The 12 skills an MBA grad needs to succeed as an entrepreneur

Brought to you by the Villanova School of Business

Earning a Master of Business Administration degree is an important step in gaining the skills and knowledge that you need to succeed in the business world. From health care to the entertainment industry, every field has a need for qualified professionals with the background that an MBA supplies. While you may already be in a career that you find fulfilling, you are not limited to working for someone else. Many MBA grads find themselves interested in starting their own business pursuits after completing their degree.

If you are interested in pursuing a career as an entrepreneur after graduating with your MBA, you are not alone. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, establishments less than a year old—a measure of entrepreneurship in the nation—grew by nearly 12 percent in the US between 2009 and 2015. While some people go into an MBA program with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur, others head that direction during or after their studies. Whichever option you select, completing an MBA prepares you well to set out on this new challenge.

As an MBA graduate interested in succeeding as an entrepreneur, you should develop the following 12 skills:
 
1. Resilience
When it comes to entrepreneurship, having an idea is a good place to start, but success is built on much more than good intentions. One of the most important traits shared by those who wish to start their own business is resilience. Success on the first attempt is rare in most endeavors, so being able to fall and get back up will serve you well. Because you are likely to run into delays in some form, being able to push forward and continue through obstacles is in many ways more important than being able to come up with good ideas.
 
2. Self-awareness
The business knowledge that you gain during an online MBA program is important, but there is more learning to be done if you want to succeed. Specifically, you need to know yourself as much as you know the principles of the business world. Self-awareness will help you to recognize both your strengths and weaknesses, and you can build your business accordingly.

Ultimately, when you become an entrepreneur, you are not only selling your business, you are selling yourself to investors, customers and partners. Knowing yourself will give you confidence in your own abilities, which will lead others to trust you as well.
 
3. Networking
When it comes to succeeding in any business, networking is critical. Your ability to initiate and grow relationships with others in your field can prove invaluable for developing your entrepreneurial efforts.

In a guest blog post for The Huffington Post, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia President and CEO Madeline Bell emphasized that networking is well worth the effort.

“Networking is an essential part of advancing your career,” Bell wrote. “These days, it’s not enough to keep your head down and produce A-plus work. You need to connect with others, be vocal about your interests and career goals, and build relationships with people you might not otherwise have met.”
 
4. Problem-solving
You will encounter challenges along the road to success. Knowing how to identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently will help ensure you are able to move forward without losing any more time or resources than necessary.
 
5. Discernment
Whatever your ultimate goal, as an entrepreneur you will need to make a large number of important decisions. From how much to invest to the best strategy for marketing your product or service, discernment is an important quality to develop as you grow your career.

This trait is also important when it comes to hiring the right people. Your employees can make or break your entrepreneurial efforts, so choosing the candidates who will be most beneficial to your company is critical. Andres Castrillon, CEO of Consensus International, has seen this play out in his own company.

“Having the right talent on our team (people aligned to our values) has been paramount to our growth,” Castrillon said in an interview with Renaissance Executive Forums. “My team challenges me to be a better leader, and our group dynamic pushes us to be a better team.”
 
6. Management
To truly grow a business, hiring the right people is not enough. Your employees also need to be managed well to ensure that your organization runs efficiently. A good manager can grow a team’s strength and increase its efficacy, turning good employees into great employees.

According to Forbes contributor Victor Lipman, the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, to become an effective manager, you should work on improving your patience, courage, thoughtfulness, fairness and execution with your employees.
 
7. Basic digital marketing
Today your online presence is critical to growing your entrepreneurial efforts. Start by educating yourself about search engine optimization. SEO is a critical component of your online presence. Understanding how Google and other search engines rank web pages during searches will help shape your website and overall online strategy. Your social media use is also important, though the platforms that you use will depend on the product or service that you offer.

Ideally, you will eventually hire a professional—or professionals—skilled in digital marketing and SEO. But until that time, the work is going to largely fall to you, so familiarizing yourself with the basics will help get your company started until you are at that point.
 
8. Collaboration
No person is an island, completely to himself or herself. Though it may seem that way when you are first starting out, the sooner you are able to start working with others, the more help you will have getting your effort off the ground. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

According to Geri Stengel, president of Ventureneer, reaching out to others in your field for support is important for succeeding as an entrepreneur.

“Being an entrepreneur can feel like the loneliest job in the world,” Stengel said in an interview with PR Newswire. “When you hit an obstacle, get out there and talk to advisors, mentors and your fellow entrepreneurs. Your peers understand what you’re going through. Their advice and encouragement is invaluable.”
 
9. Teachability
It is important to never stop learning. By having a teachable attitude as you pursue your entrepreneurial efforts, you will have less trouble keeping up with the latest developments in your chosen field.

With the mass distribution of information in the digital age, you have numerous options for educating yourself alongside your MBA program. Listen to podcasts, attend conferences and read, read, read. A life-long desire to learn will serve you well and help to keep your entrepreneurial efforts ahead of the curve.
 
10. Fundraising
When launching an entrepreneurial effort, you most likely will need investors to help raise the capital you require to start your company. You will need to sell your product and market yourself. Consequently, it is never too early to start reading on how to become an effective fundraiser if you believe you want to pursue a career as an entrepreneur.
 
11. Flexibility
While having pre-determined steps that need to be accomplished en route to your goal is important, you need to be ready to change your plan. In the current digital age, technology and marketing are changing rapidly and even the most established brands must be flexible to stay in the game.

Once you have launched, ask for consumer feedback and consider adjusting your business plan accordingly. Developing your company with the needs of customers at the front of your mind will help to ensure that your product or service is appealing to your target market.
 
12. Vision casting
From securing investors to attracting top candidates to your team, being able to sell others on your entrepreneurial effort is critical. Start by consolidating your plan into a mission statement and then outline a clear path to reach your goal. Having these things physically written down and practicing communicating them will help you become more eloquent. Once people are on board with your initial vision, it is important to continue to communicate progress with your team and what role they play.

“Every company should institute a strategic plan that is no more than one page in length,” Castrillon said. “Having a succinct, disciplined approach with a clearly defined plan that is read by all members is key to success. We saw great progress once everyone understood their individual role in contributing to team goals.”

If you have not already earned a master’s degree, consider jump-starting your entrepreneurial efforts by earning an online MBA through Villanova University while you develop the traits it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. The flexibility of the program will allow you to complete your degree in as few as two years while simultaneously working in the field of your choosing or beginning your entrepreneurial pursuits. The program is suited to not only equip you with the skills you need to succeed, but also give you opportunities to develop the critical traits mentioned above.

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