What It Takes: 4 Skills Entrepreneurs Say Young People Should Hone


Teenage Boy Sending Text Message Whilst Studying On LaptopThe basic definition of entrepreneurship revolves around the process of starting a business. An entrepreneur, by extension, then is one who starts a business. According to the Small Business Chronicle, over 600,000 new businesses start up each year.

There is much more, though, to the real definition of entrepreneurship. It encapsulates a spirit of optimism, risk-taking, adventure, and business savvy.

Historically, people are most likely to start a business in their 40s. But that doesn’t mean you have to be over 30 to start – and succeed – at it. In fact, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, “16% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 started new businesses in 2019.”

And don’t forget the belief that everyone has at least one million dollar idea at some point in their lifetime. Obviously, not all of those ideas are implemented. What’s the difference? First is the execution. It isn’t enough to have the idea. And it isn’t even the implementation so much as it is the willingness to take the risk that comes with execution.

In facing that risk, some entrepreneurial skills really can be the difference between success and failure.

  • Resilience. Resilience is one of the most important characteristics an entrepreneur needs. Entrepreneurship is full of uncertainty and risk. An entrepreneur must expect to have some failures and to make some mistakes. If a person is not able to bounce back, to pick themselves up, then they will not be able to regain forward momentum. That resilience or ability to recover quickly from setbacks will allow them to figure out what knocked them down in the first place. Assessing it is the problem-solving part.
  • Problem-solving. One given for entrepreneurs: problems. It’s not that you might have problems. It’s that you will have problems. And how you react to those problems will make all of the difference in your future. We talk a lot about how students need to learn problem-solving, and it is a critical skill. Before that, though, comes the ability to recognize and define problems. If you can recognize something that might cause a problem, define specifically what the problem is, and find the root cause of the problem, then you are well on your way to being able to solve the problem.

Too often the first step – defining the problem – is overlooked. When problems arise, the first instinct is often to alleviate the problem immediately, basically to put a bandaid or use some other stopgap measure in place. This might fix the problem temporarily, but the problem will only return unless it is solved at the root. Students need opportunities to work through the entire problem-solving process. As parents and teachers, it can be tempting to jump in and help solve problems. But for students to develop entrepreneurial skills, they have to have the chance to figure out problems and solutions – and to analyze why a solution they’ve tried did not work.

  • Critical thinking. An integral component of this process is critical thinking. Being able to reassess a situation and then approach it in a different way is so important. Critical thinking is about examining reasons and evidence, processing alternatives and asking the right questions. We have to help our students realize that asking questions is positive. Too often questioning has a negative connotation. However, we can teach students how to debate respectfully. It is our job to help them see that questioning is a path to understanding.
  • Ability to receive and apply feedback. Along those lines, our teens have to understand how to engage respectfully, whether it is asking questions to analyze and breakdown a problem, to providing positive feedback to a peer or receiving constructive feedback from a peer or teacher.
  • Reframing. Reframing is linked to problem-solving in that it involves changing the way you or someone else is looking at or approaching a problem or issue; it is about changing the perspective. In communication it is often looked at as a way to sway people to look at your ideas more favorably or to sway opinion. However, there is much more to reframing. It is about making sure all sides are being looked at. Are the right questions being asked? Reframing is not about getting your way; it is about making sure people consider your point of view with an open mind. It is the opposite of placing blame. It is instead about positive thinking.

It’s inspiring to read the stories about young entrepreneurs who have successfully started businesses. As more young people are starting businesses and venturing into the entrepreneurial world, they have to recognize that not every startup meets with success. It’s a hard path to follow. To be a successful entrepreneur, not only do you need to have a great idea to build on, but you also need the skill set to meet adversity head on.

Curious if Laurel Springs School is a good fit? Read more about students who benefit from the ability to follow their passions on our blog.