Much has been written about the need for schools all over the world to get up to date ‘devote more classroom time to teaching entrepreneurship.
But what would the lessons look like? The essential skills and qualities needed to succeed in business are hard to find in any textbook.
So I asked five very successful entrepreneurs what ‘must have’ tools, skills, instincts, etc., they think are fundamental to business success – and a university education wasn’t one of them.
Timing is everything
Entrepreneurs run a constant race against time. Knowing when and when not to launch your idea or issue business critical information is a skill in itself – too early and you’ll jump the gun, too late and you’ll miss the moment.
Jacob de Geer, CEO and Co-founder at mobile payment provider iZettle, says: “Entrepreneurs who want to be front runners need to get timing down to a tee. But let’s face it, sometimes good timing comes down to good luck.”
People assume that entrepreneurs are thick skinned and hard as nails, able to withstand the inevitable knockbacks and square up to anyone who gets in the way of their plans.
But as Sveinung Skaalnes, head of research and development at international creative business school Hyper Island, points out, these days being able to connect with people is more important than ordering them around.
He says: “It is about being able to show soft skills like empathy and humility. This is what turns an entrepreneur from average to outstanding,” says
Patience is most definitely a virtue. Entrepreneurs are known for being demanding people who want results and success yesterday. Setting unrealistic expectations can put unnecessary pressure on yourself, your business and those around you. It is important to recognise that consumers are creatures of habit who require time and persuasion in order to adopt new ways of doing things. Success takes time, usually longer than anticipated.
A strong work ethic
Successful entrepreneurs have an unwavering work ethic and a relentless determination to succeed.
“A good idea is essential, but not enough,” says Eamon Jubbawy COO and co-founder of Onfido. “To build a successful business, entrepreneurs must be willing to put in the hours – evenings and weekends often included – and truly believe in their idea.”
SacrificeIt might sound obvious but you must be prepared to work hard and sacrifice the things so many people in life take for granted, free time being one of them.
Antony Woodcock, co-founder of Maki, London’s first bespoke, on-demand sushi shop, says: “If you are willing to put your business before 80% of everything else in your life then you might just have what it takes. You work for your business it doesn’t work for you and so you have to be prepared to do what is needed to make it work.”
The emotional rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur can be tough. Business owners must be able to fall one day and get back up the next. You’ve got to be willing to try new things, fail, improve and iterate without getting too caught up in the emotional highs and lows that come with the successes and failures of running a business. Building resilience is essential.
Taking calculated risks
In school it is all about your ability to learn. In the business world, it is all about your ability to do. Execution is everything, says Debbie Wosskow, founder and CEO at home exchange club Love Home Swap.
“The school environment needs to adapt to teach our entrepreneurs of tomorrow how to effectively execute a plan whatever happens. They need to learn how to assess and take risks and navigate lots of other unforeseen challenges along the way,” she says.
Make your time work for you. Successful leaders don’t chase the day; they tackle it head on. People assume killer hours are essential to success, but they aren’t. It’s about how you work and maximising every moment.
“I set myself an iron rule to finish at 17:30 so that I have quality time with the children each day,” says Wosskow. “That gives you a focus and also provides the work-life balance that, in turn, keeps you fresh and more efficient. It is important schools start to teach skills such as time management as this skill could make or break of an entrepreneur.”