Top 10 Entrepreneurship Skills

What entrepreneurship skills do you need before you start? Here is my top 10 list, revised for 2021. This isn’t the first such list I’ve prepared, but it is the latest. I don’t think it matches many of the millions of other such lists. That’s fine with me.

Here is my list

Top 10 skills of successful entrepreneurs
  1. Empathy. Understand what other people feel, think, and want. You’ll need it to understand your market, develop business offerings, work with employees, customers, social media, everything.
  2. Cash flow. Don’t think you can stay financially above water just by selling something for more than it costs you to make it. You have to pay for overhead, fixed costs, employees, etc. You need working capital. If you do b2b you’ll have to finance receivables, waiting for your customers to pay you. If you sell products, you’ll have to buy inventory before you can sell things. And you also have to repay loans, keep up assets, and other stuff. Cash flow is vital. There’s a huge difference between fixed costs and variable costs. This stuff really matters.
  3. Listening. An often-undervalued skill. It starts by not talking. And it takes a while to realize, but listening is absolutely essential to selling. The great salespeople listen first, then solve customers’ needs.
  4. Dealing with mistakes. You can’t do this without making mistakes. Perfectionists drive themselves crazy. You have to learn from mistakes, analyze, record it in your mind where you can recover it on demand, and then put it away. Mistakes are like boxes on shelves, to be used only when necessary.
  5. Sorting through options. You have to be able to understand what knobs you actually have to turn, sort through options, and come up with the best decision that’s actually available, executable, now.
  6. Writing simply and clearly. Another often-undervalued skill. Entrepreneurship daily life is a parade of emails, memos, messaging, explanations, and vision.
  7. Time management. So much to do, so little time. It’s about choosing the right things to do, when. Not just being busy.
  8. Summarizing. You have to be able to start with putting things in the right context, so your listener is oriented. Then figure out what’s most important to the listener (see #1 above, empathy) and start with that.
  9. Presenting ideas. Speaking in public, speaking to groups, influencers, social media, etc. Slide decks and presentations. You can’t live without it.
  10. Letting go. Closely related to #4 above, dealing with mistakes. You have to stay fresh without assuming that what worked in the past still works, or that what didn’t work in the past doesn’t work in the present. Be able to sort through each new issue on its merits.

Note: the original question asked, on Quora, was “what are the top 10 entrepreneurship skills I should learn before I start my business?” This is my answer.

Wait, what? Nothing about sales?

Not exactly … but if you combine my #1 empathy with my #3 listening, and add in writing well, summarizing, and presenting ideas, you’ve got sales.


  • Charlie Sullivan says:

    As a small business owner I really appreciated this article Tim. Thanks so much!

  • Ray Kiper says:

    Nothing has improved my selling capabilities more than listening more closely to my clients! Really smart list. Agree with it all. Thanks Tim!

  • Alan Elliot says:

    I just started my own business and sometimes it’s so overwhelming. Found this list really helpful. Thanks!

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