The list of skills an entrepreneur should possess is endless. Most of these skills would be contradictory and confusing to one another. An entrepreneur would require vision and core skills to achieve it efficiently. He will also need people skills to keep the team together and get the business going. The whole book ( Prince ) centers on the conduct of the prince and every part is the epithet of his ideal behavior. Let’s look at the broad points which a today’s entrepreneur should take:
1. Fox and Lion
The entrepreneur really shows his lion heart when he decides to follow a path separate from the general world. For the sake of argument, it can be considered that this decision was a result of ambition in him. During the journey of entrepreneurship, he shall meet and interact with various kinds of people and also compete against the existing players. To come out victorious against all such people he needs to have the attributes of a fox and lion in him. Only one quality will not take him to the destination.
Machiavelli clearly explains “It is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.” To ensure he does not fall into the snares of people trying to fool him the wickedness of fox is required. He needs to stay many steps ahead of others as one wrong step can send him back by years.
Consider this; you meet people who show all the entrepreneurial skills and inclination. In the excitement, you on board them and make them a partner with you. This cannot be avoided as they will certainly ask for paperwork to cover their risk. But few months after the paperwork gets done, you see their loss of interest and in fact, efforts being put in a different project than yours. This is bound to happen as men are fickle minded. People run after what lies in front of them and they see to benefit from. Since you have done the paperwork and they have toiled with you, getting rid of them becomes a legal nightmare. Only a fox will be able to understand that what the other person is saying and what he really might be in long run will be different.
Perhaps you would like them to work with you for six months at least before you decide the paperwork? If they agree and work on it, you know they believe in your project, are hardworking and futuristic as you. Then getting into paperwork will be a smart thing. Simply jumping on someone’s words is never a good idea.
You also would be required to show the characters of a lion when you have to compete in open markets. When challenges which will come in plenty stand in front of you, you cannot act like a fox but need to be a lion and inspire your team. You need to face the ups and downs like a man finally.
2. Prepare to kill
This is easier said than done actually especially in a highly connected world. One wrong move and suddenly you are the talk of all the towns in all the world.
Machiavelli says “you have to understand this, that a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as the winds and variations of fortune force it.”
Who does not want the good press and good reviews? Who doesn’t want to be held as the ideal human being? But the situation often forces one to leave the good image behind and get your hands dirty. An entrepreneur should be always prepared to do so. If in doubt tell yourself, for one bad action of yours so many people in an organization will continue with their jobs.
Choosing to be good even in demanding situations, can cause many people to lose their jobs. If you choose to be good, then you need to get a job yourself, entrepreneurship requires more than skill and hard work. It requires self-sacrifice. The sacrifice of material possessions or comfort is not enough and you need to be prepared to let go of your ideas and most importantly your ego.
However, Machiavelli asks the prince to follow the right path as long as he can. “Not to diverge from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if compelled, then to know how to set about it.”
3. Mind your words
An entrepreneur needs to choose his words very carefully. As per Machiavelli everything that comes out from him, he should “appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious.” These five qualities should be reflected in every word that you speak of. It is good to be a good human being with these qualities but an entrepreneur needs to be seen with these qualities whether he has or not.
Some might think that religious inclination might have lost its relevance in the present world. People like to believe in men with good values as they cannot be imagined to do anything wrong. If you are god fearing, then the perceived chances of any wrongdoing reduce. The truth or the reality lies in you.
Machiavelli confirms the above with “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.” This is why you need to very thoughtful of what you speak.
What about actions?
To this, Machiavelli says not to pay a lot of attention as “men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand.” Being the founder of the organization you will be judged by the result and not the action. The welfare of the organization justifies every means for you.
4. Belief in Self-abilities
The road ahead for the entrepreneur is a long and treacherous one. It becomes very difficult to expect company on such a road and if you do get, consider yourself lucky. However, one should not rely on them and consider such a support as fortune and plan ahead. Machiavelli says “He who has relied least on fortune is established.”
Consider any successful organization and you will see that the success of such business is linked to the abilities of the founders. If you do not know to code then establishing a business that provides web development services will be very difficult. One can argue that good managerial skills can make you empower other shortcomings. But the ground reality is, you need to know to code well to manage the website developers. If you rely on a manager who knows web development to help you out when you are established on something that is within his control. “A wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others,” says Machiavelli.
5. Sharpen your skills
While you set up your startup on the skills you possess, you will still need many other skills to push yourself ahead. For example, you might be a very good coder on the strength of which you set up a website development agency. You will still need skills like digital marketing, human resource management, team building, PR understanding, creative designing, and many others to take you ahead in the project. One may be able to get in employees who do this work for him, but having these skills will give an edge. You will be able to demand more from your team as you know the boundaries to which the work can be stretched.
Machiavelli emphasizes skills by saying “Without that opportunity, their powers of mind would have been extinguished, and without those powers, the opportunity would have come in vain.” If you do not have the power of the mind, these opportunities you will not be able to avail. He also says that only when you are prepared that you will be able to identify the opportunity itself.
The entrepreneur (Prince) needs to walk a tightrope. He needs to be seen as a humane and respectful figure while he is prepared to kill if the need ever arises. An entrepreneur needs to be self-dependent, sharpen his skills to cover for the shortcomings and at the same time, he is a mix of lion and fox. Just like walking on the rope, death is certain to whichever side he falls, left or right. It is the balance of his behavior that will sail him past and maintain the kingdom.