The Key Competencies of Successful Entrepreneurs

The Key Competencies of Successful Entrepreneurs 

Thought Leadership

by Fernando Lanzer, Managing Partner at LCO Partners

What do successful entrepreneurs have in common? What do they do better or differently than those who fail? This is what a research project, sponsored by the United Nations in 18 countries, set out to determine back in 1988. The initiative was so successful that it led to the creation of the UN’s EMPRETEC programme, meant to promote the creation of sustainable, innovative, and internationally competitive small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in which the UAE participates today.  

Carried out by Management Systems International (MSI), this study consisted of interviews with thousands of successful entrepreneurs and resulted in a list of ten competencies, distributed across three categories: Planning Skills, Achievement Motivation, and Influence/Power.

MSI’s research went so far as to describe each of the ten competencies through three behaviours; however, for the sake of space, we won’t go into those. For now, let’s dive into successful entrepreneurs’ ten competencies which, good news, you can test and develop. 

Planning Skills Cluster

  • Information-Seeking

Many starting entrepreneurs overlook the fact that planning starts by gathering information that may be relevant to your project. Relevant information should answer questions such as:

- How big is your target market? 

- How available are the resources you need to make your product or provide your service? 

A successful entrepreneur will be an avid information-seeker and will not base their planning on “hunches” or loose estimates; they will seek hard data to support their plans.

  • Goal-Setting

Setting goals, preferably “SMART” ones, will improve your chances of success. Breaking down these goals into sub-goals, or intermediate milestones, will further help you assess how well you are executing your plans and will allow you to course-correct as needed.

  • Systematic Planning and Monitoring

Planning should not be something you only do when you’re setting up your business and then forget about. You should monitor, adjust, and correct your plans regularly – consider them as a reference point for all your activities. Successful entrepreneurs are always making, changing, and using plans as business management tools.

Achievement Motivation Cluster 

This group of competencies is linked to David McClelland’s Theory of Motives (Achievement, Affiliation and Power). 

  • Opportunity-Seeking and Initiative

Successful entrepreneurs are constantly looking for, and finding new business opportunities: they see problems as the chance to launch a new product, develop a new way of doing business, or find a new market niche. Most importantly, they ACT upon the opportunities that they identify – they have ideas and DO something about it. Many people have great ideas for a product or service; entrepreneurs are the people who put their ideas into action.

  • Risk-Taking

Successful entrepreneurs take risks, but they don’t gamble – in business, casinos, or sports played by others. The risks they take involve their own performance and are carefully assessed before decisions are made.

  • Efficiency and Quality Demand

Successful entrepreneurs demand quality in the products and services they are offering; and efficiency from their staff. They are often perceived as being “very demanding” by people around them.

  • Persistence

Successful entrepreneurs don’t give up easily. If, at first, they don’t succeed, they keep trying. Some even go bankrupt and then start a new business, persisting until they become successful.

  • Commitment to the Work Contract

Successful entrepreneurs take promises very seriously. If they have agreed to deliver something, they will strive to achieve that promise.

Power/influence Motivation 

This group relates to the ability to influence others. In this context, “Power” is not necessarily about using force; it is about convincing others to do what they want to be done. 

  • Persuasion and Networking

Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to contact and persuade many people to buy their product, approve the license they are asking for, or negotiate supplier contracts. They’re very good at establishing relationships and influencing others towards achieving their business objectives.

  • Independence and Self-Confidence

Successful entrepreneurs are typically very confident in their own capabilities and very independent when dealing with others. This means they usually don’t enjoy having an employer or supervisor and are not good employees of large companies; they prefer to be their own boss.

If you think you have these competencies, congratulations! You have the traits required to succeed as an entrepreneur. Use them to make a business plan, get funding, recruit qualified people, and make your business a successful reality.

If you think you need to improve here and there, focus on the competencies you want to develop and go for it! I won’t wish you good luck, because you won’t need it; as long as you develop these competencies, you are likely to succeed.

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