Wednesday, November 30, 2022

8 People And Process Skills Required In Any Business

Business-colleaguesAs an investor in startups, I most often see entrepreneurs who are technologists, or at least have a real passion for a specific product. They rarely highlight their marketing and relationship skills, even though, in my experience, these are more often the key to success in business than product skills. I’m a believer in the old saying that investors look for great people, more than great ideas.

During my time in Silicon Valley, I was struck by the fact that most successful entrepreneurs seemed to personally know and regularly hear from all the “movers and shakers” who had the investment capital and leadership they needed. In addition to listening, they spent much of their time communicating their vision and marketing themselves to everyone they encountered.

For example, even though Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook as an innovative product, most experts believe it was successful due to his relationship with Peter Thiel and other top VCs that he convinced to invest early. While these investors, and early customers, will always argue that they found you, I’m convinced that there is no substitute for aggressive networking on your part.

Implicit in effective marketing of yourself and your solution are a set of skills that every professional needs and can develop over time in business, whether their focus is on career advancement, or starting your own company. Here is my list of key drivers that I find critical to thriving in big businesses, as well as startups:

  1. Networking to build and maintain key relationships. Relationships are key to finding opportunities, building trust, and continuous learning. All businesses these days are too complex to be one-person shows, so you need all the complementary held you can find to keep up with customers and competition, fill your expertise gaps, and scale the market.
  2. Marketing your personal brand and your vision. Selling yourself requires an ongoing confidence, without bragging, to relate your vision of the future, in conjunction with accomplishments of the past, in a credible story that illustrates your leadership and results to date. The best marketing requires storytelling skills, with emotions and values.

  3. Ability to relate aspirations to customer needs. You need to show insights to real customers and their needs, that get beyond your passions and projections. Typically this means describing interactions with customer groups, real customer feedback, and showing an understanding of price sensitivity, alternatives, and competitive offerings.

  4. Maintaining an insatiable curiosity about change. Great business leaders, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are constantly asking questions and reading books about new technologies, new cultures, and new business opportunities. They mentor each other, and seek out experts in domains outside their current expertise and experience.

  5. Assembling a winning team and delivering results. Here your challenge is to show that you can lead and motivate others to make things happen. You can’t build a business or deliver results alone. Many entrepreneurs try to do the whole job alone, or surround themselves with “yes” people, or count on family and friends to back them.

  6. Negotiating outside partnerships and vendors. Just like you can’t start a business alone, you can’t scale the business without external partners with expertise and access to specific customer sets, channels, manufacturing, and support. You need to highlight value for all parties to make every deal a win-win for all, rather than win-lose.

  7. Using metrics to measure results and commitments. Managing people and results require the ability to track progress and reward the right people. Some people try to do this based on gut feel and emotions, but full accountability and engagement means data and real-time feedback for credibility. Keep the focus on efficiency and growth.

  8. Managing time and priorities for maximum impact. The best entrepreneurs and business professionals always find time for strategic thinking and new ideas, no matter how many times they have to say “no” to immediate demands, or work extra hours. They prioritize tasks, define milestones, and measure results versus activities completed.

Business success is all about working with people, inside the company, outside with investors and partners, and always with customers. These skills, including effective communication, combined with discipline and a positive attitude, are what it takes to set your business apart from competitors, an make every interaction a memorable experience for you and your customers.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 11/16/2022 ***



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