What comes to mind when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?

Maybe you picture a talented college dropout, or a seasoned business professional with a knack for predicting the next big thing. Whatever the persona, replace it with yourself.

There’s no specific demographic or personality profile of a successful entrepreneur. No matter your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or upbringing, you can be an entrepreneur if you have dedication, drive, and vital business skills.

Unlike personality traits and demographic details, entrepreneurial skills can be learned and practiced. If entrepreneurship is a path you’d like to pursue, use this list to take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, and determine which skills you need to develop before launching your venture.

6 Skills All Entrepreneurs Need

1. Basic Finance Skills

Finance skills, such as budgeting and financial statement analysis, are necessary for running a business.

Creating a reasonable budget and sticking to it can be the difference between the success and failure of your venture. By learning this essential finance skill, you can avoid overspending and appropriately allocate your company’s resources.

It’s also imperative to know how to read and prepare financial statements, including a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. Aside from being required for reporting and tax purposes, these documents help you track performance, make future projections, and manage expenses. They can also be useful to investors and banks who are considering funding your startup because they show your business’s financial progress.

Related: The Importance of Financial Literacy in Business

2. Networking

Your network is one of your greatest assets. Networking can enable you to not only meet like-minded professionals but build your future team and keep a finger on the pulse of your industry.

Your professional network can be comprised of:

  • Former and current co-workers
  • Alumni from your educational institutions
  • Former professors and teachers
  • Industry leaders and speakers
  • Former and current clients
  • Friends and family members
  • Business professionals in your geographic area
  • Others in your industry with similar interests, responsibilities, and goals

Identify and reach out to people in your network who can guide you in your entrepreneurial journey and inform your decision-making. Ask them about their business, how long they’ve been in their industry, and lessons they’ve learned from successes and failures. Perhaps they’ve started several companies and can offer valuable advice about raising funds, developing products, and building a client base. They may even be able to connect you to professionals in their networks whose work aligns with yours.

In addition to leveraging your network, expand it. One way is by signing up for networking events in your area or industry. Virtual events have recently been on the rise due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and are often more accessible because no travel is required.

LinkedIn is another valuable way to connect with others. Using the platform’s feed and recommendation algorithm, you can find professionals with whom you have shared connections and similar interests and job titles. The expectation on LinkedIn is that people can and will reach out to one another—don’t be afraid to send a note introducing yourself to a potential new contact.

Related: How Leaders Develop and Use Their Network

3. Speaking Confidently

The importance of speaking confidently as an aspiring entrepreneur can’t be overstated. Whether you’re pitching to investors, communicating with clients, or making conversation at an event, the way you talk about your business and its potential can influence how others see it, too.

Showing a lack of confidence can deter investors from funding your venture, and lead customers to question their decision to buy from you.

Remember: You are your business’s biggest advocate. If your company is primed for the market, present it as such. Back up your points with research and data to show you’ve put in the work to validate your idea. People may doubt you along the way, but you should never be one of them. Confidence can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and investors.

4. Accepting and Acting on Feedback

To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be eager to receive feedback and act on it. This skill requires you to stay humble and accept that your idea of the perfect version of your product may not resonate with potential customers.

One way to gather feedback is by conducting customer validation interviews with people from your target market segment. These interviews with potential customers can validate your business idea and provide constructive criticism regarding your product, proposed business model, or assumptions you’ve made about users.

You may also receive feedback from investors, more experienced entrepreneurs, and friends and family. Some of it may be unsolicited. You’re not required to implement all of their advice, but it’s beneficial to consider it. Would their suggestion increase the quality, value, or user experience of your product? If the answer is yes, take steps to make those improvements.

Related: 5 Key Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

5. Recognizing Patterns

Pattern recognition—in data, market trends, and user behavior—is an often overlooked skill for entrepreneurs. Identifying patterns in cash flow statements, for example, can enable you to make predictions about future cash flows. When observing market sales data, you can identify seasonality or other time-related trends that inform your long-term goals.

When observing how users interact with your product, pay attention to how they react to specific elements and what questions arise during use. Patterns will begin emerging. If your product is an app, perhaps you identify a pattern among teenage male users who download it and immediately open the chat function. You can use these kinds of trends in user behavior to learn more about your customers’ motivations and improve your product to better fit their needs.

Related: 7 Questions to Ask for an Insightful User Interview

6. Maintaining a Growth Mindset

As an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s critical to have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset views intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement, as opposed to a fixed mindset, which views those same traits as inherently stable and unchangeable over time.

One professional who demonstrates the growth mindset is Maggie Robb, vice president of operations at Spire Health. Robb knew she had a lot to learn when making the transition from a large corporation to a Silicon Valley startup, and decided to take the online course Entrepreneurship Essentials to strengthen her entrepreneurial skills.

“While I have a deep business background, I wasn’t well versed in several important aspects of entrepreneurship, like investment structure, fundraising, and valuation,” Robb says.

In addition to bolstering her knowledge of those topics, Robb says the course helped her recognize the value of testing and iteration in the entrepreneurial process.

“While not something I was completely unfamiliar with, I realized the importance of it within a startup,” Robb says. “It made me look at our resource allocation in a different way, compared to traditional companies with established products.”

Robb’s story imparts a vital lesson: Your skills aren’t fixed—they’re the result of your effort, practice, and persistence. By maintaining a growth mindset, you can avoid taking your skills for granted and capitalize on opportunities to grow and improve throughout your career.

Entrepreneurship Essentials - Succeed in the startup world. Learn more.

Developing Your Entrepreneurial Skills

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires dedication, drive, and years of hard work. One thing it doesn’t require is that you fit a specific demographic.

With financial literacy, networking skills, confidence, the ability to accept feedback and recognize patterns, and a growth mindset, anyone can pursue entrepreneurship.

As long as you’re willing to put in the time to strengthen your entrepreneurial skills, you can position yourself to start your own company successfully.

Are you interested in bolstering your entrepreneurship skills? Explore our four-week online course Entrepreneurship Essentials, and learn to speak the language of the startup world.

Catherine Cote

About the Author

Catherine Cote is a marketing coordinator at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at an early-stage SaaS startup where she found her passion for writing content, and at a digital consulting agency, where she specialized in SEO. Catherine holds a B.A. from Holy Cross, where she studied psychology, education, and Mandarin Chinese. When not at work, you can find her hiking, performing or watching theatre, or hunting for the best burger in Boston.