28 Apr 11 Essential Skills in Business You Didn’t Learn in School
Ah, back to school! By now, the kids are back to their school routines, and you’re getting ready to shuttle them to and from after school activities, all in the hopes that your sons and daughters will learn the important skills and knowledge to succeed “in the real world” after they graduate. Or maybe your kids (or YOU) are back at school in college or grad school, taking advanced courses in your field.
But what if everything they learn in school isn’t enough? What if too much focus on reading and writing and arithmetic leaves the future of our planet without essential life and business skills to succeed?
To succeed in business, there is so much to learn that we don’t necessarily pick up in school along the way. So to find out the answers to these questions, I asked key leaders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.
These are the 11 important business skills that your children may or may not be learning in school, that they shared:
1. Follow Up and Follow Through
No matter how much you know about business models, strategy, fundraising, marketing, HR, or product design, none of it matters if you don’t have the basic skills of follow up and follow through. It’s truly these simple things that separate people in business.
2. Deferred Gratification
Students experience life in semester-long blocks, and their entire lives change every year. Progress in business and in careers takes a much longer commitment and a lot more grit than anyone is ever taught in school.
3. Cash Is King (and Queen)
It’s great you’re landing contract after contract, but what really matters is when that money hits your account. So, by all means, land deals. But also make sure payment terms are in your favor so you can buy inventory, pay staff, and keep things afloat until you have enough of a cushion.
4. The Importance of Networking
Teachers often do not convey the importance of networking to their students. I became a great networker after college but I feel as if I didn’t make the most of my networking opportunity while still in school. Business teachers should spend more time discussing the importance of networking with their students and assign networking assignments.
When you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you make a solid connection that helps you understand their motivations. And learning how to empathize with others isn’t something that’s taught anywhere, especially in business school. It comes with careful attention to what affects others and how they respond to problems and issues. Once you understand that, you’ll know how to reach them where it matters most.
6. The Fast Pace
The pace of what you need to do and when you need to get done in business is a completely different animal than how projects are structured in school. In school, everything is really linear. In business, you’re typically working on six projects at once and the due date is always yesterday.
7. Out of the Box Thinking
In the real world, business does not fit inside a box as it seemed in school. There are so many variables that can happen on so many different levels that you have to continue to reinvent your business, products and services every day to be able to compete.
It’s difficult to learn humility, especially as a vibrant new upstart that’s passionate about being an entrepreneur and building new companies. But humility is a vital part of the process, and it’s the most effective tool for learning, growing, and expanding as both an individual and as a business owner. It also prepares us for the hits we’re going to take on the road to success.
9. Managing People
In college, you’re drilled in the conceptual aspects of operating a business along with the most common strategies. Yet, as an entrepreneur of a small business, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is how to manage my employees. This is one of the more challenging aspects of running a business that those college textbooks and lectures don’t always tell you about.
10. How to Handle Failure
If you want to be in business for yourself, you need be ready to accept failure. Failure can generally be very encouraging for any entrepreneur, as it teaches them wisdom and creates a very valuable learning experience. Once you can get a grasp on how to handle failure, the sooner you’ll be to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
I learned how difficult it can be to delegate when you care passionately about outcomes. But I also learned that unless you delegate, there’s a hard limit to what you can achieve. Over the years, I’ve become much better at trusting people to do the work, but I wish I’d had the foresight to embrace delegation earlier in my career.
These are the 11 skills that successfully young entrepreneurs said they didn’t learn in school. As for me? I think school, at all levels, is far too structured to teach children the “real world skills” needed to thrive in business and in life. So my 12th essential skills in business that you didn’t learn in school, is:
“Create your own opportunities. Don’t wait for a teacher, or parent, or anyone, to assign you a project. Instead, go out and start something on your own!”
Now it’s your turn. What essential skills and wisdom in business and in your career did you NOT learn in school? Please share in the Comments section below.