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Acquiring soft skills in entrepreneurship

The four soft skills every entrepreneur should master include:
• Keeping abreast of innovative trends and ideas
• Setting and achieving goals
• Effective communication
• Negotiation and interpersonal relations

1.1 Keep abreast of innovative ideas and new trends
“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.
—John D. Rockefeller, industrialist, cofounder of Standard Oil Co., and philanthropist”

I was looking through the brochure of a prestigious European business school when I spied the phrase ‘’The more you know, the more you dare.’’

You need to develop an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about the latest developments in science, technology, economics and business. Breakthrough ideas are often to be found between the pages of business books, magazines and in business schools.

Subscribe to books, magazines and websites that will keep you abreast of developments in technology, economics and business practice

Commit to attending one executive education course or conference every year. Join a professional association. Attend breakfast meetings, webinars or learning events organized by your alma mater.

As an entrepreneur, you should always be on the hunt for the next pearl of wisdom that could transform your business model and your fortunes.

1.2 Create a goal setting system and train yourself to keep score
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.
—Andrew Carnegie, steel industrialist”

Successful entrepreneurs are characterized by a high need for achievement. You can’t afford to be complacent and passive if you want to make a success of any entrepreneurial venture.

Craft a vision and mission for your life. Develop a life plan. Create a five-year plan. Decide which milestones you can reach this year. Break these down into monthly targets. Use this monthly plan to plan your week. Use your weekly plan to plan your day. Schedule your priorities. Set reminders. Get things done. Track your progress.

You may use a notebook, Microsoft Office template or app to set goals and track their achievement.

Whatever your preferred method, you need to exercise your muscles of initiative, drive, self-direction and grit in order to thrive as an entrepreneur.

1.3 Take a course on communication skills
“In business, sir, one has no friends, only correspondents.
—Alexandre Dumas, writer”

As an entrepreneur, you are always communicating. Hence, you need to improve your ability to speak, write and understand English in professional settings.

A good management communications course will teach you how to:
– Communicate in social and professional interactions.
– Apply these skills to business negotiations, telephone conversations, written reports and emails and professional presentations.
– Socialize, network and interact with business contacts in person, on the phone, or over mail in a professional way.
– Present relevant information about yourself or your company in a discussion forum.
– Arrange, participate in and conclude on-site meetings and teleconferences
– Prepare to write a proposal as an outcome of a meeting.
– Present information in an organized and engaging way
– Share data in charts and graphs
– Use persuasive language in a presentation

1.4 Take a course in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution
“In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
—Chester L. Karrass, negotiations expert and author”

Negotiation is key to business success. No business can survive without profitable contracts. As a business owner you will need to go beyond intuition and acquire proven tools to help you achieve greater success in negotiation. You will also need to develop better cross-cultural anticipation and flexibility when you face a negotiation – both key skills in an international environment. Finally you will need to choose and lead a mediation process. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of workplace and international conflict resolution.

A good negotiation course will teach you how to:
– Plan your negotiation strategy
– Use power during negotiations
– Use psychological tools during negotiations
– Create a binding contract
– Perform and evaluate your agreement
– Implement dispute resolution processes – especially mediation and arbitration

Glory is an international business consultant and corporate change agent who has consulted for a diverse range of blue-chip companies, including Accenture, Nigeria LNG, British-American Tobacco, Access Bank, FCMB and MTN. She has also advised over 200 entrepreneurs for clients such as the Centre for Global Enterprise (New York), the Entrepreneur Scan (Netherlands) and the International Business Accelerator (United States).

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