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Adam Ferrari Shares 4 Small Business Skills You Won’t Learn in School

 Originally published on

While a formal education is extremely valuable for entrepreneurs, some things can only be learned by experience. In this article, Adam Ferrari, an accomplished petroleum engineer and founder of Ferrari Energy, discusses four skills essential for entrepreneurs that you won't learn in school.    

1. The art of listening 

Business schools are full of lessons about what to say and how to say it but rarely teach the art of listening. Listening plays a more critical role in business communication than talking.    

To be a successful entrepreneur, you must learn to listen intently to what your customers and employees say. You need to understand what they are saying, why they are saying it, and why they feel the way they do.    

If you find yourself mentally formulating your response before the other person is even finished talking, you have missed anopportunity for productive communication.  

2. How to motivate others 

Any successful business depends on the leader's ability toget other people to take action. Motivating others is vital, whether persuading your customers to complete a purchase or your staff to perform their tasks to the best of their abilities.   

Motivating others always includes creating a win-win situation. Sometimes the win-win is the employee receives a wage, and thecompany receives the employee's effort — but that is the least effective scenario. People perform better when in the pursuit of something more meaningful than money.    

Customers don't buy alarm systems; for example, theypurchase a sense of security — so sell them security, not widgets. Employeeswant to achieve their life's goals, not earn a paycheck — so help them achieve their goals.    

3. How to lose honorably 

In your interpersonal relationships as well as your business transactions, you will not always win. Employees will disappoint you; competitors will outmaneuver you, and customers will leave you. But unfortunately, they don’t teach you how to turn those negative situations into positive outcomes in business school.    

Accepting defeat honorably and graciously builds a reputation of someone that others want to do business with or work for. There is always someone watching and taking note of your reaction when under stress. Your next best customer may very well be someone that respects your character because of how you honorably reacted to a previous disappointment.    

4. When to say no 

Many successful entrepreneurs make a conscious effort toalways say yes if possible. It's better to say yes to your customers and employees when you can. It should be the default answer.  

Here's an example; an employee asks for an unscheduled day off at a time when you desperately need them to perform specific tasks. When they ask, tell them, yes, you can have the day off if you can stay late the previous day and get the specified work done. You get the job done, and they get a day off. It's not often this simple, but there is nearly always some way to include a yes into your answers.    

Sometimes, however, the answer must be no. When that's the case, help people understand why the answer is no, if at all possible.