HEC Paris Leaders of Tomorrow Series

Entrepreneurship Skills: Have You Got What It Takes?

entrepreneurship skills

The balance of risk and reward might be right, but not everyone is naturally suited to being an entrepreneur.

Balancing different roles

So how do you know if you have the right qualities and abilities (entrepreneurship skills) to create a successful business? For Gérard de Maupeou, an affiliate professor at HEC Paris who has worked in industries from telecoms to agriculture, the personal skills necessary to win the confidence of investors are complex, because entrepreneurs need to balance contradictory roles. One the one hand, they need to be fueled by self-belief in order to overcome inevitable setbacks, but they also need humility and the ability to listen to criticism. “Without this strong belief, you will feel unable to overcome all the risks attached to any entrepreneurial venture,” says Professor de Maupeou. “But because of your previous achievements as a manager, you might easily fall into the overconfidence trap. At that point, you need to change your mindset and look at your project with a very humble attitude.

Being comfortable with complexities and contradictions like these is all part of being an entrepreneur. After all, in the early stages, you may have no one else to rely on, so you have to be your own biggest booster and critic all at once. Because successful entrepreneurship is more about these personal qualities of adaptability and resilience, rather than market-specific skills, that can open up new options. Successful managers may find they can be just as effective if they step outside their comfort zone and launch a business in a completely new field. “I have many examples of successful ventures promoted by people who switched to a totally new business,” says Professor de Maupeou. “But they always found a way to be legitimate in what they were newly doing – even going back to school to acquire part of this legitimacy.”

“Because of your previous experience as a manager, you might easily fall into the overconfidence trap.” ~GÉRARD DE MAUPEOU, AFFILIATE PROFESSOR AT HEC PARIS


You don’t have to do everything alone, however: most entrepreneurs don’t. Instead, they are part of a team of founders. According to Etienne Krieger, an affiliate professor at HEC Paris and vice-president of a biotech company and an IT company, fewer than one in ten companies are run by a single founder, with the majority having two or three partners. That means you don’t just need to think about your own skills, but about the complementary talents of your fellow founders. Professor Krieger says entrepreneurs will want to look for people with the same outlook, values and objectives, but different skills and personalities that might clash in productive ways.

“The ability to unite such different profiles – creative, organized, calm, impulsive, empathic or charming people – makes it possible to create a business like no other, which can make an unprecedented offer to a particular sector of the market,” says Professor Krieger.

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About the Author

HEC Paris specializes in education and research in management sciences. As a leading academic institution in Europe and worldwide, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of education programs for students and executive education programs for leaders.