What are the top 3 skills or characteristics that every entrepreneur should have?


Entrepreneurs tend to have great ideas but struggle to bring them to life. This seems to be partly due to not having the right skills to move beyond the idea and into the marketplace. Am I off base on this?

For me, the top 3 skills I believe every entrepreneur should have are:

  1. Financial knowledge
  2. Negotiating prowess
  3. Empathy for other peoples circumstances

What do you think?

Entrepreneurs Leadership

asked Nov 8 '09 at 01:13
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points
Get up to $750K in working capital to finance your business: Clarify Capital Business Loans
  • Perhaps make this community wiki? There is no single correct answer to your question. – Tim Post 14 years ago
  • How would I go about doing that? I agree that there are many answers and by limiting them to your top three, we can build a pretty complete list of half a dozen or so. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago

19 Answers


  • Persistence
  • Passion
  • Emotional Intelligence
answered Nov 8 '09 at 01:44
Tall Jeff
1,406 points
  • none of those are skills – Tim J 14 years ago
  • @Tim but those are criteria that should be present in every entrepreneur – Mansuro 12 years ago
  • @Mansuro - the question was what "skills" - not what attributes or characteristics. I agree that the items listed are VERY useful for entrepreneurs, but they are not skills. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • Since this is the accepted answer - I changed the original question to reflect a wider concept - not just "skills" – Tim J 12 years ago


Everyone will tell you that the #1 skill is perseverance. Startups go through ups and downs. Even the supposedly instantly successful ones do.

Do you know how long it took twitter traffic to take off? One week? One month? One year?

answered Nov 9 '09 at 05:41
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • Yes, yes, yes. It may be the only one worth singling out, #2 and #3 can already be a number of things. I have often thought that maybe there's *nothing else* that differentiates successful entrepreneurs from anybody else. There's so many types of people who are successful at so many different businesses, and to me that seems to be the only thing they have in common. – Hanno Fietz 14 years ago


  1. Vision
  2. Perseverance
  3. Expression
Vision: if you can't see what you're building you will change direction with every minor wind that blows in your sails, and end up with a kludgy lump of something that will be fragile, fulfill few needs, and turn into a maintenance nightmare.

Perseverance is required. If you cannot push through every obstacle, including your own emotional downturns, outside pressure, financial difficulties, etc, then you will not succeed.

Expression is more than good communication, it's the ability to share your vision with others in a way that they will not only understand it but they will see it and feel it as you do. If you cannot express your vision you will be unable to get the people you need to fulfill it.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 07:05
Adam Davis
378 points


Definitely not financial knowledge! I barely know any entrepreneurs who knew anything about finance when they started (including me). Plenty of time to get that once it's a "problem." :-)

answered Nov 9 '09 at 12:13
16,231 points
  • I have found that when the finances are a problem, things decay rapidly, especially in capital intensive startups. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago
  • @Jarie - My impression is that if finances become a problem it rarely seems to be a problem of lacking financial knowledge. My guess would be that the most frequent cause is being to slow in either developing or selling the product. For a startup, finaces aren't that complicated, there's only a single priority for a long while: Go sell stuff. – Hanno Fietz 14 years ago


If you substitute empathy for knowledge in number three, I'd agree with you. Empathy is quite often over zealous or incorrect entirely, some people are just too difficult to read.

If you hired them, or will be doing business with them it should be (in part) because you know something about them.

I know its a rather vague point, but it deserves mention. Save empathy for when a client brings in an unexpected 'ringer' to a meeting .. and pray you had time for a shower that morning.

answered Nov 8 '09 at 01:37
Tim Post
633 points


This is a bit naive to think you can come up with three things. It is more like a mix and match. One can probably choose a few dozen skills that are very important. Being low scorers in ALL skills is pretty much a non-starter. You can overcome some weaknesses with other strengths. The key is knowing how to do that.

SUCCESSFUL entrepreneurs must be very good at some set of things, but of course no one is adept at all the skills that one would learn are important.

You also don't specify a domain - generalizing for ALL entrepreneurs is hard - really hard.

Here is my list:

  1. Being aware of shortcomings and working around them (in whatever form that takes)
  2. Time management
  3. Ability to focus on problems and tasks

Perseverance is a character trait that is, or course, essential - that is probably the most outstanding characteristic one MUST have. If one is too easily swayed or accepts the "NOs" then one will never make it.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 16:21
Tim J
8,346 points
  • It's true that generalizing for all entrepreneurs is hard but it does seem that there are a hand full of skills that everyone needs. Perseverance seems to come up a lot as well as passion. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago
  • Those aren't skills. – Tim J 14 years ago
  • Good point. Those are more traits than skills. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


  1. Perseverance
  2. The ability to understand your own weaknesses
  3. The willingness surround yourself with smart people to deal with your weaknesses
answered Nov 10 '09 at 03:42
649 points


  1. Willingness to take risks
  2. Persistence

  3. Focus
answered Nov 10 '09 at 22:27
Daniel Vaughan
231 points


  1. A high tolerance to risk, or willingness to gamble.
  2. An ability to express their vision to others.
  3. A passion for what they are doing.

I think the answers will depend on the type of entrepreneur. I tend to be more of a visionary type, so I tend to focus more on the big picture, but I realize I have to be realistic and stop trying to have the app do everything I want, initially, else I will never release anything.

UPDATE: I forgot about the word skill in the question, so I will fix that.

  1. The ability to express their vision to others.
  2. The ability for active listening, so that you don't impose what you think someone is saying on what they are saying.
  3. The ability to have a dialog, rather than a discussion.

I think that spending more time developing the soft skills becomes important, esp if you are trying to do something very different than what people are used to doing, to do something that is practical.

For dialog vs debate you can see


answered Nov 9 '09 at 12:20
James Black
2,642 points
  • passion and tolerance for risk are not skills. Those are traits or characteristics. – Tim J 14 years ago


ok its more abilities than skills...

  1. see how things can be done better
  2. act on your ideas
  3. connect with and understand people who will benefit from the idea
answered Nov 9 '09 at 17:03
131 points


  • A business concept that fills a specific market need and an ability to deliver a product or service that cost-effectively meets that need for the customer and at a profit for the business
  • An unbridled passion for and commitment to that business concept
  • Near-religious zeal for managing your cash, with cash generation as your primary focus at all times
answered Nov 10 '09 at 07:53
Lonnie Sciambi
369 points


  • Ability to be scrappy
  • Great moral and people skills.
  • Ability to find out what people will like and to somehow predict the future(as in, In 20 years people will ...)
answered Nov 8 '09 at 01:39
Emil Hajric
161 points


  1. Prioritize.
  2. Delegate.
  3. Desire.
answered Jan 8 '10 at 17:09
346 points


  • Patience [during hard times]
  • Craziness [toward his work]
  • Confidence [required for both the above periods]
answered Nov 29 '11 at 07:14
Safran Ali
272 points


  1. Passion in what you believe and do
  2. Fortitude (the strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity with courage, overcome situations etc..)
  3. Communication skills
answered Nov 13 '09 at 00:41
532 points


  1. Persistence
  2. Passion

  3. Think Skin
answered Nov 13 '09 at 00:59
Floyd Price
196 points


  1. Confidence in yourself.
  2. Confidence in your ideas.
  3. Confidence in others.

Seriously, unless your ideas are revolutionary and I can almost guarantee that they're not, then you're going to need confidence in yourself, confidence in your ideas and confidence in others to get anywhere as an entrepreneur.

answered Oct 5 '11 at 09:03
Digital Sea
1,613 points


Mark Suster is doing a series of posts on what makes an entrepreneur on his blog. Its an excellent read. Check it out Entrepreneur DNA

answered Jan 9 '10 at 08:36
1,612 points
  • Thanks for the pointer. I will go check it out. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


1) Ideas
2) Passion
3) Continuity

answered Oct 5 '11 at 03:46
Charles Lau
1 point

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Entrepreneurs Leadership