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Gigi Blair : Must-Have Skills for Entrepreneurs in 2024

Dwayna Williams - Co-founder, PR and Brand Architect of TGND Consulting

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into entrepreneurship?

I'm Gigi Blair and I am an Executive Coach to business owners and senior leaders. I'm from a family of entrepreneurs and I desired to honor that family legacy. Working as an entrepreneur is the hardest thing I've ever done, and the best. That's not to say there aren't days and weeks when I think "I should go get a job with a regular paycheck and paid vacation." Those thoughts always pass.

I've been in business for myself for 15 years, but interestingly, as I look back over my entire career all my positions were in start-up positions, even when working for large companies.

What are the top three skills you think are crucial for entrepreneurs today?

The top skills for an entrepreneur first appear as individual skills but closely linked and interwoven.

They are:

1) Learning to manage your emotions so that you can ride the inevitable ups and downs, while

2) maintaining focus, and

3) communicating clearly to your prospects, clients, team members, and suppliers.  The beauty of skills is that they are learned behaviors, so whatever one's current ability is in these 3 areas you can always grow stronger and improve.

How do you think the role of technology has impacted these skills in recent years?

The technological revolution has greatly impacted our abilities and much has been written on that subject. Specifically relating to the above 3 items there are distinct challenges: Our constant pull to check email, respond to texts, and be on social media, interrupts our focus and causes emotional upheaval. Because we are interacting with devices more and people less, and expressing ourselves with emojis rather than words and complete sentences, our communication skills are rapidly declining. As a society we are living with the negative effects of the decline of civil discourse and the ability to resolve conflict.

Could you share a story with us about how you used some of these skills to overcome a challenge in your journey?

I'm certainly not immune to being pulled in many directions and therefore can feel distracted, unfocused and always behind. All of this takes an emotional toll on me and can create deep fatigue. Business owner clients have remarked that "entrepreneurship is a continual process of learning about yourself," and I agree with that statement.

I've learned techniques and strategies that I use to address my challenges, stay focused, and move work forward. Key is remembering to practice them! My objective is to coordinate my abilities to make the best choices the easiest ones.

1) I work to be very clear on what I want to do or create, define how this supports my business, and lay out the actions as I know them at that time, step by step. This takes setting aside intentional time to think, write, and rewrite these ideas and steps. Clarity and simplicity are king.

2) Stepping back and asking myself - usually out loud - in-the-moment-questions like "where am I now with work? What do I need to create a successful outcome now? Who can help? Where can I delegate? What does success look like for this project or at this time?" Growing in self-awareness and self-honesty is an on-going journey.

3) This strategy is perhaps my most important to maximize productivity and have more fun.  I book co-working time with a colleague. We log into Zoom, state what we are working on and what we want to accomplish over the next hour, then each of us gets to work. We stay muted on zoom and reconnect in an hour to report what we've accomplished. Entrepreneurship can be lonely and having this co-working partner eases the loneliness while helping me focus. Sometimes I use a co-working session for #1 above - gaining clarity on where I am and what's next...often called strategy.

In your opinion, how important is it for entrepreneurs to adapt to changing trends and what do you see as the biggest trend in 2024?

It is vital to know what's happening both in the world at large and of course in your particular industry. Maintaining a level of cultural literacy helps entrepreneurs productively engage with those in their sphere. AI seems to be on everyone's mind so I name it as the top trend. Many are questioning "should I use it?" And if so, how and when? This is an excellent example of a topic that would be discussed in a Mastermind - your learning curve is cut as you hear what others are doing, how they are using it, their successes and pitfalls.

What's one common mistake you often see new entrepreneurs make, and how can they avoid it?

It is so easy for most entrepreneurs (both new and established) to be distracted by the "BSO - the bright, shiny object syndrome," but probably the single biggest mistake is thinking that the something I'm working on / getting ready to launch / etc., must be this or that (aka perfect) before it goes live. Most bodies of work are never really complete. An award-winning author told me she submits a draft to her publisher, and yes, you can launch a business without having a perfect website! I regularly remind entrepreneurs that we usually are building the plane while taking off. This can be a different mindset for the individual who likes to have all the checks in the boxes or the pretty bow on top before launching. 

How do you keep learning and growing as an entrepreneur?

I can't overstate the importance of regularly being engaged with a trusted group of fellow entrepreneurs, ie, participating in a Mastermind. Listening to others, learning from others, and supporting others in their challenges is undoubtedly one of the best short and long-term strategies to staying grounded and focused while growing both as an individual and as a business owner.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting their entrepreneurial journey in 2024?

Learning to work ON your business versus IN your business is critical and this is where being a member of a group is so helpful - it forces you to set aside time to work on your business. Most business owners go into business because they are excellent technicians - they are experts in their field and what they do is second-nature. Developing, growing, and effectively and efficiently running the day to day operations is another story. Know when you need help and be strong enough to ask for it!


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