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Entrepreneurship Toolkit

Resources and tools to assist with starting and running new ventures.

This guide includes resources and tools for starting and running new ventures.

Getting Started

Walks readers through the various stages of starting a business--from start-up and growth to an initial public offering--while highlighting the legal issues that go along with them. 

Entrepreneur's Guide to Law and Strategy

Check harvard availability.

Collection of articles originally published in the Harvard Business Review focused on helping founders build companies for enduring success.  Featured contributors include Clayton Christensen, Marc Andreessen, and Reid Hoffman.

HBR's 10 must reads on entrepreneurship and startups

Insights, stories, and practical advice gathered from HBS Professor Jeff Bussgang's own experience as well as from interviews with dozens of the most successful players on both sides of the game. Topics include how to get noticed, perfect a pitch, and negotiate a partnership that works for everyone.

Mastering the VC Game: a venture capital insider reveals how to get from start-up to IPO on your own terms

Silicon Valley expert Steve Blank's essential handbook for starting a business.

Startup Owner's Manual

Discovery platform for materials and resources available in the Harvard University libraries.

Go To Database

Search the Harvard Library catalog, HOLLIS, for more books on the topic.  Tip:  try adding handbook or playbook to either startup or entrepreneur when searching.

Understand the Market

Industry reports.

Detailed descriptions of companies, industries, and mutual funds.

Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage

Features market quotes, earnings estimates, financial fundamentals, press releases, transaction data, corporate filings, ownership profiles and sell-side equity research. 

Refinitiv Workspace

Use Refinitiv Workspace to locate industry analyst reports  relevant to your venture.

Need a Refinitiv Workspace overview?  Check out our multimedia learning module,  Learn with Baker Library  - Refinitiv Introduction.

Market Research

Global reports on economic, scientific, and technological developments.

BCC Research

Reports and market trends encompassing various technology, energy, and manufacturing-related fields.

Frost & Sullivan

Industry research reports for select US states, UK, Australia, Canada, and China.

U.S. consumer market studies and primary and secondary data analysis for topics including food, beverage, apparel, beauty, retail, and travel.

Mintel Reports

Market research reports on consumer products and industries worldwide from Euromonitor International.

Identify Funders and Competitors

Using the databases below, you can screen for venture capital firms based on a variety of criteria.  

You can also identify competitors by seeing who these firms are funding that are working in a similar space.

Data on public and private companies, investment firms, capital transactions, and people.  Includes S&P RatingsDirect. 

Need a Capital IQ overview?  Check out our multimedia learning module, Learn with Baker Library - Capital IQ Introduction.  

 Information on companies, deals, funds, investors and service providers across the private investment lifecycle.

Tracks global venture capital, angel investment, private equity, M&A, and IPO activity related to private companies. 

CB Insights

Provides access to information on private equity and venture capital companies, funds, and deals.

Educational and networking forum for Harvard Alumni and other participants who are interested in researching and investing in early stage companies on an individual basis.

Harvard Business School Alumni Angel Association

Pitch your idea.

Startup veterans Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis outline how to create a compelling pitch deck and how to plan and execute a fundraising road show that will win financial support for new businesses. 

Get backed : the handbook for creating your pitch deck, raising money, and launching the venture of your dreams

Multinational news site covering business and financial topics such as technology, politics, global affairs, healthcare, business, energy and sustainability.

Business Insider

Our Insider premium subscription includes access to their library of over 750+ startup pitch decks .  To access the pitch deck library, after you have created your account, click on your name in the upper right hand corner (which contains shortcuts to all premium content).

Michael Skok presentation at the Harvard iLab.  Outlines how to put together the perfect pitch that gets your venture the attention and the funding it deserves. 

Startup Secrets: Getting Behind the Perfect Pitch

Get inspired by this collection of pitch decks compiled by Startup Grind.

Startup Grind Pitch Deck Archive

Templates and forms.

Industry-embraced set of model legal documents that can be used as a starting point in venture capital financings.

National Venture Capital Association: Model Documents

Free legal documents and templates drafted by UpCounsel Attorneys, including SAFE and other financing documents.

UpCounsel Legal Documents

Sample business plans, templates, listings, glossary and bibliography.

Business Plans Handbook

Guides and templates on how to write a business plan.

Blogs and News

VC Fred Wilson's blog.

Podcast from Adreessen Horowitz covering topics relating to technology and business & innovation.

Newsletter, essays and presentations covering tech by consultant and long-time analyst Benedict Evans.

Benedict Evans

Tech startup advice from First Round Capital.

First Round Review

Blog from entrepreneurial expert Steve Blank.  His site also contains an excellent selection of practical resources & tools .

Skills and Behaviors that Make Entrepreneurs Successful

What makes a successful entrepreneurial leader?

Is it the technical brilliance of Bill Gates? The obsessive focus on user experience of Steve Jobs? The vision, passion, and strong execution of Care.com’s Sheila Lirio Marcelo? Or maybe it’s about previous experience, education, or life circumstances that increase confidence in a person’s entrepreneurial abilities.

Like the conviction of Marla Malcolm Beck and husband Barry Beck that high-end beauty retail stores and spas, tightly coupled with online stores, was the business model of the future, while other entrepreneurs—and the investors who financed them—declared such brick-and-mortar businesses were dinosaurs on their way to extinction. The success of Bluemercury proved the critics wrong.

“We’ve always had a hard time being able to identify the skills and behaviors of entrepreneurial leaders”

Despite much research into explaining what makes entrepreneurial leaders tick, the answers are far from clear. In fact, most studies present conflicting findings. Entrepreneurs, it seems, are still very much a black box waiting to be opened.

A Harvard Business School research team is hoping that a new approach will enable better understanding of the entrepreneurial leader. The program combines self-assessments of their skills and behaviors by entrepreneurs themselves with evaluations of them by peers, friends, and employees.

Along the way the data is also allowing scholars to study attributes of entrepreneurs by gender, as well compare serial entrepreneurs versus first-time founders.

“We’ve always had a hard time being able to identify the skills and behaviors of entrepreneurial leaders,” says HBS Professor Lynda Applegate, who has spent 20 years studying leadership approaches and behaviors of successful entrepreneurs. “Part of the problem is that people usually focus on an entrepreneurial ‘personality’ rather than identifying the unique skills and behaviors of entrepreneurs who launch and grow their own firms.”

Complicating this understanding are the many types of entrepreneurial ventures that exist, says Applegate. These can include small “lifestyle” businesses, multi-generational family businesses, high-growth, venture funded technology businesses, and new ventures designed to commercialize breakthrough discoveries in life sciences, clean tech, and other scientific fields.

“These types of ventures seem to both appeal to and require different types of entrepreneurial leaders and we are hoping that our research will help us understand those differences—if they exist,” says Applegate, the Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at HBS and Chair of the HBS Executive Education Portfolio for Business Owners & Entrepreneurs.

The answers are already starting to come in, thanks to initial results from a pilot test of “The Entrepreneurial Leader: Self Assessment” survey taken by 1,300 HBS alumni. Results allowed the researchers to refine the self-assessment and to create a second survey, “The Entrepreneurial Leader: Peer Assessment.” Both are being prepared for launch in summer 2016.

The team included Applegate; Janet Kraus , entrepreneur-in-residence; and Tim Butler, Senior Fellow and Senior Advisor to Career and Professional Development at HBS and Chief Scientist and co-founder of Career Leader.

Dimensions of entrepreneurial leadership

A literature review combined with interviews of successful entrepreneurs helped the team define key factors that formed the foundation for the self-assessment. These dimensions were further refined based on statistical analysis of the pilot test responses to create a new survey instrument that defines 11 factors and associated survey questions that will be used to understand the level of comfort and self-confidence that founders and non-founders have with various dimensions of entrepreneurial leadership.

These 11 dimensions are:

  • Identification of Opportunities. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to identify and seek out high-potential business opportunities.
  • Vision and Influence. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to influence all internal and external stakeholders that must work together to execute a business vision and strategy.
  • Comfort with Uncertainty. Measures skills and behaviors associated with being able to move a business agenda forward in the face of uncertain and ambiguous circumstances.
  • Assembling and Motivating a Business Team. Measures skills and behaviors required to select the right members of a team and motivate that team to accomplish business goals.
  • Efficient Decision Making. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to make effective and efficient business decisions, even in the face of insufficient information.
  • Building Networks. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to assemble necessary resources and to create the professional and business networks necessary for establishing and growing a business venture.
  • Collaboration and Team Orientation. Measures skills and behaviors associated with being a strong team player who is able to subordinate a personal agenda to ensure the success of the business.
  • Management of Operations. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to successfully manage the ongoing operations of a business.
  • Finance and Financial Management. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the successful management of all financial aspects of a business venture.
  • Sales. Measures skills and behaviors needed to build an effective sales organization and sales channel that can successfully acquire, retain, and serve customers, while promoting strong customer relationships and engagement.
  • Preference for Established Structure. Measures preference for operating in more established and structured business environments rather than a preference for building new ventures where the structure must adapt to an uncertain and rapidly changing business context and strategy.

While the 11 factors provided some level of discrimination between founders and non-founders, five factors showed statistically significant differences. For example, founders scored significantly higher than non-founders on “comfort with uncertainty,” “identification of opportunities,” “vision and influence,” “building networks,” and “finance and financial management.” Founders also had significantly lower ratings on their “preference for established structure” dimension.

Entrepreneurial leadership differences between founders and non-founders

Although some of the factors—like comfort with uncertainty and the ability to identify opportunities—seemed like obvious markers for entrepreneurial success, the study built a statistically reliable and valid tool that can be used to deepen understanding, not only of founders versus non-founders, but also of differences and similarities among founders who start and grow different types of businesses, between male and female founders, serial founders and first-time founders and founders from different countries.

In addition, a deeper examination of the individual questions that make up each factor provides richer descriptions of specific behaviors and skills that account for the differences in the profile of entrepreneurs who are launching different types of ventures and from many different backgrounds.

Take vision and influence, for example. Although it is a long-standing belief that great leaders have vision and influence, the researchers found that entrepreneurial leaders have more confidence of their abilities than the average leader on this dimension—and that leaders working within established firms actually rated themselves much lower.

Financial management and governance turned out to be another non-obvious differentiator.

“Financial management is a skill that all of our HBS alumni should feel confident in applying,” Kraus says. “Yet among the alumni surveyed in the pilot, those who had chosen to be founders rated themselves as much more confident in their financial management skills—especially those related to managing cash flow, raising capital, and board governance—than did non-founder alumni.”

Self-confidence in financial management and raising capital was especially strong for male entrepreneurs, she says. “Our future research will broaden our sample beyond HBS alumni to enable us to differentiate between those who graduated with and without an MBA, and to assess confidence in raising capital and financial management and a wide variety of other skills by different types of founders and non-founders.”

Efficient management of operations was another crucial, yet less obvious, factor. “While we often think that employees within established organizations would be more confident in their ability to efficiently manage operations, we were surprised to see that it is a distinguishing and differentiating attribute of entrepreneurs,” says Kraus. “All entrepreneurs know that they must do more with less—which means that they must work faster and with fewer resources.”

Differentiating male and female entrepreneurs

The pilot study allowed researchers to examine gender differences. While men and women rated themselves similarly on many dimensions, women were more confident in their ability to “efficiently manage operations” and in their “vision and influence,” while men expressed greater confidence in their “comfort with uncertainty” and “finance and financial management."

Entrepreneurial leadership differences between male and female founders

These differences rang true for Kraus, herself a serial entrepreneur who founded and grew three successful entrepreneurial ventures.

“Successful women entrepreneurs that I know have lots of great ideas, and are super skilled at creating a compelling vision that moves people to action,” she says. “They are also extremely capable of getting lots done with very little resources so are great at efficient management of operations. That said, these same women are often more conservative when forecasting financial goals and with raising significant rounds of capital. And, even if they have a big vision, they are less confident in declaring at the outset that their goal is to become a billion-dollar business.”

Indeed, research confirms observations that women start more companies than men, but rarely grow them as large.

Based on his earlier research, these results also resonated with Tim Butler: “When it comes to self-rating on finance skills, women are more likely than men to rate themselves lower than ratings given them by objective observers. There are definitely implications for educators when lower self-confidence in skills associated with entrepreneurial careers becomes a significant obstacle for talented would-be entrepreneurs.”

The researchers hope to deepen their understanding of male and female entrepreneurial leaders as they collect more data.

Differentiating serial founders and first-time founders

Not all founders are cut from the same cloth, the study underscores. Analysis of the pilot data also revealed important differences between first-time founders and serial founders—those who launch and grow a number of new ventures, such as Elon Musk (PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX) and research team member Kraus (Circles, Spire; peach).

One key difference the research team discovered: serial founders appear more comfortable with managing uncertainty and risk. That doesn’t mean they enjoy taking risks, Kraus says, “but they appear to be confident that they are adept and capable of knowing how to ‘de-risk’ their venture and manage uncertainty from the very beginning."

Entrepreneurial leadership differences between serial founders and non-serial founders

While the data are not yet robust enough to say so with certainty, Kraus believes that serial entrepreneurs often enjoy launching businesses where the risk is highest because of confidence in their ability to manage uncertainty, and perhaps because they enjoy the process of creating clarity from uncertainty.

Other factors that set serial entrepreneurs apart from one-timers include confidence in their skills at building networks, securing financing and financial management, and generating creative ways to identify and meet market opportunities.

FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES

As more people take the assessment and HBS develops a richer data set, scholars, educators, entrepreneurs and those who support them will be able to develop insights that will have a number of payoffs.

“The entrepreneurial leaders we know are constantly searching for tools that can help them become more self-aware so they can be more effective,” Kraus explains. “This tool is going to be uniquely useful in that it was specifically developed to help entrepreneurs gain a deeper understanding of the skills and behaviors that they need to be successful.”

In addition, researchers will be able to examine the data by age, gender, country, industry, size of company, pace of growth, and type of venture “to understand the full range of entrepreneurial leadership skills and behaviors, and how different types of entrepreneurs are similar and different,” Applegate says. “These insights will enable us to do a better job of educating entrepreneurs, designing apprenticeships and providing the mentorship needed.”

The data will also be useful in identifying skills and behaviors needed to jumpstart entrepreneurial leadership in established firms, and in understanding how an entrepreneurial leader continues to lead innovation throughout the lifecycle of a business—from startup through scale-up.

“Today, I often see that the creativity and innovation that was so prevalent in the early days of an entrepreneurial venture gets squeezed out as the company grows and starts to scale,” says Applegate. “But, rather than replace entrepreneurs with professional managers, we need to ensure that we have entrepreneurial leadership and creativity in all organizations and at levels in organizations. We hope that our research will help clarify the behavior and skills needed and, over time, will help us track the entrepreneurial leadership behaviors and skills of companies of all size, in all industries, and around the world.”

Given the critical importance of entrepreneurial leaders in driving the economy and improving society, shockingly little is understood about them. The data and analysis emerging from HBS will provide important insights that can help answer the questions, “What makes a successful entrepreneurial leader and how can I become a successful entrepreneurial leader?”

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Entrepreneurship

Browse entrepreneurship learning materials including case studies, simulations, and online courses. Introduce core concepts and real-world challenges to create memorable learning experiences for your students.

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Fundamentals of Case Teaching

Our new, self-paced, online course guides you through the fundamentals for leading successful case discussions at any course level.

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Entrepreneurship Cases with Female Protagonists

Explore a collection of entrepreneurship cases featuring female protagonists curated by the HBS Gender Initiative.

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Entrepreneurship Simulations

Give your students hands-on experience making decisions.

Entrepreneurship Cases

Discover cases that cover real-world entrepreneurship challenges.

Entrepreneurship Core Curriculum

These readings cover the fundamental concepts and frameworks that business students must learn.

Entrepreneurship Cases with Protagonists of Color

Discover entrpreneurship cases featuring protagonists of color that have been recommended by Harvard Business School faculty.

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Must-Have Entrepreneurial Skills for Aspiring Business Owners

Aspiring business owner honing entrepreneurial skills at their desk

  • 25 Aug 2020

What comes to mind when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?

Maybe you picture a talented college dropout, or a seasoned business professional with a knack for predicting the next big thing. Whatever the persona, replace it with yourself.

There’s no specific demographic or personality profile of a successful entrepreneur . No matter your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or upbringing, you can be an entrepreneur if you have the dedication, drive, and business skills.

Access your free e-book today.

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Whether entrepreneurship is a mix of innate traits or learned abilities is a constant debate. While risk tolerance, resilience , innovation , and creative problem-solving can provide a head start, they aren’t the only qualities to becoming an effective business owner.

Unlike personality traits and demographic details, you can learn and practice entrepreneurship through education, training, and experience. By taking advantage of growth opportunities, you can build valuable skills and generate innovative ideas to achieve business success.

If entrepreneurship is a path you’d like to pursue, use this list to take stock of your strengths and weaknesses and determine which skills to develop before launching your venture .

Check out the video below to learn more about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more explainer content!

6 Skills All Entrepreneurs Need

1. finance skills.

Finance skills, such as budgeting and financial statement analysis , are necessary for running a business.

Creating a reasonable budget and sticking to it can be the difference between your venture’s success and failure. By learning this essential finance skill, you can avoid overspending and appropriately allocate company resources.

It’s also imperative to know how to read and prepare financial statements , including a balance sheet , income statement , and cash flow statement . Aside from being required for reporting and tax purposes, these documents help you track performance, make future projections, and manage expenses. They can also be useful to investors and banks that are considering funding your startup because they show your business’s financial progress.

2. Networking

Your network is one of your greatest assets. Networking can enable you to not only meet like-minded professionals but build your future team and keep a finger on your industry’s pulse.

A graphic with dotted line connecting to each part of an entrepreneur's network

Your professional network can comprise:

  • Former and current co-workers
  • Alumni from educational institutions
  • Professors and teachers
  • Industry leaders and speakers
  • Past and present clients
  • Friends and family members
  • Business professionals in your geographic area
  • Fellow entrepreneurs with similar interests, responsibilities, and goals

Identify and reach out to people in your network who can guide you in your entrepreneurial journey and inform your decision-making . Ask them about their businesses, how long they’ve been in their industries, and lessons they’ve learned from successes and failures. Perhaps they’ve started several companies and can offer valuable advice about raising funds, developing products, and building a client base. They may even be able to connect you to contacts whose work aligns with yours.

In addition to leveraging your network, expand it. One way to do so is by signing up for networking events in your area or industry, such as HBS Online’s annual Connext conference, where learners from around the world come together to network, engage, and learn from HBS leadership and faculty.

LinkedIn is another valuable way to connect with others. Using the platform’s feed and recommendation algorithm, you can find professionals with whom you have shared connections and similar interests and job titles. Don’t be afraid to send a note introducing yourself to a new contact.

Related: How Leaders Develop and Use Their Network

3. Speaking Confidently

The importance of speaking confidently as an aspiring entrepreneur can’t be overstated. Whether pitching to investors , communicating with clients, or making conversation at an event, the way you talk about your business and its potential can influence how others see it, too. Showing a lack of confidence can deter investors from funding your venture and lead customers to question their decisions to buy from you.

Remember: You are your business’s biggest advocate. If you’ve achieved a milestone like product-market fit , share that with others.

People may doubt you along the way, but you should never be one of them. Confidence can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and investors.

4. Accepting and Acting on Feedback

To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be eager to receive feedback and act on it. This requires staying humble and accepting that your idea of your product’s perfect version may not resonate with your target customers.

“Pinpointing your target customer is a critical early step in the startup business model development process,” Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Jeffery Bussgang says in the online course Launching Tech Ventures .

Launching Tech Ventures | Build a viable, valuable tech venture that can profitably scale | Learn More

One way to gather feedback is by conducting customer validation interviews to solicit constructive criticism regarding your product, proposed business model , and assumptions you’ve made about users.

You may also garner feedback from investors, more experienced entrepreneurs, and friends and family—and some of it may be unsolicited. You’re not required to implement all their advice, but it’s beneficial to consider it. Would their suggestions increase your product’s quality, value, or user experience? If the answer is “yes,” make those improvements.

Related: 5 Key Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

5. Recognizing Patterns

Pattern recognition—in data, market trends, and user behavior—is an often-overlooked entrepreneurial skill.

For instance, identifying patterns in cash flow statements can enable you to make predictions about future cash flows. When observing market sales data, you can identify seasonality or other time-related trends that inform long-term goals.

Recognizing patterns can also help you to excel in your industry. If entering the tech space, you must understand the common challenges and patterns of what Bussgang calls “tough tech ventures” in Launching Tech Ventures . For example, health care settings involve many ethical issues around patient-facing products due to data privacy and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

When observing how users interact with your product, pay attention to how they react to specific elements and what questions arise. If your product is an app, perhaps you identify a pattern among teenage users who download it and immediately open the chat function. You can use trends to learn more about customers’ motivations and improve your product to better fit their needs.

Related: 7 Questions to Ask for an Insightful User Interview

6. Maintaining a Growth Mindset

As an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s critical to have a growth mindset . A growth mindset involves perceiving intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement, as opposed to a fixed mindset, which entails believing those same traits to be inherently stable and unchangeable.

One professional who demonstrates the growth mindset is Maggie Robb , vice president of operations at Spire Health. Robb knew she had a lot to learn when making the transition from a large corporation to a Silicon Valley startup and decided to take the online course Entrepreneurship Essentials to strengthen her entrepreneurial skills.

“While I have a deep business background, I wasn’t well versed in several important aspects of entrepreneurship, like investment structure, fundraising, and valuation,” Robb says.

Entrepreneurship Essentials | Succeed in the startup world | Learn More

In addition to bolstering her knowledge of those topics, Robb says the course helped her recognize the value of testing and iteration in the entrepreneurial process.

“While not something I was completely unfamiliar with, I realized the importance of it within a startup,” Robb says. “It made me look at our resource allocation in a different way, compared to traditional companies with established products.”

Robb’s story imparts a vital lesson: Your skills aren’t fixed but rather result from effort, practice, and persistence. By maintaining a growth mindset, you can avoid taking your skills for granted and capitalize on opportunities to grow and improve throughout your career.

Which HBS Online Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Developing Your Entrepreneurial Skills

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires dedication, drive, and hard work. One thing it doesn’t require is fitting a specific demographic.

With financial literacy , networking skills, confidence, the ability to accept feedback and recognize patterns, and a growth mindset, anyone can pursue entrepreneurship.

As long as you’re willing to strengthen your entrepreneurial skills, you can successfully position yourself to start your own company.

Are you interested in bolstering your entrepreneurship skills? Explore Entrepreneurship Essentials and Launching Tech Ventures , two of our online entrepreneurship and innovation courses. If you aren't sure which is the right fit, download our free course flowchart to determine which best aligns with your goals.

This post was updated on July 28, 2023. It was originally published on August 25, 2020.

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About the Author

  • Harvard Business School →
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Personality Traits of Entrepreneurs: A Review of Recent Literature

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William R. Kerr

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hbr articles on entrepreneurship

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Earning Other People's Respect Comes Down to These 3 Things Respect at work doesn't automatically come with a fancy job title, according to the new book, "Stop the Shift Show."

By Scott Greenberg • Feb 27, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Previous generations gave employers respect based on their job titles. These days, authority must be earned.
  • Respect comes down to three things: character, connection, and competence.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following is an excerpt from business expert Scott Greenberg's new book, Stop the Shift Show: Turn Your Struggling Hourly Workers Into a Top-Performing Team , available now.

Things have changed with the attitudes of today's hourly workforce . Previous generations gave employers respect based on their job titles. Not anymore. These days, authority must be earned. You need to behave in ways employees like and respect to get them to behave in ways you like. And that's something I like. No one is entitled to anything, including respect. If younger generations are forcing bosses to up their game, that's a good thing. We all need to be held accountable.

So how can you increase your credibility and up your game? It comes down to three things: character, connection, and competence.

Who you are and how you are matters to your employees. No one likes a boss who cuts corners, breaks rules, or preys on customers. They don't want to work for someone who belittles their employees or gossips. Workers want a role model. Employees are watching the way you act, the way you work, and the way you live. But true character is about how you behave even when no one is watching. When you always do the right thing, you never have to worry about getting caught.

Character is easy to understand conceptually. The hard part is practicing it, especially when there's temptation. The wrong way of doing things is often easier, more profitable, or more fun. When I was a teenager, a group of us were invited into a movie theater for free by a friend who was taking tickets at the door. One member of our group was home on spring break from West Point. Instead of walking in with the rest of us, he bought a ticket. Why? Because of the West Point honor code. I never forgot that. Seeing his higher standard of behavior made me much more self-conscious of my own. That's what being a good role model does.

Buy 'The Shift Show' Now: Entrepreneur Bookstore | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In an hourly work environment, you can demonstrate character in a few small ways that make a big impression. Follow the company rules, systems, and protocols. Be in uniform and show up on time. Speak respectfully, not just to people but about people. That includes customers, other managers (and upper management), and most certainly employees. Always tell the truth and follow through on your promises. When you make a mistake, be willing to admit it. These are all the things you want your employees to do. Show them how to be the person you want them to be.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." Living this way didn't just win Wooden the respect of his players. It also won him 10 national championships in 12 years.

hbr articles on entrepreneurship

If character is who you are, competence is what you do. Doing it well is important to being influential. Winning 10 national championships commands respect. So does winning awards, driving sales , and hitting company goals . Employees want to work for a winner, for someone who gets things done. That's why it's important for you to be great at your job. Your technical skills will go a long way toward making your workers want to listen to you.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review , "Modern evidence demonstrates, for example, that hospitals may do better if led by doctors rather than by general managers, that U.S. basketball teams do better when led by a former All-Star basketball player, that Formula One racing teams do better if led by successful former racing drivers, and that universities do better when led by top researchers rather than talented administrators."

The authors of the article studied 35,000 randomly selected employees in the U.S. and the UK. They determined that "the benefit of having a highly competent boss is easily the largest positive influence on a typical worker's level of job satisfaction." Among the American workers they studied, the impact of a technically competent boss was even more significant on employee satisfaction than a high salary.

Work to improve yourself as much as you work to improve your organization.

People relate to each other in one of two ways: by what they are or by whom they are. Throughout the day we interact with people based on what they are. If you buy a bottle of wine at the store, you bring the bottle to the register, where the cashier rings it up and tells you the price. You pay and receive a receipt. You thank the cashier, who wishes you a good day. Both of you are relating to each other based on what you are: a customer and a cashier. The encounter may have been friendly, but you're not friends.

That evening, you bring the wine to a dinner party. There are handshakes and hugs. You ask about each other's lives. You share stories and laugh, and you get to know everyone a little better. At certain points, there's some vulnerability and reveal of emotion. It's a nice evening that brings everyone closer together and an experience everyone wants to reexperience sometime soon. You've related to each other based on who you are. You have no feelings about the cashier who sold you the wine. But for these friends with whom you drank it, you'd do anything.

Many bosses see their employees only as what they are: as personnel, not people. They may say please and thank you, they may offer some praise or even politely ask about their personal lives, but they don't acknowledge their individuality. They don't consider their employees' desires, fears, or humanity. They don't make their employees feel seen or cared about. And that disconnect is typically reciprocated—all the employees see is a manager, not a person who happens to be managing.

People who make us feel seen will more easily earn our trust. They matter when we matter. In the introduction, I mocked the platitude, "Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care." But we really do respond to people we feel are invested in our growth.

You can't be friends with your employees, nor can you remember every detail about them. But whatever you can do, whatever moments you can share with them will go a long way. When you hire and onboard an employee, sit down with them and have a conversation. Find out a little about them and share a little about yourself. Ask about their life goals and how this job might help move them a little closer to those goals. Find a way to relate as people, appropriately but warmly. Continue having those conversations. Look for moments to reconnect whenever you can.

Many hourly workers lead some pretty tough lives. Your workplace might be the best place where they spend time. Maintain boundaries, but be real, be compassionate, and be kind. Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar CEO Jonathan Weathington put it quite simply to me: "Just be nice to people. If you can just offer an ounce of being a pleasant person, they'll run through a wall for you."

Get more management tips and strategies from 'Stop the Shift Show,' available now at the Entrepreneur Bookstore .

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Publication Date: March 01, 1985

Entrepreneurship is a trait that is confined neither to certain types of individuals nor to organizations. A society can do much to stimulate or inhibit the development of entrepreneurship. Government policy decisions in recent years to lower the capital gains tax and deregulate certain industries have been instrumental in encouraging establishing new businesses. College and university business programs are also instrumental in stimulation. But it's up to individual organizations to foster conditions that allow entrepreneurship to flourish.

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