Ask Richard: What are the most useful skills to learn as an entrepreneur?

4 min read

Education & Career Trends: June 3, 2023
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GP

“Every business should be launched to solve a problem, and it’s important that all budding entrepreneurs know this.”

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Dear Victoria (who submitted this wonderful question) and all,

As a granddad of five, your question struck a certain chord with me. I was also very inspired to hear about your plans to write a book that encourages kids from all walks of life to become entrepreneurs that make the world a better place. The children of our world (and the generations to come) face unprecedented challenges that will take bravery and innovation to overcome. If we can help young people adopt a pioneering, purposeful and entrepreneurial mindset, we can give them the best possible chance of tackling these challenges.

Every business should be launched to solve a problem, and it’s important that all budding entrepreneurs know this. In my experience, the best skills, attitudes and values you could teach a budding entrepreneur would be: 

1. Listen deeply and always act with empathy.

I can’t underestimate the power of listening. I’ve come up with so many different ideas and gained so much wisdom and insight from listening more than I speak. I jot down notes everywhere I go, and it helps me find so much inspiration for new ideas. Being a good listener and an empathetic person is the only way to put yourself in the shoes of your customers, which is the best way to run a business. You can’t solve a problem unless you really understand it. 

2. Embrace optimism and say ‘yes’ as much as possible.

Entrepreneurship is often a ‘no risk, no reward’ arena, so you’ve got to take calculated risks and realise it’s OK if it doesn’t always work out. I often say that every risk is worth taking as long as it’s for a good cause and contributes to a good life. I also live by the phrase that ‘the brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all’. Your career and your life will be so much more exciting if you’re taught how to take smart risks, lean into your fears, and see the glass half full in life. This is innately linked to trusting your instinct, which is certainly something that can be learnt and should be regularly exercised!

3. Delegate and collaborate effectively. 

The truth is that Virgin could never have evolved from a student magazine to a global brand if I hadn’t learnt how to trust people, collaborate and delegate. Young people should learn the power of delegating and how to bring out the best in people as early as they can – because everyone brings such different skills to the table, and you really can’t do it alone. I wrote a simple guide to the delegation on my blog if that’s helpful too. 

4. Solve problems through creativity.

You can’t innovate without lateral thinking and using creativity to solve problems. As a dyslexic, thinking differently is all I’ve ever known, but it’s certainly something you can learn too. Giving people permission to dream big, bring radical ideas to the table, and draw outside of the lines is so important. It makes life a lot more exciting too!

5. Learning and adopting these skills, values and attitudes also feels more important than ever with the rise of AI.

This was the theme of the DyslexAI campaign we created with Made by Dyslexia, which shows how AI can’t replace the soft skills that index high in dyslexics – such as innovating, lateral thinking, complex problem-solving, and communicating. These are also vital skills for entrepreneurs, which shows why dyslexics tend to become such great entrepreneurs.

I hope this helps you in your research Victoria, and I hope it helps budding entrepreneurs of all ages too. If you want to learn more, join me on MasterClass for my series on disruptive entrepreneurship.”

Until next month,


Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

How to Pick Your College Major

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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