Entrepreneur’s Skills Inventory

While starting and operating a business, particularly a business that expect to grow rapidly, is a team effort, each member of the founding team should not move forward without closely and carefully analyzing and evaluating his or her personal skills, strengths and weaknesses and then comparing them to the skills and other attributes that are expected to be necessary in order to successfully operate the chosen business.  If a founder is not strong in a particular area, he or she must be mindful of the fact that the weakness needs to be addressed by recruiting qualified individuals to work with the business, either as an employee or as a key outside consultant.

Sales and Marketing: The first area to consider is a founder’s skills with respect to sales and marketing.  In addition to the ability to set and execute sales and marketing strategies, the founder will need to be able to manage a group of sale representatives and communicate with customers to handle complaints and solicit feedback on the company’s products and services.  The founder will also be involved in launching and managing advertising campaigns and negotiations with prospective distributors.

Financial Management: Many entrepreneurs find themselves unequipped to deal with preparation of budgets and financial statements.  This is one of the main reasons that a controller or chief financial officer is one of the first positions filled on the management team.  Among the tasks that will need to be handled are billing procedures, negotiations with vendors and customers regarding payments and credit terms, and tax payment and reporting requirements.

Human Resources: A founder needs to understand his role as an employer and as the leader and motivator of the company’s human resources.  While entrepreneurs may have exceptional vision regarding the creation and implementation of new technologies, they often have little or no background in managing other people.  The founder needs to think about whether he or she is a good judge of people.  Consideration also needs to be given to whether the founder is able and willing to train employees and communicate the founder’s vision for the business.  Finally, the founder must be prepared for the unpleasant task of disciplining and firing employees.

Organization and Management:  The founder’s organizational and management skills should also be evaluated.  It is one thing to develop an innovative technology, product or service; however, the work will generally be of little importance unless the founder has the discipline to develop a long-term strategic plan for the business and establish realistic goals and milestones.  Entrepreneurs often run into trouble in delegating specific tasks to others in the organization.  However, it is essential that the founder strike the proper balance between directing employees and leaving them free to pursue the best method for achieving a particular objective.

Stress Management: Starting a new business can be a stressful experience.  The founder needs to assess his or her ability to manage risk and, possibly, failure.  He or she needs to be prepared for long hours and hopefully will have the capacity to both work alone and interact well with the group of other founders.  It is also important that founders have the support of their families in the effort.

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