Critical soft skills every business owner needs
By Peter Theuri | March 18th 2020
Soft skills are personality traits and behaviours that are unarguably paramount to business growth. The best of entrepreneurs have to have such skills if they are to maintain and grow their business empires. Here are some of the soft skills and some extremely successful entrepreneurs who used them to expand their businesses:
1. Ability to offer a face of composure and calm in crisis
An entrepreneur has to be at the front and show leadership and guidance to his employees in the case of trouble, or in the case of turbulent environment that calls for change of business tact. The entrepreneur has to be steadfast and offer a face of composure and calm in public to create confidence among the workforce.
In 2018, when Facebook was faced with allegations of influencing the outcome of the Russia’s elections by allowing Cambridge Analytica access to people’s personal data, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, faced the Senate, absorbed all the blame for his company’s misdeeds and was able to weather the storm.
It was a time when Facebook was facing a collapse, as false information had been passed through the social media site and there was proof that that vice had been responsible for voting patterns.
Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operations Officer, stood tall and showed a resolve to settle matters and see Facebook stand again.
2. Work ethic
Every entrepreneur has to be very dedicated and determined to achieve a goal. They have to put in an extra shift. Every venture needs an extra input to be ahead of competition. Most people start at a level where a lot of sacrifice is needed to achieve a goal, and creating the momentum that projects one to the target always demands for a lot of work.
During his days founding Microsoft, Bill Gates would sit up all night working, sometimes working multiple nights in a row, to finish projects or meet deadlines.
“We were hardcore about hey, if you are working on a piece of code, then just get it done, don’t worry about sleep,” Gates confessed in a Netflix documentary.
Gates would later roam the streets hawking the new software as he competed with giant companies that would easily put in resources which could make his hassle look like an unworthy effort.
This is the only way to stand out in a saturated market. The need to put an extra touch on a product to make it look different or operate in a unique way is one of the main reasons some companies constantly remain ahead of competition. An entrepreneur should see beyond the obvious and identify what extra thing to add onto a product to make it more appealing and more efficient.
They may come up with a new product altogether to fill a market gap.
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, The Boring Company and SpaceX, says he encourages his employees to “use the first principles method, in which you boil information down to its most basic idea and “reason up” from there”.
This is a bottom-up approach to work, where the reconstruction of basic ideas helps breed new ideas.
The method, according to the billionaire techpreneur, “allows you to innovate in leaps and bounds, rather than making small improvements on pre-existing ideas”.
He has gone ahead to produce some insane technological gadgets, such as the space exploration crafts churned by SpaceX. And, he is a workaholic.
4. Emotional intelligence
A business leader, or an entrepreneur, should be alive to the emotional needs of the employees, and should be willing to give them attention and serve their most basic of needs. This involves caring for matters such as family considerations that may affect a worker’s performance. How one handles a situation when, for example, an employee loses a close relative is a measure of their emotional intelligence, or empathy.
When Bob Collymore was the CEO at Safaricom, he introduced a four-month maternity leave and allowed mothers to work half-day for six months post maternity leave. The CEO also introduced a 7am to 5.30pm daycare with qualified professional caregivers. There were fully equipped lactating rooms and maternity leave after baby adoption as well. As such, he had the support of women, who were able to work without unnecessary fears.
The creation of such a conducive environment generally made the output of the affected parties more profound, and Safaricom’s trajectory was, thus, constantly upwards during his tenure.
For a business to have a foothold in the competitive markets, the entrepreneur should be able to fight on in spite of many challenges that they may encounter. That resilience oftentimes is the difference between would-be behemoths and the real industry giants.
Amancio Ortega, Spanish billionaire, CEO and founder of Inditex Fashion Group, came from a very humble background and went on to establish one of the biggest fashion lines in the world.
And he knows the importance of keeping at it even with odds stacked against one.
“Complacency is the worst. I never allow myself to be content with what I have done, and I have always tried to instill this in everyone around me”, he once said, citing that his company’s growth has been the result of dedicated work and resilient action.
At 83, the fashion guru is still working hard, intent on making his brand the world’s biggest.
A good entrepreneur always realises that they are not able to carry out all operations on their own and therefor there is need to hire. There is always emergence of roles that they cannot perform on their own. Besides, no one has the expertise and superhuman ability to be omnipresent and omniscient.
As such, they are always ready and willing to recruit people to undertake the duties that they cannot handle.
When Facebook co-founder Zuckerberg met Sandberg in 2007, he knew that her skills in management were needed in managing Facebook’s resources, making the site profitable and putting in the processes and structures that were needed to maintain its success.
Shortly after the meeting, in 2008, Facebook announced that Sandberg had been hired as the Chief Operations Officer of the company.
On and on, big companies have to make recruitments to ensure that all the roles are well catered for and there are no gaps that would lead to business collapse or slowdowns.
This, as flexibility, is the ability to adapt to the changes in the working environment to maximise on available opportunities. A good entrepreneur should be open to ideas and should be a good student of market trends to know what to tune the business into.
Markets will keep on changing with time and customer demands shifting. Businesses need to actively adapt, and the best of entrepreneurs are eagle-eyed. They do not miss an opportunity to adapt. In any case, those that fail to adapt become obsolete as the scourge of time devours them.
When Netflix was founded, they used to mail DVDs to customers. Almost 20 years ago, Reed Hastings, the founder, was looking for ways to stream movies over the internet directly to screens at home.
He experimented for years as the markets became more digital until finally, people can now stream movies from Netflix that are actually written and produced by Netflix, alongside others made elsewhere.
Netflix adapted to the market needs, and now, it is a global giant.
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