Getting to grips with the latest technological trends, strengthening their financial mindset, applying innovation methodologies and boosting their communication skills – the list of homework for entrepreneurs is getting an update to guide startups in new directions
“To undertake and begin a piece of work, a business, an endeavour, particularly if it involves difficulty or risk”. The Real Academia Española suggests in its definition that being an entrepreneur is not an easy undertaking. Having an idea is only the beginning – the entrepreneur must have the necessary skills to get that seed to grow and bear fruit, constantly adapting to a changing scene.
The coronavirus crisis has been a major blow for entrepreneurs. 35% of companies in the creation stage curtailed their plans during the state of alarm, according to a report by the Spanish Observatory of Entrepreneurship. Where Latin America is concerned, a study by the Inter-American Development Bank informs us that the crisis is severely affecting eight out of ten entrepreneurs.
Acquiring new knowledge and strengthening certain skills will help entrepreneurs to get their projects back off the ground. Experts in entrepreneurship in Latin America who took part in the InnovaHome Festival, a series of virtual events on entrepreneurship and innovation organised by BBVA Open Innovation, dissect these skills.
Technological and digital skills, data literacy, critical thinking, creativity and innovation will be even more imperative in a post-coronavirus world, according to a report drawn up by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. But to what extent does an entrepreneur need to master new technologies? “They need to understand the digital trends that are enabling the transformation of their business, at least conceptually, to be able to support their teams”, says Iván Juscamaita, director of Innovation at AmbideXtro, a company that supports businesses in their change processes. When leading their project, this expert believes it is important that an entrepreneur has knowledge of data analysis to “find information, process it and make business decisions based on the needs of the customers they want to reach, potential markets, insights that should be analysed for experiments, etc.”
The digitisation of customers themselves means that entrepreneurs need to drive their online business and look after their virtual shop windows. “Digital marketing helps them to be more autonomous to initiate user research and testing of platforms and audiences to see how their product works”, indicates Alejandro Ferreira, Head of Business Development for the educational platform Crehana. The platform offers over 500 courses on skills like entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation, design and digital marketing to train its 3.2 million users. Ferreira believes that “the skills entrepreneurs need are linked to the current sense of urgency”, and online training can help them acquire these skills.
In times of uncertainty, strengthening their financial mindset is also something that entrepreneurs must do. Some analysis by business school ESADE suggests that having the ability to increase financial planning, to re-evaluate and make adjustments is key. “Sometimes entrepreneurs become obsessed with their technology, but in these circumstances they should be reviewing the minutiae of their accounts and they must have a disciplined business muscle”, asserts Juscamaita.
41% of companies in the creation stage have decided to reposition their business model in the future due to the impact of the pandemic, according to that report by the Spanish Observatory of Entrepreneurship. Whether it’s to begin their journey or to choose another path, entrepreneurs can make use of innovation methodologies, like those already being used by BBVA employees.
Some of the most noteworthy are: design thinking, aimed at generating prototypes in line with customer needs using existing technology and the sales strategy to create value; agile, based on undertaking a project within a limited timeframe (sprints) for continuous improvement; and lean startup, which looks to validate business models before implementing them. Training is not enough, as Juscamaita points out: “No experimental framework serves to innovate per se, rather you have to know how to interpret and apply it properly to generate value”.
There are also strategies based on a picture being worth more than a thousand words. This is the case with visual thinking, which helps to express different processes through simple drawings and shapes. “We’re used to receiving information visually, but when entrepreneurs are starting their own business, sometimes they leave it to one side”, notes Ari Álvarez, design studio consultant at Visual Storitellink, which helps companies to improve their visual communication.
Álvarez and Francisco Morlett, Head of Strategy at Visual Storitellink, explain how visual thinking tools can be useful for entrepreneurs at different stages: “Visualising the problem quickly to solve it quickly”, working on your business model, aligning teams more efficiently in virtual meetings or graphically documenting a presentation to generate impact are some examples of this. This video shows the applications in detail:
Entrepreneurs should also work on their soft skills, particularly those related to communicating, in order to achieve their goals. Some goals include:
“Entrepreneurs don’t need to know it all, but they do need to know everything to be able to get together with other people and fulfil their vision”, Ferreira concludes. To achieve this, and especially in these times, continuous education is vital. Learning, like being an entrepreneur, is a long-distance race.