The top 5 skills to develop as a solo entrepreneur

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All entrepreneurs will need to learn new skills – but this is exacerbated when you are running a one-person team. While normally you will have others that you can rely on to be strong in areas that you don’t have the experience with, when you are by yourself there is no one to pick up the slack. This article explores the top 5 skills that are critical to developing to succeed as a solo entrepreneur

Skill 1: An ability to decisively make decisions

Possibly the most important skill to master as a solo entrepreneur is making decisions and committing to a course of action. Getting a firm launched requires making thousands of decisions – from the relatively import day-to-day decisions, through fundamental decisions about how the firm will compete.

It is important that you are not someone who continually puts off the tough decisions – if you are launching a company with other individuals, likely you will have someone on the team who says “we really need to make a decision on this”. If you are all by yourself, you need to be that person – forcing yourself to make decisions, even if it seems easier to put off the decisions.

Skill 2: A capacity to keep track of multiple activities

Running a business by yourself requires keeping track of a lot of activities. While you may be able to rely on other members of a team to keep track of the various different activities that the firm performs, when you are a solo entrepreneur, you are responsible for keeping track of everything. Success requires you to develop the routines to manage the dozens of different activities being performed.

Skill 3: An ability to evaluate, reflect, and adjust the firm’s actions

Re-evaluating the company’s strategy is important to all firms – it is unlikely that a company will be able to anticipate everything in advance, and changes in the environment will inevitably mean that certain dimensions need to be re-evaluated with time. However, the need for systematic elation and reflection on the firm’s strategy is higher as a solopreneur – you don’t have others to rely upon to flag up issues and force reflections.

When pursuing a venture independently, it is much easier to fall into the trap of continuing with a particular direction, no matter what. Warning signs that you may get from other founders are now gone. Rather than being forced into reflection because of some disagreement between the others, you need to take the initiative yourself to evaluate your company. Thus, being willing to reconsider your approach and make adaptations as necessary is more important than ever for solopreneurs.

Skill 4: A commitment to learning new areas

As a solo entrepreneur, it is important to be willing to learning new skills. It is highly unlikely that you will start off your entrepreneurial journey knowing all of the skills that you will ultimately require. Starting a business inherently requires diving into new areas, and this is particularly true if you are starting by yourself. While if you are beginning a company with co-founders you will likely be able to rely on their experiences in certain areas, if you are by yourself, there are simply more areas that you’ll need to build some experiences in.  

Skill 5: A willingness to ask for help and learn from others

A final area, especially important when starting out by yourself, is building up a network of contacts with other entrepreneurs that you can discuss key decisions with. Others have gone through exactly the same process as you, made similar decisions, and likely learned a lot in the process.

One of the key benefits of having a founding team is that you can bounce thoughts between the team. Sometimes getting a second opinion can highlight areas that you need to focus on, or reveal alternative approaches. Since as a solo entrepreneur you don’t have others directly within the firm that you can discuss options, building a network of other entrepreneurs that you are able to discuss your issues with becomes particularly important.

One approach for developing a network of other entrepreneurial contacts is to begin working in a co-working space. Co-working spaces are commonly used by founders – and particularly individuals starting out by themselves – not only are you likely to benefit from their experiences, but over time you will likely be able to help them.