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There is no one-size-fits-all path to start a business. That’s because all entrepreneurs generally come from many different lines of work, bring disparate skills and are taking a variety of routes to gain success.
Let’s look at how skills figure into successful entrepreneurship. Have you ever heard of a successful entrepreneur bringing zero business skills to a new venture? No, of course not. Some former careers bring obviously helpful skill sets like being an attorney or accountant. However, each career and every job that an entrepreneur has ever held holds some value. It’s not what you’ve done (or not done) in the past — it’s how you use the skills you’ve gained.
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Determining your transferable skills
As a doctor, I’ve found that much of what comes naturally in my practice or at the hospital actually has had numerous applications in my start-up business which is in hospitality. To figure out what skills you bring from prior experiences, both in and out of the business world, there are two central questions to ask yourself:
1. What can I do?
All skills can actually be put to good use in business. Were you a college athlete? Then you know what goes into teamwork on the human resources side. Retail associate? You’re great at customer service. Stay-at home-parent? You can do anything (Think: budgets, transportation, food service, scheduling and many other task-driven accomplishments).
For example, as a doctor, I’ve developed a range of skills that have proven valuable as an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry. Strong communication skills are useful in marketing my restaurant and interacting with customers. Working as a team with other physicians, nurses and hospital administrators helped me to manage employees at all levels and create a cohesive, functional work environment.
Additionally, working in a fast-paced, high-pressure medical environment has made me more adept at managing a busy restaurant. I’ve also found that managing complex patient cases also translates well to managing disparate tasks related to forecasting, staffing and supply chain. Attention to detail, which is paramount in medicine, has also been invaluable in creating the ultimate dining experience for customers.
While medicine may be applicable in many ways to hospitality, every industry offers lessons for entrepreneurship. Just be clear on what you know and how you intend to use it in the new business venture.
2. Who do I know?
Chances are that by the time you’re considering starting a new business, you’ve met many people at various stages of life. Many former associates, friends, neighbors, teachers and community leaders might not seem to have any relevance to what you intend to do as an entrepreneur. But consider this: Everyone you know can add something, from tips about locations and opinions about your offerings to legal or financial advice and possibly even providing a loan. The No. 1 thing is not to be afraid to ask!
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Prescriptions for success
My background as a doctor has given me skills that I’ve discovered are very applicable to my restaurant business. Specifically, for starters, it allows me to understand the importance of the knowledge of health and safety regulations which can help ensure my restaurant is compliant with local and national regulations.
Here are a few of my “prescriptions” for success:
- Be a sponge and soak up information. Running your own business is totally different from being an executive — or in my case, a doctor — and there will be a lot to learn. Keep your ears open for advice from those in your line of business and make it a daily practice to keep up with all of the relevant trade publications, blogs and podcasts. A simple internet search of news + “your business sector” will go a long way. An article in the Harvard Business News concurs, “If you’re exploring entrepreneurship or in the early stages of launching a venture, it’s important to learn from others to avoid common pitfalls and discover which decisions impacted a company’s survival.”
- Try before you buy. See if there is an existing business that aligns with what you’re looking to accomplish in the marketplace, such as a franchise. The Small Business Association (SBA) offers the same advice, “Starting a business from scratch can be challenging. Franchising or buying an existing business can simplify the initial planning process.” Still want to start your business from the ground up? Consider taking a part-time job in your target industry. I took a bit of a hybrid route. As a doctor who co-launched a successful restaurant franchise, starting the business with a food truck was an invaluable way to gauge both my skills and my interest.
- Know your pain points. A study reported in the Journal of Business Research noted key personality traits for entrepreneurs: initiative, being an open-minded person, creativity, risk-taking and efficiency. If this doesn’t sound like you or the skills you want to learn, you may not be quite ready for entrepreneurship.
As with everything in life, timing is everything. Jumping into entrepreneurship at the right time in your career — in the best place for your business — is a combination of knowledge and skills with a big dose of luck. Using what you already know to drive success is the first step.