“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

 Whenever asked about my experiences in entrepreneurial endeavors, the asker nearly always makes some reflective statement about wishing they had the skills to do the same. I never know what to say; I have never thought about the skillset typically associated with being an entrepreneur.  As far as conventional entrepreneurial skills go, I am fairly sure I possessed very few when I started my first company (possibly not even when I started my second or third). And if I really think about it, the skills that I brought to the table may only have been my complete disregard for risk and an unusually high level of ignorance.

 Recently, while contemplating another venture, I did a quick internet search about entrepreneurial traits and what it takes to succeed when starting a company. I wanted to see if my thoughts aligned with the common wisdom many of today’s business experts promote. And my thoughts differed significantly. Enough to make me question if I am even the right person to write an article on the topic.

My 5 minutes of internet research told me that to be a successful entrepreneur, you should have vision and innovation, resilience, risk management expertise,  sales and marketing experience, a high level of problem-solving skills, advanced networking abilities, superior time management, advanced leadership skills, adaptability, legal and regulatory knowledge, expert negotiation skills, creativity, resource management knowledge, data analysis abilities, crisis management capabilities, conflict resolution experience, salesmanship, a high degree of emotional intelligence, human resources experience and, financial literacy. I am certainly glad I didn’t do this internet research before starting any of the companies I founded, although I probably should have done at least some research before my first. Many of the skills listed above are undoubtedly helpful in running a company, but they are not necessary to start one. These skills can be acquired or hired once your company is successfully up and running. When I founded my first company, I possessed none of the above-noted skills, but over the years, I definitely developed some of them; I hired people with the skills I didn’t possess and paid no attention to the many skills I never needed.  

My experiences have taught me that there are only two truly important facets to starting and maintaining a successful business: Concept and curiosity. The first aspect of concept will determine if you should even start a business. Is there a demand for your idea, product, or service? The second aspect, curiosity, will determine if you will be successful. Are you inquisitive enough to adapt and change course if necessary, and can you learn to run a business quickly enough not to fail? Curiosity is the one trait that will push you to learn what you don’t yet know. That’s it: idea and inquisitiveness, concept and curiosity. All the rest matters not if those two things are off.

My first venture demonstrated that I wasn’t very good at “doing business” in any way and proved I did not possess at least one of the two above-mentioned aspects: curiosity. But it also proved to be a tremendous training exercise. Luckily, I started small, risking only my pride and $500. (Read about My First Venture here) I was able to make every mistake in the book, fail super hard, and realize that unless I had a curiosity about what I was trying to do, I was going to really suck at “doing business.” The concept of my first venture was solid, but I lacked the curiosity to do my homework; I got carried away with my brilliant idea. Curiosity would have told me that within 6 months, my concept would be technologically obsolete.  I didn’t know enough about the industry I was operating in or the competition I was contending with. Therefore, my business lasted a little over 2 months before I was forced to pull the plug. The ability to recognize that I was a moron and learn from those experiences turned out to be invaluable when less than a year later, I dipped my toe in the water again and started another considerably more successful company.

Becoming an entrepreneur can still be entirely about having a great idea. However, my experience has taught me that also having a high degree of curiosity about everything surrounding your idea will considerably increase your chances of success. It is what will allow you to turn that idea into a rewarding venture. My initial drive to become a business owner was circumstantial; I suspected I would be laid off when starting my first company and was laid off a year later when I started my second. For others, the potential financial reward or independence and flexibility of being your own boss draws them in. No matter the reasons behind starting an endeavor, not having an entrepreneurial skillset should not scare anyone from starting their own venture; not having a good concept or the curiosity to learn and research should. All the rest can be learned and experienced along the way.

My perspective, shaped by success and failure, is that your focus should be on everything to do with your concept and not worrying about a group of skills you may or may not have or need. If you are curious enough, you will develop the skills you need when you need them and not waste your energy on the ones you don’t. The odd thing about being an entrepreneur is that you never know if you will be good at it until you do it, so why not run your idea past some trusted friends and give it a crack?