If you’re an entrepreneur or solopreneur, you likely know how important it is to stay current on your skills. Rapid changes in the business world, especially when it comes to technology, dictates that you always be in learning mode. Staying on top of what’s trending in your industry and having a desire to grow and improve will make you a successful entrepreneur and business owner.
That being said, how you improve isn’t limited to your technical knowledge. Contrary to what many job seekers and new entrepreneurs believe, your personality traits can be just as important as your technical skills. In fact, how you handle your responsibilities may end up being more valuable to a client or employer than what you know. For example, our business consulting services would be useless to our clients if we lack basic communication skills, regardless of how much knowledge we possess. Focusing on improving relevant soft skills will help you stand out at networking events, deliver better business proposals, and encourage others to recruit you for their team.
But What Exactly are Soft Skills?
Put simply, soft skills are people skills. They are a form of emotional intelligence that impacts how well you communicate and socialize with those around you. These skills are personal characteristics and develop over time, making them difficult to teach.
Why Do Soft Skills Matter?
For small business owner and employers, managing employees that lack adequate soft skills can be difficult and ultimately makes life harder for everyone involved. Because most employers have a hard time assessing soft skills during the interview process, you may be hired for a job only to later find out that the position isn’t a good fit for your personality.
As an entrepreneur, good soft skills are necessary to winning clients and projects. If you are perceived as someone who is difficult to interact with or standoffish, it is unlikely that prospects will want to utilize your service or that a business owner would feel comfortable giving you their business. Aside from this, good soft skills often come with a certain amount of confidence. Without that confidence, you may find it difficult to win clients in the first place.
Building soft skills takes both time and effort, so mastering them all at once usually isn’t practical. Yet, if your goal is to become an entrepreneur or start a new business, there are some soft skills that will matter more than others.
In our humble opinion, being organized is not only a soft skill, but a necessity for anyone looking to run a business. However, organization does not come easy for many individuals. In our business coaching sessions, we often spend a great deal of time working with our clients to build good organization skills with time management exercises, process development, and by reinforcing good habits.
You may have decided to start a business because you wanted freedom from structure, or because you didn’t want to be beholden to a schedule. Depending on your business model, this may be possible in the long run. However, for most businesses, you will still need to develop some type of structure or schedule that you work within. Your business needs clients and your clients likely have a schedule. If you are not available during that schedule, you won’t have clients. Don’t forget that you will also need to put work into obtaining those clients and that means managing your time so that you can meet the goals of your business. In our experience, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who did not provide themselves with some structure ultimately failed.
In line with this, things like storing documents, coordinating employee schedules, and managing business finances will all involve organization skills. These are all normal parts of any business and while they require work on your end, they shouldn’t be overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of managing things like your time and money, it may be time to work on developing your organizational skills.
Deciding to become an entrepreneur or small business owner means that you’ve made a commitment to become a salesperson. All good salespeople know that selling is not about how much you talk, but how good you are at listening. Being a good listener is arguably the second most important soft skill, primarily because it affects every role you could possibly have. Business owners must listen to the demands of their customers, the needs of their employees, the regulations of their government, and much more. Employees must listen to their employers, the customers they deal with each day, and anyone else they must answer to. Entrepreneurs need to listen to the market as a whole.
The reason listening is a particularly important soft skill for business owners and entrepreneurs is because it involves hearing what is unsaid in addition to what is verbalized. Someone’s tone, their body language, and even just a feeling that they give off. You need to listen carefully to your clients and be able to read them so you know what to offer and when to offer it. If you work with a team or employees, you will need to pick up on cues that may indicate problems that can disrupt workflows, like disagreements or low morale. As someone in a leadership or independent role, you cannot always take what is said at face value.
Learning how to actively listen is a great way to improve this highly valued soft skills. Individual business coaching can you provide you with a way to practice active listening in a low stakes situation. However you choose to work on this skill, always make sure you get feedback from an objective source. Sometimes, how good we think we are at listening differs from how others view our listening ability.
This one may seem like an obvious need for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it is easily the soft skill we see small business owners struggle with the most. Entrepreneurs tend to start a business because of how knowledgeable they are about an industry or because of how skilled they are at a particular job. As mentioned before, knowledge and technical skills are rarely good indicators of your ability to lead.
Leadership is by far the hardest soft skill to teach. This is primarily because leadership has the most to do with our personalities. Naturally introverted individuals and those who have a tough time making decisions struggle far more in leadership roles than extroverts and those who are quick to act. This is not to say that introverts cannot have a successful business; rather, they need to be more specific about the type of business they wish to pursue.
People who seek out our business consulting services rarely have a firm grasp on what it means to be a leader and the truth is that leadership can look a bit different depending on what type of business you are building. In general, leadership is not simply a matter of telling others what to do or how to do it. A good leader guides, motivates, and supports their team while enabling them to get their jobs done. For most people, this means finding the balance between hands-off and avoiding micromanagement.
Like listening, problem-solving is a soft skill that also happens to be a life skill. Deciding to run your own business just means that problem solving will now take up just as much of your professional life as it does your personal one.
When you’re new to working for yourself, problem-solving is a skill that you either pick up quickly or forces you to realize you want to keep working for someone else. That’s because everything that used to be your employer’s problem now becomes your problem. Things like making sure your business is compliant with local regulations, figuring out insurance, determining how to get new clients, or how to bill for your time… That’s all on you now.
To be honest, if problem-solving is…well, a problem, more than just your entrepreneurial career may be at stake. This soft skill will take you far in any role that you are in, so if you’re feeling stuck in your current position, ask yourself if you’re viewed as a problem solver by others. If not, you’ve likely figured out why your career has hit a stop sign.
Improve Soft Skills with our Business Consulting Services
Those who can’t do… improve! We are fortunate enough to live in a time where information is readily available if you have a true desire to learn. No matter how weak your soft skills are now, growth and improvement is possible.
Learn more about your how to improve your soft skills, or grow your business, with a complimentary consulting session.