The search for that 'unique skill'

Sunday November 02, 2008,

3 min Read

What skills does a successful entrepreneur need? You can get the answer to that question by reading books on entrepreneurship or searching articles on Google (you can begin by reading some relevant articles on!). A little bit of research will throw up a fairly long list. The characteristics or skills needed include proactiveness, having foresight, people management skills, appetite for risk, willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them, passion, analytical skills, self confidence, fearlessness, creativity etc. But, then lot of these skills are needed by bankers, consultants, doctors etc. So, now I want to know what differentiates an entrepreneur? Is there a skill(s) or characteristic that is unique to entrepreneurs? What are those ‘unique’ attributes or skills which I need to be an entrepreneur, which a consultant or a doctor or someone else may not need (or may not have)?

I guess most professionals need some skills which are in the ‘must have‘category – people skills (or soft skills), analytical abilities (though in varying degree), self confidence and creativity (for creative valuations, creative solutions, creative marketing!) are some of them. So, none of these are ‘differentiators’ for an entrepreneur. How about ‘passion’ as a differentiating skill? Well, Investment bankers are passionate about money – what else can motivate them to work 90-100 hour weeks!! I am really tempted to give the honor of differentiating skill to “risk taking”. Well, agreed that risk taking is a big element of entrepreneurship. However, don’t successful traders in investment banks (there used to be many of these investment banks not so long ago!) need to have risk taking ability. Yet, how many traders do you find going into setting up something of their own? Ability to take on risk is a very important skill, but not the “differentiating” skill. How about being fearless? I think those in armed forces are most fearless. Maybe, that’s a differentiating skill for those going in combat.


Let us approach this another way - what makes us not think about starting our own business? There could be many reasons for this. It could be because we think we do not have a good idea? Why do we think like that- we lack the confidence that the idea will work. What makes us think that? That could be because we don’t have concrete facts or indisputable numbers to prove it. We fear failure because of the ambiguity of the situation. Some people do not think of entrepreneurship because of fear of losing money (either own or borrowed) if the venture doesn’t succeed. They have this fear because there is no certainty of success. Some people do not want to venture into something that they have not done before- they are loathe to move out of their comfort zone. They fear the unknown. What is the central theme running across these behaviors? I think it is discomfort with ambiguity and therefore the inability to deal with uncertainty. Maybe this is what makes the entrepreneur unique? The entrepreneur is willing to venture into the realm of uncertainty and meet the challenges posed by it. He or she is comfortable dealing with ambiguity and venturing outside the comfort zone. So, do you have these traits? Introspect- maybe you will discover (and can nurture) your hidden entrepreneurial talent! Your thoughts are welcome.

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