I frequently see headlines such as: “Three things to do if you want to avoid the debt trap”, or “Seven habits of highly effective people”, or even, “Seven clues to the origins of life”. It occurs to me that numbered or bulleted lists makes information more easily digestible … unless we’re talking about David Hilbert’s list of 23 unsolved problems in mathematics.

One evening, I asked myself, what are the key attributes that an entrepreneur must possess to succeed? From this I created my list of the top five skills:

1. Closely Manage Costs

The easiest way to be profitable is to watch your costs. This requires ensuring that your circle of expenses remains entirely within your circle of revenues. At TEOCO, we work hard to conservatively project our revenue at the start of every year and ensure that our expenses never exceed this amount.

2. Be Courageous

An entrepreneur must display the courage to take on and manage risks. Many people avoid risks. I believe this is often a key reason why they fail to reach their potential. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are typically much more willing to take risks. They succeed not because of superior wealth or acumen, but because they have the courage and fortitude to take risks and effectively manage them.

3. Be Innovative

An entrepreneur must continuously search for opportunities to innovate. I remember back in the late 1990s when we used to struggle with the process of digitizing paper invoices so we could audit them for our clients. The process was slow, painful, and error-prone. We were losing time, money, and opportunity. But even back then, every line item on a paper invoice began its life as an electronic file. So, why not use these digital files to eliminate data entry once and for all? With this innovative thinking, came the idea to develop TEOCO’s patented XTrak technology, which evolved into our flagship network cost management platform, BillTrak.

4. Be Principled

I see a lot of people embracing entrepreneurship because they think that they can get rich – and making money is their key driver. An alternative approach is to define your passion and purpose and build a team around you that shares your beliefs. Once you align people around a common purpose, it is amazing what becomes possible. Our commitment to each other, and to our clients, has enabled TEOCO to weather the adversity created by the COVID pandemic.  A TEOCO board member and colleague of mine, John Devolites, once told me: “The entrepreneur’s road is littered with those who have sacrificed their values … and failed.” I completely agree with John: You not only give yourself a higher chance of business success by building a business around your passion and purpose, but you are also bound to have joy in your heart even if you fail.

5. Value Your Team

My final lesson is to be caring. Recognize that while the business matters, people matter even more. Create a joyful workplace culture, an environment of giving and sharing. Show empathy and kindness, be considerate and compassionate – and your loyalty and hard work will be returned to you 100-fold.

With special thanks to Srinivas Bhogle for his support and contribution to this project.