Almost every business start-up checklist that aspiring entrepreneurs
will read, refers to "must know" information about legal issues, money
management, sales, marketing and operations. In fact, success as an
entrepreneur not only relies on your knowledge and effective execution
of these fundamentals, but also requires a constant commitment to keep
growing and gaining knowledge in these areas.
Fortunately, there are many resources available for small
businesses in the form of professional services or public agencies
available to help us augment our own skills in these areas at
As we busy ourselves getting on top of these business-technical
skills to manage day-to-day operations, it doesn't take long for us to
realize that these skills, although essential, might not be enough to
make your business start-up succeed.
What could be missing? Maybe it is that other, less talked about,
business start-up check list - the one that speaks to the actual
success behaviors necessary to run and grow your new business.
Skills or traits such as judgment, confidence, agility, and
creativity are some of the critical intangibles that are hard to
measure, next to impossible to farm out but critical for start-up
For most of us it's relatively easy to look at the numbers and know
if cash flow is good or bad or to look at a marketing plan and say if
it worked or not. On the other hand, however, it might be hard for
many of us to own up to having limited knowledge or weakness
especially if we are fearful that admission might force us to shelve
our dreams of business ownership.
The fact is, we can significantly enhance our chances of new
business success if we take the time to inventory our skill set and
put strategies in place to enhance those skills we can and seek help
and support where we struggle.
For most of us, much of this self discovery will take place once
your start-up is in motion. In other words, we will learn on the job.
Our hope, of course, is that it will happen early enough to avoid
However, with a little bit of introspection and honest evaluation
of our preferences or behaviors, we can actually examine our own
tendencies and put corrective actions in place early.
The following simple assessment, albeit non-scientific, is one way
to take inventory of our abilities in some of the required
It is based on the well accepted principle which has been used
successfully in the job interview for years - that past behavior is
the best indicator of future behavior.
Create a spreadsheet with five columns and label them as follows:
Column 1 - Skill or Trait - List the
following 20 traits that are generally regarded as new business
start-up skills. Feel free to add others you know to be important.
vi. Self discipline
vii. Good judgment
ix. Hard Worker
xi. Multitask effectively
xii. Networking ability
xiv. Openness to new ideas
xv. Political Savvy
xviii. Interpersonal skills
xix. Risk tolerance
Column 2 - Rating: On a scale of 1-10,
rate yourself on each of these entrepreneurial traits - with "1"
meaning you have concerns about your strengths and "10" meaning you
have confidence your skills are strong in this area.
Column 3 - Example: Identify the best
example in your past that demonstrates your strength with regard to
the entrepreneurial trait or skill in question.
Column 4 - Strategy - Define a plan of
action to address your shortcomings in any entrepreneurial trait where
your self score is less than a 6 - especially if you consider it
important to your start-up business.
Column 5 - Sensitivity - To help focus
and prioritize your efforts, rank the entrepreneurial skills and
traits based on their relative significance to your business.
For example if you sell widgets via the internet, interpersonal
business skills, which are always important, might be less significant
than agility to keep up with internet marketing trends. On the other
hand if you run an in home day care, agility within very stringent
government regulations might be a little harder and so you might
choose to focus on your networking abilities to keep and gain new
Column 3 is quite possibly the most important. It forces us as
entrepreneurs to not just say how good we are, but to actually
identify specific examples to demonstrate how we have acted in the
If you have scored yourself with a high rating (6 or higher) and
cannot identify great examples in your past to support that ranking -
you might need to rethink your self rated scores.
Once you have completed the exercise yourself, ask someone whose
opinion you value or potential business partners to complete a similar
chart with their observations about you and each other.
Comparing the results should give you a good idea of skills you
have mastered and those which are potential weak areas you might need
to address to improve you or your team's chance of success.
Brainstorm potential solutions and be open to the fact that it
might come in many forms. One entrepreneur might choose to join
business clusters to share ideas another could decide to create a
board of advisors. No one path will fit everyone or every business
Facing our fears head on will significantly improve our chances of
business start-up success. The last thing we want as our businesses
begin to grow is to find out that our skills bank is close to running
on empty and doing this personal inventory is long overdue and. Begin
taking stock of your entrepreneurial skills today!
Marcia Robinson is the COO for Reel Logix, Inc. a
Beverly Hills, California company that makes easy-to-use, affordable
calendar software. The company's two flagship products are The
Reel Production Calendar, a
calendar used in film production, and The Calendar Planner, now
used for scheduling, event planning and project management in multiple