessing some vital skills, but no one shows up
being the total package. Skills are learned over years of embracing
self-improvement and education. No one method for gaining skills is used and
being good at absolutely everything is futile. But as an entrepreneur, all the
needed skills like leadership, relationship building, etc., are all important.

So how do we gain these
much-needed skills as entrepreneurs?

Life and Work Experience

Everything from first
jobs to playing on sports teams to boy scouts give us real life experience and
skills. They teach us how to get along with others, work in a group, take

Sam Walton, of Walmart
fame, began learning and practicing his leadership skills from an early age:
playing on sports teams, observing and listening to his job supervisors, and
participating in and leading volunteer organizations.

By the time he was in
high school and college, his peers and teachers saw him as a leader. Sam
practiced leadership more than most of his peers because he volunteered to
organize activities and events for practically every club or team he joined. He
invested significant time and thought in becoming more and more adept at
leading organizations.

Finding and studying a
great boss or leader is key to learning leadership skills yourself. Sometimes
we luck out and happen upon a summer job or part-time gig with a great
supervisor or owner from which we unknowingly learn a lot from. Other times we
learn what not to do by our own bad experiences with poor leadership.

Still, we don’t have to
accept what’s presented to us. We can seek out great leadership and be mentored
or go to work for them. We can choose to put ourselves in situations that,
although they may not yet be our dream situation or employment, we should learn
a lot from the experience.

The hard part about
learning from a boss and business is the ability to choose the boss and
business. Large organizations often do the choosing, and not the other way around.
Just make sure that you choose an organization that embraces change and trains
its people.


School can give us a lot
of knowledge. This can be gained both from the books and the specifics we
learn, and also the very act of going to school, turning in work, and meeting
deadlines. These things teach us how to dive in and hunker down. This teaches
us about accountability and performance. School can teach us how to channel
stress and define how we behave under pressure.

School can also teach
you industry-specific skills. Sam Walton learned his retail operational
skills from Ben Franklin. Culinary schools prepare chefs with the specific
skills required to run restaurants. Many dental schools teach their students
the basics of running a dental practice. Today, programming skills that you
learn in many schools can be important for designing effective application

Degrees in specific
fields teach foundational principles and get us credentialed to get our foot in
the door. The mistake most people make with school is that they view it as the
pinnacle or end of their journey. Being handed a diploma should be viewed
instead as not the end of your learning journey, but the doorway to your
journey of lifelong learning. Your chosen field or industry has so much more to
teach you and many years to do it. Embrace the opportunity to continue your
learning journey.

Hiring Others

Sam Walton used this
tactic quite often. He would hire people who were already skilled and give them
the authority and responsibility to take ownership of tasks they could execute
with more expertise than he could. As we learned from Sam, great
entrepreneurs look to meet capable and skilled people and lure them to work for
them as needed

Don’t try to do
everything. Others will be strong in areas you are weakest. Trying to
understand something that is not in our wheelhouse can drain us. As an
entrepreneur, you do not need any additional and unnecessary stress in your
life. Hiring experts that you trust can help carry you in your weakest areas.
Walt Disney was not the person who ran his business–he employed his brother,
Roy to make the financial and business decisions. If you look back in his past,
Walt was terrible at making money. In fact, Disney didn’t get financially
successful until many years after he made his first cartoon, Bambi.

Though we should always
look to improve on ourselves and our skills, perfection doesn’t exist. Learn to
assess what skills you lack and what skills you should outsource to set
yourself up for the greatest amount of success

Derek Lidow is the former CEO of International Rectifier and the founder of iSuppli, a leading market research firm, which he sold in 2010 for $100 million to global information leader IHS. He also has written two books on entrepreneurship: Building on Bedrock: What Sam Walton, Walt Disney, and Other Great Self-Made Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us About Building Valuable Companies (January 2018) and Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises (2014). He is currently a professor at Princeton University, where he teaches entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.