Three Must-Have Career Skills for Small Business Owners

A recent Bentley University study found that 66 percent of millennials who responded want to start a business and 37 percent want to work for themselves

As a self-employed millennial, I’m not surprised by this number. I worked in the nonprofit world, the government world and the corporate world before finally setting on self-employment as the best job for me. However, without the skills I learned at each of these jobs, I doubt I would be as successful as I am today.

If you have a dream of starting your own business, you don’t have to jump in whole hog. It’s much more realistic to position your career path to learn the skills you’re going to need as a small business owner.

Here are three must-have skills you need to practice to be a successful small business owner and the jobs you can take to get them:

Deep work ethic

Business owners work hard year in and year out to make their businesses successful. If you settle into your career as a 9 to 5 paper-pusher, you may not be challenging yourself enough to develop the strong work ethic you need to be successful on your own.

Whether you take a generic entry-level position or a position related to your degree, give the job 100 percent of your attention and talent every day. Dig into the projects you’re assigned and overdeliver on what’s expected of you. That will help you build a habit of hard work that will pay off when you work for yourself.

Clear communication

Whether you like them or not, small businesses run on people. Your clients are people, your employees are people and your business service providers are people. Therefore, one of the most important skills to invest in is how to communicate clearly with a wide variety of people.

Luckily, most entry-level jobs involve internal or external communication. Take every opportunity to practice your communication skills and get feedback on your performance. If you want to take a job specifically to hone your communication skills, project management and administrative assistance might be particularly helpful in developing communication skills you’ll need to find success in small business ownership.

Thorough customer service

The high school version of customer service is to smile and be polite. However, a friendly demeanor isn’t enough when you own your own business. Customer service must go deeper than your appearance to speak to your customers needs, fears, hopes and desires.

Today you may have a position that doesn’t directly involve an external customer, but you still serve someone. For example, the “customer” of the payroll department is the entire team of company employees. The “customer” for the engineering team is the product marketing team, who’s waiting for the product to take steps to make it sales worthy. The “customer” of the marketing team is often the sales team.

If you want to dive deep into developing these skills, there are many positions in the business world that will allow you to tap into a deeper understanding of customer personas and buying journeys. Consider taking a job in sales or account management.

Do you have a dream of starting your own business? Before you make the leap, make sure you have the skills you’ll need to be successful. Strategically position your career path to gain those skills, or find creative ways to develop them in the job you currently have.