Today I’d like to talk about the skillset required to start a business. Specifically, do you need to have a background in engineering?
I hear this used most frequently as an excuse.
”It’s just too technical for me to understand.”
”I was never good with numbers.”
”Things have changed so much since I was in school.”
But at the end of the day, these are just that: excuses. I’m here to tell you that engineering is not only NOT required to start a successful business, it could actually hurt your chances! And this is coming from someone who has their degree in engineering!
1. Engineers are preoccupied with what is possible and what isn’t. Entrepreneurs don’t care what others consider possible, and frequently attempt the impossible.
2. Engineers are focused on the present. They have a problem in front of them and they solve it. Entrepreneurs are focused on the future. They see the problem in front of them as a minor distraction on the way toward a larger goal.
3. Engineers feel that if they can make the best product, the company will be successful. Entrepreneurs realize that it is often the company with the best marketing and financial statements that wins, not necessarily the best product (sad but true).
I’ve never seen an official study done, but historically speaking, pure engineers who start companies don’t do too well. Nikola Tesla, the inventor of AC electricity and the radio, Charles Goodyear, who made the first rubber that could be used year round, and Johannes Gutenberg, who created the printing press, all died without a cent to their name.
If you happen to be clueless when it comes to technical subjects, don’t despair. You can always pay someone to do the things you don’t know how to do. And it’s getting cheaper everyday. (check out www.elance.com or www.guru.com)
If you are a brilliant engineer who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, then there is also hope for you. Simply realize that technical work has very little to do with running a successful company, and devote yourself to learning the skills of business: marketing, communication, and cash flow, to name a few. Your engineering background will still serve you as an advantage, but it won’t be a key to your success.
Most entrepreneurs realize at some point that their time is much too valuable to be spent on the everyday technical problems. Don’t let your educational background (or lack thereof) hold you back from starting a business!