What part of a car makes it go? There's not really one single answer. The engine, brakes and tires must be in good working order, but even a fully functional car is useless without a driver — a person with the necessary skills and experience to operate it. The car is a resource, but resources are useless until they’re employed in the right way by people that know how to use them.
Your business is a lot like that car: it’s an assembly of resources with the potential to go many places. But it’s you — the entrepreneur — that takes those resources and drives them to a destination. Without your skills, all the resources in the world are useless. But what are those skills? Over the next several days we’ll be examining the most critical entrepreneurial skills and how they can be applied to small businesses.
Skills are not step-by-step instructions. How-to lists can be useful for simple tasks, but entrepreneurs need to know how to react in a wide range of situations over the life of a business. It takes knowledge and practice to become a successful business owner, and mistakes are part of the price we all pay for that education. But if you get enough experience, building a business with a strong brand will become almost second nature, just like driving.
The Skills Needed By “Blank Page” Entrepreneurs
Hundreds of thousands of franchises exist in the United States. These business owners serve people in their communities by offering an array of products and services, just like every other business. But franchises are a fundamentally different type of business because they utilize an existing brand.
When a franchise owner offers products that are already on the market, he doesn’t need to see through the eyes of potential customers; he already has plenty of data about what sells and what doesn’t. If the corporate headquarters chooses your products and sets your prices, you don’t need to test the waters, constantly reviewing and revising your offering. The franchisor will be closely examining the marketplace and will make predictions about how to alter and improve the brand over time. And the franchisee won’t have to spend much time deciding what kind of business will make her happy, what customers to serve and how to connect the two. These kinds of decisions have already been made, so its not necessary for each franchise owner to do this kind of work.
Many entrepreneurs start with a blank sheet of paper. They have to decide what products and services to offer and how to describe those offerings. They have to choose one or more audiences. They have to make an honest evaluation of what they do well and what they need help with. “Blank page” entrepreneurs must develop critical skill sets in order to succeed: empathy, tenacity, forecasting and honesty. They must have the courage and the determination to execute a vision. For entrepreneurs building a business from the ground up, these skills are an absolute necessity — they are the key to long-term success.