When one studies great entrepreneurs, there are individual traits that will stand out, however, there are few that I believe are common amongst most.
Having deep knowledge of the product or service you are selling may seem like an obvious pre-requisite, however, continuous learning to become a domain expert is what great entrepreneurs work towards. If one can spend an hour a day reading or learning about their industry or ancillary industries, the ROI at that time will substantial. Another way to gain insight is to meet and share notes with industry experts or even competitors, in case you share a good rapport with them. The goal should be to pioneer a product or an innovative process in your industry.
I am a firm believer that valuations, capital, profits are fluid, but goodwill is something you build steadily over time. The value systems of an organization flow from the top, it is imperative for an entrepreneur to have the right values so that he/she can build strong goodwill over time. I have learned through seeing examples, that as economies like ours get developed, the loopholes are getting plugged at a faster rate. It is a far more sustainable strategy to build a business with the right values than to look for short cuts or a quick trade.
You may not be betting the bank every day but scaling a business requires heart and guts; the ability to take calculated risks. One often reads that entrepreneurs should protect their downside, that is true, but that can only be done to a certain extent. An entrepreneur who is unable to place calculated bets will probably not survive the competitive market environment today. In my opinion, this is one skill that cannot be learned, it has to be a part of the entrepreneur’s DNA. In case you don’t have this ability in you and are generally a risk-averse individual, make sure you surround yourself with a cofounder or partner who complements you on this front.
To fuel your ideas and to take calculated risks it is important to have the ability to raise and efficiently deploy capital. We are fortunate to be in India, where large pools of capital are available for good businesses and promoters. An entrepreneur definitely needs to be a great operator of his/her business, but it is equally important to be an efficient capital allocator. Often, entrepreneurs who have raised institutional capital get guidance from Private Equity fund managers on how they should deploy capital, this is useful as they do have domain expertise, but at the end of the day, the entrepreneur has a 360-degree view of the business and should have the ability to take these calls independently.
An entrepreneur in any space, from facility management to interior design and build, has many stakeholders, employees, clients, shareholders; his/her ability to effectively communicate the vision is critical. Taking a step back, the ability to communicate effectively is only possible if the entrepreneur has clarity on the road ahead. This might sound like something every entrepreneur should have but I am sure, and I can speak for myself here too, there is always confusion in the mind of the entrepreneur. It is important to learn how to deal with multiple internal questions, thoughts, ideas, and to figure out a way to gain clarity on the direction of the business. What has worked for me is to periodically talk to an advisor or mentor about the business. This informal business update helps one prepare to give a clear roadmap, and answer questions from someone looking at the business from outside in.
All, Miscellaneous, Human Resource