The art of conversation is an essential entrepreneurial skill, whether it’s using storytelling techniques or presenting data visually.
“Whether it’s using storytelling techniques or presenting data visually, entrepreneurs who invest in honing their soft skills don’t just survive, they thrive”, says Rakesh Godhwani, Founder & CEO, School of Meaningful Experiences
According to a recent PwC report, the country currently has the second-largest number of unicorns globally, after the United States. While entry into the coveted billion-dollar valuation club may still be limited to a handful of startups, the good news is that Indian entrepreneurs are now in the big league.
The billion-dollar question remains: What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? “If you Google ‘top skills in entrepreneurs’, communication would feature among the top five,” says Rakesh Godhwani, Founder and CEO of the School of Meaningful Experiences (SoME), an edtech startup based in Bengaluru.
“Entrepreneurs are individuals who take risks and create economic and/or social value from a product/service. They have to raise capital, bring teams together, mobilise a supply chain, and serve customers to produce value. And at the heart of all these activities, there’s communication and persuasion,” explains the IIM Bangalore alumnus and computer engineer with a PhD in leadership communication from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK.
The art of conversation is an essential entrepreneurial skill. Whether it’s using storytelling techniques or presenting data visually, entrepreneurs who invest in honing their soft skills don’t just survive, they thrive!
While it’s a common practice to hire media agencies, can a company’s communication be completely outsourced? “You can hire good agencies to sharpen and fine-tune your pitch or narrative, but the ability of the founder to communicate their vision is of paramount importance. Effective marketing strategies and impactful campaigns are born out of this vision,” says Godhwani.
In cases where one’s skills are more aligned to the technical side of the business, he recommends bringing in a co-founder who can communicate well and meaningfully complement the entrepreneurial venture. “At Apple, Wozniak was the geek, and Jobs was the talker. It would be wrong to assume, though, that Wozniak was not a good communicator. He probably connected with a very different set of audiences as compared to Jobs. The same holds for every successful entrepreneur,” he notes.
Navigating the learning path
Contrary to popular perceptions, good communicators are not always born with innate skills. Also, fluency in English is not equivalent to good communication.
One can learn to be a good communicator, with proper guidance, training, and effort. Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, has gone on record to say how a Dale Carnegie public speaking course that he took in his early days was instrumental to his phenomenal success.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to hone their communication skills. “Navigating the learning path can be a challenge,” admits Godhwani, who founded SoME in 2018 with a mission to transform education in India based on his unique ‘Six C’ model, covering Communication, Confidence, Collaboration, Curiosity, Competence, and Creativity.
The nature of our education system, he observes, gets learners to focus on managerial skills, like creating a strategic business plan, financial plan, staffing plan, marketing plan, sales plan, etc as the key preparation for becoming an entrepreneur. “However, that’s like someone who aspires to fly reading about the colour of the skies and humidity in the air! How will one balance, adjust the speed, or know when to thrust or thwart the flight in midair, say when confronted with a flock of birds or heavy headwinds?” asks the adjunct faculty at IIM Bangalore, IIM Udaipur, and Ahmedabad University.
Designed to win
SoME’s Pitch Perfect, a program designed for entrepreneurs, helps address these challenges. The six-week blended program teaches entrepreneurs to speak with confidence, pitch a product/service to the audience and convince them to either buy or invest, project their competence, manage interactions and conversations with stakeholders and finally, handle rejections and improve their communication skills for the next pitch.
“Each learner submits two/three video pitches and our guides give detailed feedback and guidance to help them improve,” says Godhwani. “We don’t criticise our learners and don’t want all of them to speak in the same way. Instead, we help them realise their core strengths and build on them. We encourage each of them to do what they do best and learn new techniques that work well for their audiences. We create an environment of safety and fun, which is essential to bring changes in the behaviour of learners,” he maintains.
So far, the program has catered to over 250 entrepreneurs, including Anurag Gopinath, Founder and CEO of SkoolBeep, and Neha Mishra, Founder, and CEO of the Fin Lit Project. The experience has helped several entrepreneurs cope with Glossophobia (a strong fear of public speaking) and social anxiety, as well as to get funding, scale their operations, and dream bigger.
Learning communication skills, though, is not like popping a headache medicine to get instant relief, cautions Godhwani. “It’s more like taking vitamin pills – they have to be taken over a period of time before the results begin to show.”
(Brand Desk Content)