Business Skills and Secrets for Young Entrepreneurs .....

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Entrepreneurial Review Classic

His net worth is over $18.3 billion, he is the wealthiest man in Africa and his investment cut across different industries in the continent of Africa and other parts of the world. 

Dangote is well known to have started small and early, borrowed N500,000 from a relative to invest in his distributive trade. Regardless of how you define an "entrepreneur," one thing is certain: becoming a successful entrepreneur isn't easy.

So, how does one person successfully take advantage of an opportunity, while another, equally knowledgeable person does not? Do entrepreneurs have a different genetic makeup? Or do they operate from a different vantage point, that somehow directs their decisions for them?

Through research and practical experience, it is clear that to spot opportunities and successfully exploit them requires a well-focused life, sufficiently endowed financial and material resources as well as ability to organize and execute your decisions with some precision.  It also requires the ability to access relevant information real fast as well as sector-specific advice. To be a successful entrepreneur requires some certain traits.

We've gathered these traits into four categories:

1. Personal characteristics.
2. Interpersonal skills.
3. Critical and creative thinking skills.
4. Practical skills.

We'll now examine each category in more detail, and look at some of the questions you will need to ask yourself if you want to become a successful entrepreneur.

Personal Characteristics
First, examine your personal characteristics, values, and beliefs. Do you have the mindset that's typical of successful entrepreneurs?

Optimism: Are you an optimistic thinker? Optimism is truly an asset, and it will help get you through the tough times that many entrepreneurs experience as they find a business model that works for them.

Vision: Can you easily see where things can be improved? Can you quickly grasp the "big picture," and explain this to others? And can you create a compelling vision of the future, and then inspire other people to engage with that vision?

Initiative: Do you have initiative and instinctively start problem-solving or business improvement projects?

The desire for Control: Do you enjoy being in charge and making decisions? Are you motivated to lead others?

Drive and Persistence: Are you self-motivated and energetic? And are you prepared to work hard, for a very long time, to realize your goals?

Risk Tolerance: Are you able to take risks, and make decisions when facts are uncertain?

Resilience: Are you resilient, so that you can pick yourself up when things don't go as planned? And do you learn and grow from your mistakes and failures? 

Interpersonal Skills
As a successful entrepreneur, you'll have to work closely with people – this is where it is critical to be able to build great relationships with your team, customers, suppliers, shareholders, investors, and more.  Some people are more gifted in this area than others, but, fortunately, you can learn and improve these skills. The types of interpersonal skills you'll need include:

Leadership and Motivation: Can you lead and motivate others and deliver your vision? And are you able to delegate work to others? As a successful entrepreneur, you'll have to depend on others to get beyond a very early stage in your business – there's just too much to do all on your own!

Communication Skills: 
Are you competent with all types of communication? You need to be able to communicate well to sell your vision of the future to investors, potential clients, team members, and more.

Listening: Do you hear what others are telling you? Your ability to listen can make or break you as an entrepreneur. Make sure that you're skilled at active listening.

Personal Relations: Are you emotionally intelligent? The higher your EI, the easier it will be for you to work with others. The good news is that you can improve your emotional intelligence!

Negotiation: Are you a good negotiator? Not only do you need to negotiate keen prices, but you also need to be able to resolve differences between people in a positive, mutually beneficial way.

Ethics: Do you deal with people based on respect, integrity, fairness, and truthfulness? Can you lead ethically?  You'll find it hard to build a happy, committed team if you deal with people – staff, customers or suppliers – in a shabby way.

Critical and Creative Thinking Skills
As an entrepreneur, you also need to come up with fresh ideas and make good decisions about opportunities and potential projects.  Many people think that you're either born creative or you're not. However, creativity is a skill that you can develop if you invest the time and effort.

Creative Thinking: Are you able to see situations from a variety of perspectives and come up with original ideas? 

Problem Solving: How good are you at coming up with sound solutions to the problems you're facing? Tools such as Cause & Effect Analysis are just some of the problem-solving tools that you'll need to be familiar with.

Recognizing Opportunities: Do you recognize opportunities when they present themselves? Can you spot a trend? And are you able to create a plan to take advantage of the opportunities you identify?

Practical Skills
You also need the practical skills and knowledge needed to produce goods or services effectively and run a company.

Goal Setting: Do you regularly set goals, create a plan to achieve them, and then carry out that plan?

Planning and Organizing: Do you have the talents, skills, and abilities necessary to achieve your goals? Can you coordinate people to achieve these efficiently and effectively?  And do you know how to develop a coherent, well thought-through business plan, including developing and learning from appropriate financial forecasts?

Decision Making: How good are you at making decisions?  Do you make them based on relevant information and by weighing the potential consequences? And are you confident in the decisions that you make?  You need knowledge in several areas when starting or running a business. For instance:

Business knowledge: Do you have a good general knowledge of the main functional areas of a business (sales, marketing, finance, and operations), and are you able to operate or manage others in these areas with a reasonable degree of competence?

Entrepreneurial knowledge: Do you understand how entrepreneurs raise capital? And do you understand the sheer amount of experimentation and hard work that may be needed to find a business model that works for you?

Opportunity-specific knowledge: Do you understand the market you're attempting to enter, and do you know what you need to do to bring your product or service to market?

Venture-specific knowledge: Do you know what you need to do to make this type of business successful? And do you understand the specifics of the business that you want to start? (This is where it's often useful to work for a short time in a similar business.)

Now, let's look at how Dangote apply these skills enumerated above to drive one of the most diversified enterprises in Africa.  He is arguably one of Nigeria’s most priced export to the world. He has mentored many and at the same time, young Nigerian entrepreneurs want to be like him. But there is a caveat, Dangote did not get to where he is today by mere bravado. 

He started in 1978 and currently operates in sub-Saharan Africa. It took a lot of sacrifices and hard work to maintain and grow an enterprise to an empire.

Stay focused and believe  -  Personal Characteristic
There are uncountable things that distract young entrepreneurs. If you are not disciplined and focused you will definitely derail or go off tangent. In a country like Nigeria where the business environment is a bit unfriendly, being focused is not negotiable. Electricity will be interrupted, and government bureaucracy will frustrate you, don’t lose hope. Keep believing. Things will work out like it worked out for Dangote!

Take Baby steps -  Goal Getting Skills
Dangote Group of Companies wasn’t built in a day. It was a gradual and painstaking process that require years of sacrifice and denial. So, to be a Dangote, you must take baby steps no matter how minute it may be. Spend wisely, and celebrate success moderately. And before you know it, your business name will be on the pages of newspapers.

Know when expansion - Decision-making skill
Depending on how dogged you are and manage your finances, you should know when your business has outgrown its baby steps. When your business is ready, make the expansion gradual. The mantra 'Think global' satisfy the local market should be your strategy.

Don’t be afraid to take a risk or fail - Creative Skills
The fear of failure has prevented some entrepreneurs from taking risks. Risk is very good as far as it is not foolhardy. Shelve your fear as a budding businessman. It is good to be cautious but don’t be overly cautious that you refuse to important business decisions because you are afraid of its outcome. For Dangote, his textile business crashed in the 1990s. He had no choice than to let go 6400 workers and shut down his business.

Don’t focus on a single market or product -  Strategic management skills. Dangote was in trading and after expanding the trading business, he didn’t stop there. He diversified into other businesses like banking, cement, and oil and gas. In fact, he Dangote recently acquired Twister BV, a gas processing plant in the Netherlands.

You can also learn from others who have worked on projects similar to the ones that you're contemplating or find a mentor Add to My Personal Learning Plan – someone else who's been there before and is willing to coach you.  Don,t be afraid to start small - For, if you have the boldness to start, then you will have a good story to tell, with determination.


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