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Traditional business courses focus mostly on management tools: marketing, finance and accounting, information technology management and human resources management. Entrepreneurship courses follow this tradition and turn finance into entrepreneurial finance. Business planning is also a favorite tool in these courses since it supposedly help the entrepreneur to integrate all the tools into a coherent whole. We agree that finance and accounting is a must for all businessmen, including entrepreneurs, and that business planning is also useful tool. And we definitely teach them in our classes. But they are not the most important.

Sales is the missing toolkit
The most critical tool for an entrepreneur is undoubtedly your ability to sell. Unfortunately most business schools do not have a course on sales. Ability to sell is important to all businesses. But it is particularly important to an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you are not simply selling the product or service to a customer. You are selling the entire venture to all the stakeholders. You will soon find that every single person in the world, except yourself, has their doubt about your venture. And you need every single one of them to make it a success:

? You need the customers to buy your product or service.
? You need your suppliers, distributors, and other business partners to find you credible.
? You need the financiers to support your proposition and your team.
? You need potential employees to join your team.
? You need your team to support your initiatives.

Many people confuse marketing and sales. Marketing creates awareness and preference. Selling is to communicate, educate, and influence someone to get results. Selling is about getting closure. An entrepreneur needs to get closure on many issues very quickly. The customers, the suppliers, the distributors, the financiers, and the employees need to buy what you are "selling" quickly. That is why an entrepreneur is first and foremost a salesman. Most entrepreneurs are also the real Chief of Sales for their startups. Only they have the knowledge, the conviction, and the passion to do the selling effectively.

An important part of the selling process is to develop the "pitch". The "sales pitch" is a summary of the venture and the proposition for the customers and other stakeholders. We use the famous elevator test to determine whether the pitch is good enough. You should be able to deliver the sales pitch to a potential customer during an elevator ride and convince him to buy your product. If you could not do it within the elevator ride, either you have not worked hard enough on the pitch or you do not have a good proposition.
"Making it real" is often the key to success in selling. Build a working prototype. Work out the real savings for the customer. Illustrate the details of how it works. Start the first flagship store. People see it as a "concept" until you can make it real. People only buy real commercial product and service.

Design as the core entrepreneurial skill
The term "design" could be used in many senses. "Design" could be used very narrowly to refer to different forms of artistic and creative design. Examples include fashion design, graphics design, interior design, and product design. The term could also be broadened to include the development of specific solutions or configurations that perform predefined functions. That would include computer system design, mechanical design, electronic design, and architectural design. The last example, architectural design, would probably be both functional and artistic in nature.

When we say the ability to "design" is the core or fundamental entrepreneurial skill, we are broadening the term further. As the creator of a new venture, the best metaphor for an entrepreneur is a designer. The entrepreneur is the designer of the venture. What are you designing ? You design the proposition, the business processes and systems to deliver the proposition, the team to execute these processes and systems, and the culture that the team would work in. And you need to design your own personal operating system to guide all those elements. In short, you need to design the five dynamics to make it all work together as a successful entrepreneurial venture. Design is therefore an "integrative" skill.

The fundamental principle behind entrepreneurial design is the "art of what works". The "art of what works" is to find and create patterns among different elements of a business that work successfully together. Design is about pattern recognition. "Good" designs make use of affordable and appropriate patterns that work efficiently and effectively. Good entrepreneurial designs, in addition, should be scalable and flexible.

Entrepreneurship is different from fundamental research. Fundamental research could last many years in search of the optimal or even the perfect answer. Entrepreneurial ventures need solutions right now. The fundamental design behind the venture needs to be in place from the start and implemented within a short period of time. Then you are bound to run into a lot of incremental problems or constraints. The ability to fix these effectively and quickly often depends on the entrepreneur's design skill. These designs rarely contain any "breakthrough" or "leading edge" innovation. They are mostly rearranging existing elements into new patterns that work.
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