There is no perfect skill set for a successful business owner, and the ‘cookie cutter’ approach some people take is wrong. Businesses vary, and as a result, the skills needed to own and run them vary also.
That being said, the following are 7 traits every successful business leader needs:
You must be an optimist because at some point, you have to see beyond the hard times to see the better times. Optimism and confidence tend to go together. You, as the business owner, must be able to make it through the tough times because you know in your heart that it will get better.
2. Ability to Sacrifice
Being in the bottom spot on the totem pole is something that you are going to encounter as an owner. Your business takes precedence over just about everything else. You most likely will not be taking any vacations in the beginning. Your financial needs are the last ones to be met. You only get paid after you have paid your employees, your expenses and your vendors.
If there is any profit at that point, you can take some salary. But if you want to continue to grow, you will probably have to reinvest the profits and take little or no money. At least that will be the case in the beginning. Driving an older car, living in an older house and postponing vacations are just a few of the sacrifices you must be willing to make.
3. Ability to Manage
I did not say management experience because people tend to think that means the ability to manage people. What I’m talking about here is the ability to manage everything.
Things like accounts receivable, accounts payable, vendor problems, advertising, customers, the banker and your lawyer all have to be managed. And the most important thing you have to manage in the beginning is your family. They have to understand what you are doing and know that it’s going to be tough in the beginning.
4. Interpersonal Skills
Running any business, even an Internet business, requires interpersonal skills. If you run any business, then you have to be able to get along with more people than you realize. Some people go into business for themselves because they can’t get along with their bosses.
These same people are surprised when they find out that getting along with their previous boss was a piece of cake compared to getting along with irate customers (even if they are wrong, they will think they are right), demanding employees and quirky vendors. You will be a referee, a judge, a boss, a cohort and a friend.
5. Common Sense
You don’t need a Harvard education to run a successful business, and you don’t need a college education to come up with a good business idea. What a business owner must have is the ability to anticipate problems and take steps to prevent them. Successful businesses look to outsiders as though they rarely have any problems. What they don’t see is a business owner who is keeping his/her finger on the pulse of the business and the industry.
When successful leaders anticipate change, they take steps to prepare their businesses in case it comes about. That preparation and willingness to change can make the difference between success and failure. Done well, it’s just about invisible to anyone except the business owner.
People, especially your employees, will always be looking to you for answers. Answers about your products, your market, your competition and just about everything else. As the owner, you are expected to be able to answer any question relating to the business or the industry. It’s human nature to want to be led and to want someone to explain why something happened or didn’t happen. If you can’t handle being pulled in a lot of different directions all at the same time, then you should rethink your desire to go into business for yourself.
This is a real problem for some people. If you can’t juggle lots of things at the same time, then you shouldn’t go into business for yourself. There is never just one thing going on when you own a business. There are customer problems, there are vendor/supplier problems and there are competition problems.
7. Business Experience
This is one of the biggest reasons for failure, in my opinion. There are lots of people who are great at their jobs. Maybe they are the best carpenter, or the best painter, or the best salesperson or the best cook. There is a tendency for people to believe that just because they can do their current job well (maybe better than anyone else they know), that means they would be a great business owner.
The best mechanic I ever knew decided that he should open his shop. To my knowledge, there was no one smarter than him when it came to troubleshooting a problem with a vehicle. He was brilliant. So, he saved his money and opened his shop.