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Sasha Laghonh : Must-Have Skills for Entrepreneurs in 2024

Sasha Laghonh, Founder Sasha Talks

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

I come from a business background from a young age that I was exposed to different variations of entrepreneurship in my life. I myself never imagined participating in this aspect of business until I realized some of my commercial and creative endeavors tracing back to my teenage years aligned with the principles of entrepreneurship. It was later in my career path when I recognized an opportunity to bridge a gap between my contributions within corporate America and my creative endeavors to initiate an opportunity within the entrepreneurial space. It granted me an opportunity to apply my business acumen and skills with much ease without having to segregate my abilities to serve people.

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

1. Listening - This may also get classified as an attribute but listening is truly a skill. Learning to listen to any form of rhetoric that will help you understand life and business better will grant you an advantage in forming a business mission that serves a vision beyond the horizon.

It's important to learn how to truly listen to things that are being said and not said. Some people have a tendency of avoiding conversations and spaces because it's not what they prefer to hear if it goes against the grain of their existence. This is where agreeing to disagree is a healthy meeting space to explore ideas by learning from one another.

Listening well can guide you to become a better contributor in life; whereas poor listeners engage in poor decision making skills leading to attracting more liabilities and complications in relationships. In order to be heard we also need to become better listeners in the process. Listening demands us to be 'present' in life. Listen without prejudice, or else you will enable resistance within you when attempting to make the right decisions in life.

2. Flexibility - This often is overlooked because upcoming entrepreneurs focus on skill sets and making the sales rather than focusing on their mindset. Remaining mentally and emotionally flexible with how one's entrepreneurial plans unfold is critical because there are many factors which will remain outside of one's control such as how the markets respond; etc. Regardless of whether the business opportunity caters to people on a local or global level, we're all interconnected through variables that can impact our living and working circumstances.

On a more personal level, entrepreneurs should realize there are several ways of pursuing a similar goal that remaining flexible should grant them an opportunity to learn new things rather than adhering to a one track mindset. Thinking outside the box comes easily to some people while others adhere to an alleged safe formula/space to succeed even though their formula no longer aligns with how business is conducted in today's age.

People are encouraged to look at new ways of doing things, they aren't being asked to change their values. There's a difference between the two.

3. Resilience - This is demanded of entrepreneurs in the present times more than ever. Pairing this up with grit will help them navigate the twist and turns of disappointments and welcomed surprises in their path. This is developed with time and experience as you execute your business plans. Business planning is critical for entrepreneurs to know their negotiables and non-negotiables without compromising their resources. Time is finite, resources can come and go. Contingency planning helps when execution plans may present challenges with timing and quality of outcomes.

Contrary to the aspirational marketing presented on social media, real entrepreneurs invest more time and resources in securing a consistent income versus the tales of people working two to four hour work week. It's possible but it's not practical for people who want to truly embrace entrepreneurship. Most start ups fail in their first year, others fail within the first five years. Most entrepreneurs are self-funded to start out before third parties may invest in them, this is contingent upon the nature of their business.

Develop confidence in knowing your mission because your commitment will be tested with life and business circumstances. Those who enter this space for vanity reasons typically vaporize in only a matter of time. The timing of results and quality of outcomes can vary depending on how well the person(s) are equipped to bring their presence to the market.

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

Technology has definitely helped bridge the gap in producing results in less time through online communication and collaboration. The basic cell phone itself signified a milestone within the business space when people were no longer anchored to desks waiting for a commercial call. As cell phones have evolved into mini computers and through development of software(s), including cloud tools, entrepreneurs have a greater advantage in getting creative with how they work. The tools can help one partner with global partners within minutes by expanding their commercial presence. Since it's a two way engagement we need to remain mindful of how we're managing our time and literal spaces.

Technology does offer convenience which shouldn't be mistaken for delivering productivity and better results because not everyone knows how to respect the purpose of convenience in life. It can lead to counter productivity if people start believing they can 'wing it' to bring a respectable business idea to work. Also more people waste time on these technologies because it's not serving a greater purpose other than a distraction. Technology is a tool like any other. How well we apply and manage it will dictate whether it's a blessing or a curse in our life. For example, virtual social media and team collaboration tools, have permitted people to share their expertise in different forms other than relying on traditional methods.

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

My listening skills have evolved over the years due to the nature of my work that it's also helped me become more operationally efficient in 'real-time' and virtual settings. Overall as a person I'm significantly more 'present' in life compared to the past. In terms of resilience, it comes down to living life and working through the curveballs that come your way. I've seen a string of successes and I've encountered respectable failures that delivered a fair perspective on moving forward without getting distracted by these milestones. When you acquire sufficient mileage in life, you'll learn not to get easily phased by either one to the point where it incapacitates you from living.

Failures can serve as milestones too, if one remains vigilant to fail fast and move on granted the lesson carries with them. This in essence helped me outgrow coping mechanisms that can only help for a limited period of time to course correct those failures. Listening and resilience can't be bought or outsourced in life. It demands us to show up and practice everyday because anyone can bluff that they're doing well until hard times fall then the truth reveals itself. Learning how to cope with uncertainty by remaining flexible is critical because it's a life reality regardless of who we are or what we do for a living -- no one is immune from the laws of nature.

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's important to pay attention to what is going on around you without immersing yourself in these realities. Observe, listen and see how these realities align with what you're doing in business. Refrain from blindly following trends because trends are transient in nature which may actually have nothing to do with you.

From observation, people have become more curious to learn about AI and its ability to help businesses. This will evolve over the year as people discover whether it's a friend or foe. Similarly, businesses are exploring ways to lean up their operations to work efficiently that layoffs will continue (not primarily due to AI's emergence) as workers find ways to generate incomes through creative avenues granting them more autonomy and job satisfaction.

Some industries will ramp up hiring while others will reduce headcount because the days of hiring top talent for bragging rights are slowly becoming non-existent. The top talents will get absorbed by deserving employers who can deliver on their word. In return, these top talents will need to justify their marketability and aptitude. Very few spaces exist where workers can pretentiously 'role-play' to be competent in their positions because resources are being reallocated by removing over inflated perceived roles that deliver limited or non-existent ROI.

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

Some people are so ambitious that they expect to see results overnight like the Youtube commercials that promise overnight success. They become obsessed with producing results which paralyzes them from thinking straight to make sensible decisions. No one likes desperation. Calm down or else the entrepreneurship mission will eat you alive.

The other common mistake is becoming impatient in the process of executing your business plans. Develop patience because entrepreneurship is a wild ride which many people do not survive in the long run. Things are going to go wrong, things will get delayed, life may even get in the way of business but if you're committed ... you will overcome it. Have more faith in yourself.

How do you keep learning and growing as an entrepreneur?

I've always had a student mentality by remaining curious about life. Whether I'm the student or the teacher, I seek new things to learn outside of my comfort zone during my personal time. I didn't realize how much I read and write until the recent years because my reading pipeline is often full as well I engage in new activities that involve groups of people at a minimum. Between my professional and personal time, there's always something new brewing which ignites my curiosity.

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

You already have what it takes to become successful. Pay attention, listen and keep learning about life. The learning process never ends regardless of how competent you are at what you do. Who you are will determine how well you do with your goals.


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