The 5 Skills All Successful Entrepreneurs Share

From a willingness to experiment with new ideas to questioning how and why you do what you do, here are the five skills all entrepreneurs (and successful members of business teams in general) all share.

Finding success as an entrepreneur doesn’t happen by accident. The people running these start ups and small businesses all share the same skillset that allows them to have the vision to take their business to the next level.

During a breakout session at a Recent Greater Cleveland Partnership educational event titled “The Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs: How to Adopt the Skillsets and Mindsets of Today’s Most Successful Small Business Leaders,” Lori Long, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship and a professor of management at Baldwin Wallace University, and Linda G. Kanner, adjunct professor in the School of Business and Entrepreneur in Residence at Baldwin Wallace, shared the five skills that entrepreneurs have in common that allow them to be successful.

Not a small business owner? No problem! Long and Kanner stressed that the following five skills are just as important for use by teams at middle market and larger companies as well.

Skill No. 1: A willingness to experiment

As an entrepreneur, you have to come to grips with the fact that failure will happen—frequently. So, you tried something one way and it didn’t work? Try it a different way next time. Put a process in place that recognizes and rewards all ideas (not just the ones that get implemented), gather feedback and go forward with the prototype.

Skill No. 2: Learn how to observe

A big part of being an entrepreneur is generating ideas that you can possibly put into action. One way of sparking these ideas is by observing and taking note of everything around you. And this leads to the next critical skill…

Skill No. 3: Connect the dots

Understanding the shared relationships between two otherwise disparate ideas or things is an excellent way of generating new ideas. Maintain open communication and foster a supportive work environment among members of your team to help shed light on these connections.

Skill No. 4: Question everything

Once you have a prototype or new process in place, it’s important to measure and understand what your customers think of it. So, ask them! Go out and talk to customers frequently. Ask them questions about what they think of what your company is doing.

Skill No. 5: Network your way to success

You’re not going to become a success on your own. The relationships you form with other business people and organizations will help propel your own company forward. So, go out and identify events where you will have an opportunity to network with others, find out what they can offer you and what you can provide to them as well.

Each year, COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership host a number of events to help give businesses the education and resources needed to succeed. Click here for a list of upcoming events that can help your company grow, too.

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  • Next up: The Boxed Blueprint: What Small Businesses Can Learn from This Startup's Rapid Rise to Success

    The Boxed Blueprint: What Small Businesses Can Learn from This Startup's Rapid Rise to Success

    Ecommerce disruptor Boxed went from garage to national phenomenon in just a few short years. Its focus on employee culture has been a big part of the growth story. Read on for three tips from the Boxed growth blueprint that you can put into play at your own company.

    Throughout 2019, we will be running a series of articles recapping BizConCLE 2018 and the lessons attendees learned at the show. Today’s article focuses on the keynote address delivered by Boxed’s Chieh Huang on how to effectively retain employees. Check out January's BizConCLE article by clicking here.

    Boxed started in 2013 as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation in a garage and has turned into a major wholesale ecommerce disruptor that has raised $180 million in funding.

    During his keynote address at BizConCLE 2018, Boxed’s CEO and co-founder Chieh Huang laid out his blueprint for rapid growth and how the company goes about retaining talent.

    Your people are the difference

    Huang told the crowd gathered at the I-X Center that customers today aren’t just shopping based on price; but rather, a combination of price, convenience and brand name familiarity. Companies that can offer all three of those things tend to stand out from the rest of the pack. And the best way to create a standout impression in the minds of your customers begins with the people you hire.

    Huang listed three things Boxed, known for generous perks such as paying for employee’s weddings, has done that small businesses could replicate in order to establish a strong company culture and differentiate from the competition.

    Tip No. 1: Don’t micromanage

    No one has ever said, “We never would have closed that deal if we hadn’t used the Times New Roman font,” Huang joked. His point? Don’t micromanage. Your employees who feel the most tired everyday are those who are being micromanaged.

    It’s a natural tendency for business leaders to want to be hands-on, he said. After all, the further you grow your business, the more people you must hire. And the more people you must hire, the further you get removed from the daily goings on at the company and want to get back to having a say in the direction things are moving.

    Resist that urge, Huang implored. Your people are staying with you not just because of the amount of money you’re paying them, but because there’s something they like about your management style. The easiest way to destroy that relationship is to begin micromanaging.

    Tip No. 2: Install innovative employee retention strategies

    Again, employee retention isn’t all about the size of the paycheck you’re giving your employees. There are other things small businesses can do, particularly as it relates to your policy on leave, to encourage longer retention rates.

    At Boxed, for example, the company offers unlimited maternity and paternity leave. No one yet has taken gross abuse of the policy—the longest someone took off was 10 months and the shortest was four weeks. While small businesses might not be able to offer that strong of a perk, there are other little things businesses can do to keep employees happy. For instance, let your employees take off a little early to spend time with family or volunteer at their child’s school. Small touches like that can go a long way, he said.

    Tip No. 3: Nail the hiring process

    The best way to ensure your company culture stays intact is by consistently hiring the right people, Huang said. Here are some of the questions Boxed hiring managers like to ask:

    • Tell me something that’s not on your resume.
    • Tell me your life story. What are you all about?
    • The hiring managers also aren’t afraid to throw in a curveball question every once in a while to see how good the job candidate is at thinking on their feet. (One of these curveballs: “Which country will ban autonomous cars first and why?”)

    Huang also takes time to meet with every person who is hired. It’s not a full interview, but more of a “jerk test” to make sure the company is hiring a nice person.

    BizConCLE is just one of the many events hosted by COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership each year to help give businesses the education and resources needed to succeed. Click here for a list of upcoming events that can help your company grow, too.

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  • Next up: Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    Turning Passion Into Giving Back

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. 

    No one wants to admit that they’ve had to deal with pest or insect problems in their home or business, but hey – it happens. Dealing with an infestation is probably one of the most frustrating experiences to deal with on top of everything else, and it always seems to happen when you are least prepared for it.  Fortunately, with someone like John Young, owner of Speed Exterminating Co., in town,  you can rest assured that if you were to run into this pesky dilemma, you'll be bug ridden in short time. What's more is that Young isn't your average termite terminator. He runs his business with the same passion, integrity and honesty that his family instilled in the business years ago. 

    While Young has been at the forefront of Speed Exterminating since 1998, the business dates back more than 106 years, founded in 1908 by John W. Speed (Young’s great grandfather). After Speed, the business transitioned into the hands of Young’s grandfather, and later his father.  In 1963, the pest company was relocated to Old Brooklyn before once again being passed down to the next generation -- at which time Young acquired the reigns to the family business.

    Alongside his dedicated and passionate perspective toward the family’s industry and business, Young has also maintained a deep-rooted connection to volunteering and service.

    “I saw [my father] take great pride in having a strong small business community in Cleveland, and I feel that way too,” Young says. “Small businesses are the back bone of Cleveland. If there is going to be an economic revival in Cleveland, it’s going to be because of small businesses.”

    Turning his passion into action, Young co-founded the grassroots event, “Pedal for Prizes,” and has also provided leadership for the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. In doing so, he has achieved the ideal combo of mixing work with pleasure.

    “When I want to get away from the office, I’m big into bicycling,” Young says.

    Having been an avid cyclist for over 20 years, Young -- along with four other Old Brooklyn residents -- eventually came to unite his love for cycling with his deep-rooted Old Brooklyn heritage to create the event, “Pedal for Prizes”.

    The objective for the event is simple. “The idea is to just get on the bike and ride,” he says.

    With its inception in 2010, the event was founded with the idea of bringing together businesses in the Old Brooklyn community while also promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. Each participant is presented with a map that pinpoints 20 destinations. For every destination reached, the riders are given a raffle ticket to be entered for a chance to win various prizes such as Cleveland Indian’s tickets or bicycles. Destinations are divided between local businesses/merchants and points of interest, and are announced on the day of the event.

    The event, says Young, provides him the opportunity to give back to and promote a community that means so much to his family and business. “You succeed because the neighborhood succeeds. It’s not my success; it’s the neighborhood’s success,” Young says.

    Growing from 75 participants in its first year to over 600 people in 2013, “Pedal for Prizes” has been making a noticeable impact in its surrounding communities.

    “Biking gives me an avenue of things I’m capable of doing. I can’t solve world hunger, but I do have a connection to cycling,” says Young.

    Along with “Pedal for Prizes,” Young has also been actively engaged in the Cleveland/Akron Cystic Fibrosis Annual Bike Race. Created in 2012, the event raised $40,000 its first year and doubled to $80,000 this past year.

    For an involved small business owner like Young, the desire and urge to volunteer is always in abundance and, despite a busy work schedule, he always finds time to give back.

    “I want to give back to this community. I want to take time to make a difference,” he says.

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  • Next up: What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    What the Cleveland Indians Can Teach Small Businesses About Beating Big Competition

    During the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton explain what small businesses can learn from the team. Read on below for a brief summary or click below to listen to the full audio of the session.

    Small business owners have a lot more in common with the Cleveland Indians than they might think.

    During a panel discussion featuring Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan and moderated by play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton, Dolan said the team in many respects is like a small business in how it is a small market team competing with franchises in major media markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

    The key, he said, to being successful in a situation such as that comes down to making sure you have the right people on your team.

    “The beauty of the game of baseball is the $25-million guy has to get on the field with the $500,000 guy,” he said. “But when you get the right $500,000 guy, you draft well, you develop them well, they turn into guys with names like (Francisco) Lindor and (Jose) Ramirez.”

    Francona agreed with Dolan’s assessment, adding that while it might not be fair for smaller market teams to compete against the bigger market teams, he’s not one to accept excuses.

    “We may not have the same payroll as the Yankees or Detroit or whatever, but we trust the people we have,” he said.

    The COSE Annual Meeting is just one of the many events COSE hosts each year that help small business representatives learn what they need to know to grow their business while also making new connections. Click here to view a list of upcoming events and find one that will give you the tools you need to succeed.
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  • Next up: What's the Hardest Thing About Being an Entrepreneur?

    What's the Hardest Thing About Being an Entrepreneur?

    We met recently with two of the nine finalist small businesses for Season 2 of Cleveland Chain Reaction and asked them what the hardest thing is about being an entrepreneur.

    What began as a field of more than 100 hopeful small businesses hoping to receive a $100,000 investment from the project’s investors has been narrowed to a field of just nine.

    We had an opportunity recently to meet with two of the finalists—Hatfield’s Goode Grub (a food truck and catering business) and Cleveland House Hotels (a provider of vacation and temporary rental homes around Cleveland)—and asked them what the hardest thing is about being an entrepreneur.

    Jessica Hatfield of Hatfield’s Goode Grub pointed to the unique situation she has of being Ken Hatfield’s first employee when the business started and of the two of them being married as well.

    “Working together as a team, it’s really awesome but it has its challenges,” she said.

    Nick Semertsidis of Cleveland House Hotels also pointed to the importance of communication with others on the team when growing a small business.

    “At times we have different ideas on things, but we always work it out in the end,” he said.

    See what else these entrepreneurs had to say in the video below.

    Learn more about Cleveland Chain Reaction and its mission to create jobs, investment and prosperity in Cleveland’s neighborhoods while providing education and information for entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to benefit the community by visiting

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  • Next up: What to Know About Background Checks

    What to Know About Background Checks

    As part of our ongoing series featuring members, Mind Your Business sat down with Robert Drusendahl, who talks about the technologies that are keys to success for his background screening business.

    Robert (Bob) Drusendahl is president and CEO of Pre-Check, a background screening agency established in 1992. In their 25-plus years, they have gained nearly 500 Cleveland-based clients, but have several national accounts as well. Pre-Check is a 100% veteran-owned business. The Pre-Check team takes great pride in providing quality results with personalized service, with typically a three-day turnaround time. For the past four years, Pre-Check has added a recruiting solution for our customers by finding qualified candidates for their businesses through a process called Smart Hire.

    What technologies are keys to success for your business?

    We have built our own recruiting tool called Pre-Select, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that supports employers’ hiring process from placing the ad, to the time they are hired and brought on-board. Through leveraging our ATS, we have created Smart Hire and OLA, our On-Line Application process. OLA allows the job seeker to electronically apply and complete the forms necessary to perform a background check. Pre-Check still believes in combining good old-fashion hard work with today’s most recent electronic solutions.

    What are some of the free tech tools you use in your business?

    In the background screening industry, you get what you pay for. For example, a free service like going to electronic court houses, which are often not up to date with recent criminal histories, can be a problem. Several times the wrong criminal history can be associated with an applicant because there has been no on-site search from a court researcher using proper identifiers. Also, employers will go to on-line job boards for free listings of job seekers only to find that the performance of the person that they hire does not match up with what has been stated on their resume. We seldom use free tech tools because they have not necessarily proven to be sufficient in making well-qualified hires.

    What tangible impact has technology had in how you operate your business?

    We have a large database that collects every source of information so that we can organize and forward specific aspects of the background check to the responsible party for processing. We Gerberize, which means that we have established procedures for most everything we do. Using Microsoft 360 and hosting our data in the cloud gives us an extremely secure process for protecting our information. All of which means we can accomplish more with less people, giving us a cost savings advantage.

    Are there any tech tools you are thinking about adding?

    Using platform technology called an API, we are reaching out to partner with other information systems so we can integrate Pre-Check into their systems. This will broaden our national and even international presence.

    You have attended various COSE events in the past. Why do you make attending these events a priority and what benefits have you received as a result?

    I have been a member of COSE since 1994. I enjoy the networking and the educational benefits of the training sessions such as the strategic planning course, the COSE meet ups and, most recently, the GCP/COSE investor events. I find that being a member of COSE gives me a sustainable business advantage where I have found both personal and professional growth.

    Learn more about the benefits of being a COSE Member by clicking here. Or, contact our Membership Team directly via email at or by phone at 216-592-2355.

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