For the most part, it seems people believe entrepreneurship can be taught, or absolutely rejected the idea.
Oddly enough, I land somewhere in the middle.
Despite running a summer program for high school students that focuses on
entrepreneurship , the Young Entrepreneur Challenge, I believe it is very difficult to persuade someone to take up entrepreneurship. This is why we focus on developing hard skills.
In our design, we wanted to make sure students that pass through the YEC are equipped to launch a business should they feel the drive. For this reason, we feel our Six Skills Certification highlights the essential hard, teachable skills that every entrepreneur should have a firm grasp on.
Skill 1: Presentation and Public Speaking
We all have heard the claim that the number one fear for most people is public speaking. For
entrepreneurs, this presents a giant problem. Luckily, most people do not suffer from glossophobia; they simply lack the confidence and experience.
I have years of experience teaching presentation skills, public speaking, and debate. Of all of the skills we teach, I feel most strongly that anyone can learn how to give dynamic presentations and speeches.
Skill 2: Web Design and Development
If you are going to start a new business, you must have a web presence. Regardless of whether or not you are a technology company, every entrepreneur needs to have a basic understanding of how the internet works.
Our web design and development workshop does not focus on coding, nor do I believe that every entrepreneur needs to know how to code. Every entrepreneur does need to know how to speak tech, though.
Without an understanding of how servers, browsers, and programming languages work, you leave yourself open to wasting months of time, at best, or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous programmers, at worst. The end result in either case can be losing thousands of dollars.
I would also like to stress the importance of design in this section. While branding and graphic design do not have a dedicated skill in the Six Skills, they must not be overlooked. The use of space, color, and structure are difficult to master but with time and effort, they can become cornerstones of value for any entrepreneur.
Skill 3: Social Media Campaigning
Admittedly, social media is a forte of mine, but that does not mean I can simply ignore it. The key to social media traction seems to be utilizing the correct platforms. In my context, high school students tend to use Facebook and Twitter while parents seem to check my LinkedIn profile. Because I don’t have an infinite amount of time, I try to concentrate on these three networks, and even that can be taxing.
The more important lesson in social media success revolves around content marketing. Just as cash is king in finance, content is king in marketing. People consume content at incredible rates, and the right content can lead to a huge influx in leads.
Skill 4: Analytics (KPIs)
For every company, no matter what stage, there are a few key analytics that determine their success or failure. Determining, measuring, and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) can have a drastic impact on decision making.
Depending on the industry and business model, startups use a range of KPIs to guide them. For College Apprentice, I focus on three key metrics: repeat customer rate, average customer acquisition cost, and application to customer conversion ratio. For other businesses, different analytics rule the day, such as rate of user growth, click-through-rate, bounce rate, operating leverage, and return on marketing investment, to name a few.
Skill 5: Strategic Analysis
Many new businesses fail because their founders fail to appreciate the intense competition they will face once they go to market or because they fail to properly position their brand. It is of paramount importance that entrepreneurs are able to analyze the marketplace prior, during, and after launch. The market is never static and must constantly be reviewed.
Some of the basic analytical tools can save a fledgling enterprise or provide new market opportunities. I tend to teach the following:
- Business Model Canvas (internal, business model tool)
- Porter’s Five Forces (industry-level, competitive analysis)
- Blue Ocean Strategy (market opportunities analyses)
- PEST Analysis (macro-environmental/economic analysis)
- SWOT Analysis (internal/external analysis)
Skill 6: Finance and Budgeting
Not every entrepreneur needs to be an accountant; however, every entrepreneur needs a basic handle on finances. Ignoring your bottom line won’t make your losses disappear. Since I normally have a very limited time to teach finance and budgeting, I like to focus on what I believe to be the three* most important financial numbers for every business.
- Contribution Margin/Breakeven Point
- Quick Ratio
- Return on Investment
If students leave with a firm understanding of these three numbers for their business, they can easily learn all other related financial metrics. Even the almighty concept of cash flow can be ascertained after understanding what portion of revenue flows through the income statement and combining it with the return from investment from asset deployment. The Quick Ratio, [(current assets – inventories) / current liabilities], forces students to examine the balance sheet and have a knowledge of liquidity and working capital.
There you have it! The Six Skills that every entrepreneur should try to master through their career. I believe that teaching hard skills to students that already display an interest in entrepreneurship is more vital than trying to teach soft skills, which can be developed over the course of execution.