5 Critical Skills for the 21st Century Entrepreneur


The internet has radically changed the world.

It’s changed the rules of business, entrepreneurship, finance, and health.

In fact, it’s hard to think of a realm the internet hasn’t radically transformed.

In this post, I’m going to focus specifically on how the internet has changed entrepreneurship.

Here are 5 skills that will help your entrepreneurial endeavors today.

1. Sales


Every entrepreneur needs to be able to sell.

You might need to sell:

  • investors on financing your business,
  • a widget to your customers,
  • or even yourself on leaving your day job and taking the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship.

Internet entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule.

Even if you never deal with investors or sell in person, you will still need to write compelling copy to sell online.

There are lots of ways to make money online, but whether it’s direct or indirect, selling is unavoidable.

Veteran entrepreneurs recognize the importance of sales.

Daymond John, founder of the wildly successful apparel company FUBU and investor on the hit show Shark Tank, says the only way he invests in a CEO is if that CEO has had experience in sales.

Estee Lauder, creator of the ubiquitous makeup line, said:

I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.

Executive coach Gordon Tredgold says:

Sales are to businesses like oxygen is to humans. Without it your business will suffocate and die.(reference)

If these business experts think sales are critical to business success, it’s a good indication that this is a skill set you want to cultivate as an entrepreneur.

So how do you become a good salesman on the web?

One great way is to study the greats, specifically those that use good sales copy.

Copyblogger.com is a strong example of a business that writes stellar sales copy.

If you learn to imitate their style and implement it on your blog or website, you will stack the odds of business success in your favor.

2. Accounting


Understanding accounting is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur.

As Warren Buffett says, “accounting is the language of business.”

So understanding terms like “revenue,” “expense,” “profit,” and “return on investment” are critical to being an effective entrepreneur.

Some people might wonder why an entrepreneur should take cues from an investor like Warren Buffett.

The reality is that entrepreneurs and investors have a lot in common:

  • Both focus on the future.
  • Both must think about the return on resources (time or money).
  • Both are uniquely profit-driven.

In fact, I consider entrepreneurship and investing two sides of the same coin.

The bottom line is that knowing accounting terms can help you understand business better, which ultimately helps you be a better entrepreneur.

Here’s a list of financial terms that can help you get you started.

3. Technology


In 2010, Wired Magazine wrote a fascinating article about a chess tournament that accepted computers, and computer-assisted humans as entrants.

Among the contestants were grand masters, supercomputers, and some average Joes using cheap software to help them make the best moves.

Guess who won.

The average Joes did!

Here’s how the Wired journalist Clive Thompson put it:

The most brilliant entities on the planet, in other words (at least when it comes to chess), are neither high-end machines nor high-end humans. They’re average-brained people who are really good at blending their smarts with machine smarts.

In my opinion, this has profound implications for all aspects of life and reflects what I’ve seen with successful internet entrepreneurs.

The great entrepreneur doesn’t myopically focus on any one skill.

Instead, he understands the basics of many skills and synthesizes them to maximize profit.

For example, I know the basics of how to use the image editing software Photoshop.

I’ll probably never be a Photoshop guru because I don’t need to in order to maximize profit.

I know just enough to edit my photos and save them to a size small enough for fast loading on the internet.

I also know how to write, but I’ll never be a genius wordsmith and story-teller like Shakespeare.

Frankly, I don’t care.

I don’t need to write like Shakespeare to maximize profit through writing effective copy on the web.

So how do you take advantage of this concept and leverage technology to be the best entrepreneur you can be?

First, know your options by keeping up with tech trends.

This doesn’t mean you need to read TechCrunch every day or watch the evening news.

But it might mean that you search Google every month or two for new web apps, tools, and technological trends to make your entrepreneurial ventures easier.

What does this look like?

Here’s an example of a tech trend I’ve noticed.

As Facebook and other social media platforms have put more emphasis on video, stock video websites, and simple drag-and-drop video content creators have exploded in popularity.

Knowing tools like these exist is really helpful for entrepreneurs looking to create more video content.

4. Relationships


Relationships are critical to business success.


Because you must form a relationship with your customer in order to make a sale.

Neil Patel gives a great analogy about the importance of relationships in business.

He says that if a stranger walks up to you and asks to marry you, you (obviously) say no because you don’t know them.

Likewise, when someone comes to your website, you can’t expect them to buy what you’re selling without providing trust signals that enable them to feel like they’ve formed a relationship with you.

This is why successful e-commerce companies:

  • advertise that their website is secure,
  • note that they use bank-level encryption,
  • proudly display a rating by the Better Business Bureau,
  • or have testimonials from customers who love them.

You have to work harder on the web than in person to establish trust, since the internet is notorious for scammers and fly-by-night operations.

Some people use the anonymity of the web as an excuse to think that the rules of relationships don’t apply online.

This is obviously false.

Being on the internet doesn’t change your humanity and it doesn’t change what it means to be a decent human being.

The rules for building good relationships online and establishing trust with your web audience are the same as the rules for good in-person relationships.

So name-calling, deceitful marketing, and any other trickery or rude behavior are unwise.


  • Do good without expecting anything in return
  • Be kind and thoughtful
  • Add value whenever possible

5. Storytelling


HubSpot calls storytelling the biggest business skill of the next 5 years.

Forbes calls storytelling the new strategic imperative of business.

Entrepreneur magazine says storytelling is how savvy companies are satisfying the public’s never-ending hunger for content.

If you’re an aspiring professional blogger, you know how critical storytelling is to your business success.

Every time you write an article you are telling a story.

And the job of storytellers is to make their stories rich, compelling, and full of great examples.

I’ve already written about how to come up with ideas for articles, and how to write them well.

All you need to do now is start your blog today* and begin telling your story – the story that no one else can tell.


If you want to be an entrepreneur, these skills will help you.

But I’d like to leave you with one final recommendation.

Remove “I can’t” and “I’m not” from your vocabulary.

If you tell yourself:

“I can’t do web design,”

“I’m not a photographer,”

“I’m not qualified to do xyz,”

or any thoughts along these lines, you will most likely fail as an entrepreneur.


Because entrepreneurs must be willing to do whatever it takes to make a profit without the “necessary” titles, credentials, experience, or any other excuse that might get in the way of earning a profit.

What other skills are helpful to the 21st century entrepreneur?

I’d leave to hear about them in the comments.

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