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I'm often asked by would-be entrepreneurs and growth business owners what skills and abilities they need to develop to truly succeed in business.

That's always a tough question for me to answer. I've always figured aspiring entrepreneurs needed to learn as much as they could about everything and anything that had to do with business in order for to really achieve.
That said, there are six main skills you need to cultivate and acquire to be a great entrepreneur and to focus on to really give you a sense of what it's like to successfully run a business:

  1. Become a generalist. While there is a drive toward specialisation in every area of our lives, the person who commands armies is called a General. Being a generalist allows you to have a lot of flexibility as a business owner. It means you have to know the fundamentals of how business works, as well as how all the independent parts work together to create success.
  2. Know the numbers--yours and everyone else's. Numbers are a great and can be a great motivational force in your business and your life. Numbers are also the language of business, so you'll need to become fluent in them and familiarise yourself with a number of different formulas and key benchmarks if you want your business to be successful. What are some key numbers you need to know and learn?
    You should start by knowing the size of your targeted market, the number of companies currently competing in that space, the types of revenues they are generating and the kind of profit margins they are currently running.
  3. Treat your day job like an apprenticeship to being an entrepreneur. Your best ally in your current position is time. Use it to leverage your knowledge of what works (and what doesn't), and learn as much as you can about what drives sales and profits, because those are lessons you can use at some point in the future.
    What can you learn in your current position that will help you in the future? What don't you know about your current company's operations that you could learn in terms of sales, marketing or accounting that could broaden your understanding of business generally?
  4.  Learn the value of systems. Systems are the key to creating better and more profitable businesses. Until you can learn to systemise fundamental processes, you'll forever be reinventing the wheel--be it in your current job or in your business.
    This can take the form anything from a script for answering phones to your overall sales and marketing processes. While these are vital to understand and key to success, it's also important to get familiar with hard systems and technical systems like accountancy sytems and systems to recruit great team members.
  5. Get great at sales. In business, nothing happens until a sales is made. If you are the owner of the company, you will be expected to generate sales. It has never been more important to understand the fundamentals of sales, building enduring relationships and ensuring that your comapny has a strong pipeline of leads and a system to convert them into profitable new clients.
  6. Learn the rules.You can't play a good game if you don't know the rules or the objective of your game. As you grow your business you need to understand the rules about working ON your business as well as IN your business to achieve long term growth. If you have never read the E-myth by Michael Gerber put this on your to do list.

Added: 18th October 2010

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