Episode 394 | Soft Skills for Entrepreneurs

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about soft skills for entrepreneurs. They define what soft skills are and list 5 of them that you need to develop as an entrepreneur.

Items mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

Mike: In this episode of the Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about soft skills for entrepreneurs. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 394.

Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching and growing software products, whether you built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

Rob: I’m Rob.

Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Rob?

Rob: I’m doing pretty good man. I was thinking if folks were ever interested in having two episodes of Startups For The Rest Of Us each week, they can’t quite get that. You and I don’t have quite the time to do it, but I’ve been guest hosting on The Art of Product Podcast with my good friend, Derrick Reimer.

While Ben Orenstein is in Hong Kong, we’ve done, I think, two episodes live but we’ve recorded a third. There’s three episodes in a row where it’s us talking about launching products, theories, how to stay creative, how to build the right features, and how to validate an idea.

Derrick’s in the middle of building and validating his Slack competitor, called Level, so I want to call that out, Art of Product Podcast if you are interested in hearing more in the same vein. Obviously, it’s not the same because Mike’s not on, but it is in the same vein as this type of show.

Mike: Awesome.

Rob: How about you? What’s going on?

Mike: I was talking to Frank Denbow. I don’t know if you remember him. He came to the first MicroConf and he was the subject of the hot sauce incident all over his laptop.

Rob: That’s right.

Mike: I need to remind him of that. I had a call with him earlier this week. He is putting together a small conference in New York City called Inflection. It’s aimed in helping people build a profitable company. I thought that I’d mention it on the show just in case there was anybody who is interested.

It’s a one-day event. It’s on Saturday, June 16, starts at 8:00 AM. I think it’s in the lower east side of New York City. If you’re interested in that, go check it out. You can find the website over at inflection.splashthat.com.

We’ll link that up in the show notes just in case anybody’s interested in going to check it out. It’s very cheap to go to it, I think it’s only $100 for the tickets. He’s really trying to put togetherhe’s got a great speaker line up already.

It’s really aiming at taking a business that is either just getting off the ground or already has some level of funding whether it’s the founderse or they’ve taken a first seat round or something like that and getting them to profitability. I think he’s really doing a good job for that.

Rob: Frank’s been kind of a longtime friend of MicroConf. He’s been there several times and I’ve always enjoyed having conversations with him. That’s cool that he is setting that up. I wish him the best of luck with it.

This week for me, my brother is in town for California. Sherry and our 11-year-old went out of the country. She’s doing some volunteer work in Central America. There’s some good friends down there that they’re staying with and hanging out with.

I was kind of like, “Oh man, I’m going to be home all week with two 7-year-olds. What should I do?” Of course, Sherry and her infinite wisdom was like, “Find somebody out. Have your dad come out or someone who doesn’t come out very much.” I asked my brother who’s pretty busy right now. He has his own family. They’re actually relocating from the Bay Area down to the Monterey area. He was able to carve it out. It’s been super fun.

I have intentionally gotten very little done this week because I just cleared the schedule aside from this podcast. It’s Thursday morning, I think this has been the first work I’ve done this week. I checked email once or twice. It’s nice to have that flexibility and have been having a great time.

The one big thing that kind of happened this week is I’ve been working with a designer and a WordPress guy to redo softwarebyrob.com. I was using a blog theme. I think it was the original original copy Blogger theme from 2007 or 2008 on there. I just never carved the time out with all the stuff I’ve been doing to update it.

A new version just went live this morning and it uses updated pictures, not the ones from six years ago. The site barely mentionedI didn’t even know if it did mention MicroConf before this. It was just so out of date, it was embarrassing.

If you go to softwarebyrob.com now, it’s more of a legitimate like, “Oh, this guy is not a clown.” How can I be in technology and have a site that look liked it. It was embarrassing.

Mike: You know what else is embarrassing though? Having the JavaScript pop up and say it can’t be loaded because it’s not SSL.

Rob: Is that what mine’s said?

Mike: Yes.

Rob: What browser are you in? Because we did all this Q&A last time on three different browsers and it works on my machine.

Mike: It’s in Chrome. It’s something to look into. It’s just a JavaScript. which I think I stumbled upon.

Rob: Are you on the homepage?

Mike: Yup.

Rob: Let me make a note of this real quick. This went live 10 hours ago at midnight. I Q&A’d for a few minutes and then I’m glad you’re able to find that.

Mike: Yeah, no problem. Just busting your chops on that.

Rob : Of course. How about you? What else is going on?

Mike: I’m kind of poking around at how to do basically a product launch because I’m looking to put Bluetick out on Product Hunt in the very near future. I’m thinking about possibly doing it as early as this coming Tuesday, which would be when this episode goes out, but it might not be until the following Tuesday.

Just kind of poking around of what it takes, and I’ve done stuff on Product Hunt before, but I would say that I wasn’t probably necessarily as up to date on all the things that needed to be done at that time and how to capitalize on the traffic. I’m looking pretty heavily into those kinds of things right now.

Rob: It’s always good to do a little research on these things because these things change. Every six months, it seems like there’s new techniques, new tactics, and new ways to kind of rank well on these sites and to kind of do it “the right way.” Whether you get the maximum impact from another or not, it’s nice to at least try, and at least try to push it up the rankings there.

Obviously, I’d like to up vote and tweet when you do the Product Hunt launch and I’m on your email list, is that the best way for someone to know about this? Like is it bluetick.io and they can get on your list there or is it singlefounder.com?

Mike: Over at bluetick.io, there’s a mailing list that you can sign up for. I think to get on that, you have to go and sign up for the email course. Justin Jackson has said that the easiest way to basically be notified of stuff like that is to go over to Product Hunt and then follow Single Founder over there, that way if I launch something, then you’d get a notification from there.

Rob: Cool, anything else?

Mike: I don’t usually do this, but I totally blew off last Friday to go fishing.

Rob: Yeah, why’s that?

Mike: Because I felt like it.

Rob: Well, the weather is nice, right?

Mike: Well, a friend of mine and I get together about once a year or so and we usually–we’ll either go out or go fishing or something like that, and last Friday, he reached out to me and said, “Hey, do you want to go out?” I was like, “Sure.” We went out and we went fishing, rented a boat. I think we caught two fishes over the course of five hours which kind of sucked. It was a good day to just go out.

We went to Tree House Brewery, which is a local beer brewery which they have their own local beers. They have about half a dozen to a dozen different things that they’re working at any given time. You basically have to stay in line, for some cases, people standing there for upwards of one and a half to two hours because they don’t use distributors.

They’re brewery is the only place that you can get their beer. You basically have to wait. They’ve used distributors like a couple of times in the past and then they just got rid of them. I think it’s because they’ve realized that they can charge a heck of a lot more for the beer. They make just so much more money.

I was kind of doing some mental calculations, and it’s for every hour that they’re open there, they’re probably making like $10,000-$20,000. It’s ridiculous how much they’re charging. You just see people coming out with cases and cases.

It’s an interesting business model, but you also have like an hour and a half or so to sit in line and talk to the people around you. I actually ran into a guy who is in the software space here in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Rob: Oh, that’s cool. That’s always nice to do. Those businesses are a trip to me. It’s kind of the Cinderella story of the lightning in the bottle. They do exist, but if you and I started a brewery, it’s very unlikely that we would have that much pent up demand.

But the ones that do, it’s fascinating. You’re right, I imagined they’re minting money to a certain extent at least while they’re popular, because you don’t know, are they be going to be popular for 10 years? Or is this kind of something where they’re popular for a few years?

Mike: Yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s a total crap shoot as to whether–you could engineer that type of thing. I think that you could reverse engineer certain things and say, “This is why I think that this works.” But it’s hard to say exactly why everything happens the way that it does. You can’t say for sure whether it is going to continue to be like that for 10 years.

Rob: Very cool. What are we going to talk about today?

Mike: Today, we’re going to be talking about soft skills for entrepreneurs. I wanted to give a shout out to John Sonmez from Simple Programmer where I’m pretty sure that I got this idea from one of the emails that he sent out. I think one of the emails had said something about soft skills for developers. I just wanted to kind of give a little bit of attribution there.

I kind of put it in context as an entrepreneur, what are the soft skills that you need or that you should try to cultivate and what do they mean to you as you’re trying to run your business?

I thought we’d kind of run through a short list of things that I came up with. I kind of aggregated them from a bunch of different sources based on entrepreneurship, software development, and various other aspects of running a business.

Rob: Cool, let’s dive in.

Mike: To start with, I think it kind of requires a definition of what exactly is a soft skill? According to the definition that came up when I typed it into Google, they say that it is “personal attributes that enables someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Seems a little nebulous, I guess, in certain aspects.

The basic idea is that these are the things that you have to probably practice and it’s not that you can’t learn them in school, but it’s probably not that they’re typically taught at a college or a university. There are classes and certain things that could can take, but you’re probably not going to get a degree in any of these things.

Rob: Soft skills are hard to quantify. I think when I was younger, when I was in my late teens and maybe in college, I kind of blew them off. I remember being like, “If I have solid engineering skills, it’s just black and white. I know the answer and I can accomplish what I need to.”

But as you get older, you kind of learn that a lot of people who do really interesting things and can really impact the world, or at least start companies and run them, it takes both. It takes both this left brain and also this right brain, or at least these interpersonal skills. Oftentimes, we’re not taught these even by our parents, I know that I really wasn’t. It took me until my middle late 20s before I picked up a lot of stuff we’re going to talk about today. I think, it’s pretty valuable.

Mike: I think the other thing is that you learn a lot of these things very indirectly. You’re probably not going to go and take a course on time management, for example, but there are things that you can learn or books that you can pick up about the topic. It’s not going to be like a core focus of whatever it is that you do especially if you’re going into entrepreneurship.

Rob: Yeah, that’s right.

Mike: We have five things on this soft skills list and the first one is empathy. With empathy, it really helps you to relate to your customers and understand what challenges you’re having. Some of the different things that I thought would be helpful in terms of trying to develop that empathy is to at least understand what it is and what it is in the context of your business.

When you’re having conversations with people, the first thing is to listen to them more. Instead of trying to talk and get your ideas out there, empathy is actually the reverse. It’s understanding what other people are thinking and where they’re coming from. By talking less, you’re going to just by default, listen more.

It gives them the opportunity to talk and you get to hear what their thoughts are, where they’re basing their opinions on or what they’re basing them on. Maybe some background about how they developed those opinions.

Rob: For those who are fans of the Hamilton Musical, you’ll know Aaron Burr’s line where he says, “Talk less. Smile more.” It’s actually seen as a negative thing because he won’t take a stance and he’s being a politician. But I have changed that line for my kids and I will say, “Talk less. Listen more.” It’s fascinating advice. It’s easy to give and hard to implement for all of us especially people who are smart, ambitious, tend in a lot of circles to be the person driving the ship.

If you’re a founder, you’ve probably been one of the smarter people in the room for most of your life. But just because you’re smart doesn’t mean that you should not listen to other people. Other people have really good ideas, but if you just take the time to listen to them, you can implement them.

The other thing where this really helps is if you get that angry customer email, angry tweet, or whatever it is, to be empathetic as a superpower, to be able to understand where they’re coming from and realize, “Hey, they’re probably just frustrated today. They’re not really personally attacking me even though it feels like they are right now.”

The best customer support reps and the best customer success folks that I’ve worked with really are able to dial in this empathy aspect.

Mike: The other interesting piece of developing empathy is that you can be right and still give off the vibe that you don’t care because you come across as arrogant or that you know everything. Part of empathy is sometimes you already know the answer to a question that somebody is going to ask and empathy is simply listening to them anyway instead of saying, “Here’s your answer,” or talking over them or trying to say commands to them like, “Hey, you need to listen to me and you need to do this.”

Some people just want to be heard and then you can give them whatever the answers are because then it sounds like you have or it appears to them that you have listened to everything and you fully understand.

Even if you already know the answer in advance, you can ask a couple of prodding questions, I guess. It positions the conversation differently in their mind. As long as you’re conscious of those types of things, then it allows you to not only project that empathy, but also to get people to go along with you; whereas if you were to come from that source of authority or commanding authority, they may take offense to it and tune out and not want to listen, regardless of whether you’re right or wrong.

Rob: If you want to see an example of that happening, exactly what we’re saying, go on Twitter and watch people discuss maybe a controversial topic or just an often misunderstood topic and you’ll quickly see that people in this world don’t have enough empathy for one another. That’s a good example of kind of what not to do as you’re running a business or in conversations is jump to conclusions and start attacking.

Empathy was the first soft skill. The second one is time management. Bottom-line is you’re never going to have enough time or enough resources to do everything you need to do and you want to do in business. You have to learn how to prioritize.

The first thing that I’d recommend is–you don’t need to do this forever, but in the early days, track your time. I literally used to use a time tracker where it had categories. Even when I wasn’t being paid, didn’t need to track my time, but I was tracking it either based on the task I was doing or the product I was working on when I had multiple products.

It was just a little desktop timer and I would select the project. At the end of the week or end of the month, I could look back and I was like, “I pissed away a bunch of time working on this product that isn’t even profitable. Should I sell that thing, should I shut it down or do I just need to be more deliberate and more disciplined about not spending that time doing that stuff?”

It’s kind of like budgeting. I believe you should budget or look at your budget for a certain amount of months until you get a feel for it. I’ve always stopped after that because I kind of have this stuff in my head of where we are and where we should be.

I believe that tracking time is like that. I didn’t track it for 10 years, but I tracked it for probably the first six months I was an entrepreneur, and it really helped me see that pie chart of where I was spending a lot of time and where I was spending a little. It helped me evaluate if that was the right mix.

Mike: One thing I really like to do in terms of time management is blocking off my calendar so that on Mondays, for example, I tend to not take calls of any kind whether they are with customers, doing demos, or anything like that. There’s just a time block on my calendar so you can’t schedule a meeting with me unless it’s super critical or important or I feel like I need to.

But generally speaking, that time is mine, so that I can actually get work done. I do that on occasion where I’ll throw a calendar block in there as well. It just marks my time as “busy” so that I can get other things done.

I do see people who have calendars where they will have like a very regimented schedule and they’ll say, “From from 6-7 I’m doing this, 7-8 this, etc.” I can’t do that as much. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I’m working where if I try to do that, I’m probably going to run over my time or going to be too conscious about what that time frame looks like or those hour blocks. It’s just going to conflict with my brain. I’m just not going to be able to pay attention to it or it’s just going to be distracting. I don’t like to do that as much but there are some people that that really works well for.

Rob: After time management, the third soft skill is negotiation. This overlaps a lot with sales skills. If you understand someone else’s objections and their motivations, you can identify ways to overcome the objections. Whether it’s convince or encourage them kind of down the path that you believe is correct for them. Hopefully, your product being at the other end of that will benefit them in the long run.

I think that’s the difference to me between someone who is an ethical salesperson versus someone who just wants the commission and is going to force someone into something they don’t like, is the ability to truly look and say, “Wow, we actually suit your needs better than your current provider or better than the alternative and here’s why.” And to be able to say that.

Negotiation/sales skills, I think, kind of fall into this same one. The one place to start if you’re going to get into either a sales conversation or negotiation. Negotiation could be with a vendor that you’re sending tons of emails through a company like SendGrid or Mandrill or something and you’re at an enterprise level, maybe you’re trying to negotiate a price there or maybe you’re negotiating the sale of your company. Maybe your negotiating the price of your enterprise plan to someone who is wanting to buy.

The first thing to do is to learn everything you can about the other person like what they’re trying to achieve, what’s important to them, what parts of the deals are deal breakers and which are not. Finding out what a win looks like for the other person is critical probably to your own version of what a win is because you know or you should know what a win is for you, and hopefully you can figure out what it is for them and try to merge those two things.

Mike: Surprisingly enough, I have said it earlier in the episode that there are not very many soft skills where you can take a college course on it. Negotiation and conflict management is actually a course that I took in college, which was taught by a professor that I know and respect, but he unfortunately passed away several years ago, but it was honestly one of the best courses that I had ever taken. I learned a heck of a lot of things in that. Not least of which was the fact that there are certain types of styles of negotiation that I prefer, which generally involves a win-win scenario.

We went through all of the different styles of negotiation and we practiced them in that class. One of the books that was a resource for that was one called Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, which you can get on Amazon. It’s only a couple of dollars, but I don’t know if they have a Kindle version of it. It’s like $5-$6 for a used paperback version. I definitely recommend picking that up.

With negotiation, part of it is figuring out what it is that you want and knowing in advance what you can and can’t live without. If you are blindsided by a negotiation and you end up in one, the best thing to do is walk away and regroup and say, “Let’s schedule this or talk about it some other time.”

I have been in those situations where I was scheduled for a meeting. It was more of just come in and say “hi” and ended up in a negotiation for like what is this contract going to look like and what are going to be the dollar amounts? I was completely unprepared for it and basically did not negotiate very well.

I think that that is very common if you’re not prepared. If you haven’t done your homework on it, then you’re not going to understand where those different lines are for you. You’re not going to be able to keep them in mind and pay attention while you’re going through the course of that negotiation.

Along with that, make sure that you keep in mind what your emotions look like. Don’t let winning a negotiation get so far in a way of everything else that is going on that you can’t pay attention to the things that are the most important.

Rob: Yeah, I agree. Those are really good tips. Another book I’d liked to recommend that I haven’t read yet, but it’s on my wish list and I heard an interview with this guy and the interview was awesome.

It’s not often that I listen to a podcast interview and I’m instantly trying to find more from that guest. The book is , Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. The guy was a hostage negotiator for years. I forget if it was with the SWAT team or for if it was with the FBI or somebody. Just really brilliant insights. Again, it’s on my wish list. I haven’t listened to it yet, but the 30 or 40-minute snippet that I’ve heard of him made me want to really dive in. It was another take.

I’ve also read Getting To Yes and it’s very good. I’ve read as I’ve sold multiple companies and software products, I have read at least half a dozen books on negotiating and Getting To Yes was one of the best ones. I’m glad that you called that out.

Mike: I picked up the book that you mentioned as well, Never Split the Difference. I haven’t read it either.

Rob: Yeah, it’s in the queue, am I right?

Mike: The one other thing I would comment on negotiation is that what’s important to you or what you think is important to the other person is not necessarily always the case. There’s times where you can negotiate for something where you may think or feel like it would take a lot to get the other person to agree to it. Based on the situation the person is in, it may take very, very little because they have other things going on, and have to learn what those are throughout the courses of the conversation.

Rob: Yeah. The last thing I’ll throw in is when you’re negotiating, there’s times when you’re negotiating and you’re going to have a relationship with this person after, then there’s times when you’re not.

An example of not is when you’re selling or buying a car. You’re only going to interact with this person at this point and there’s really no relationship past it. You can really go for the highest dollar or the lowest dollar as the case may be depending on which side of the deal you’re on.

But if you are selling a company and you’re going to work with that person for the next year or two afterwards, or you are selling an enterprise deal and you know that your company is going to have a relationship with that person for at least the next 12 months. You can’t just push it so far that you burn the relationship. That’s kind of a final thing. It’s like negotiating, you’ve heard this expression, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” That expression means, if you push for every last dollar and I’ve worked with people like this who just want every last nickel out of everything so that they feel like they got the best deal, but then you don’t want to do business with them anymore.

I’ve totally walked away from people like that where we cut a deal and it’s obvious that they wanted it extremely one-sided. If you’re always that way, you’re not going to have that many people who want to do business with you.

Just something to keep in mind is oftentimes, the best deal is not the best deal for you. It’s the best deal for everyone. It sounds like we can do a whole episode on this.

Mike: I was just thinking that. We could probably do an entire episode. We should do that some time.

Rob: Yeah, cool. How about our next one? What’s our fourth soft skill?

Mike: The next one is management and teamwork. I kind of lumped these together in terms of the management is managing other people, assigning tasks, and making sure that things are on track.

Teamwork is also putting yourself in a position where you have somebody else managing the piece of it and you’re acting as a teammate for them. It’s kind of two sides of the same coin.

The bottom-line here is you can do everything in your business, but it’s really hard to do all of it in a timeline that is efficient and gives you the ability to make money and turn a profit and do all the other things that you want to do.

Outsourcing or hiring or bringing on teammates helps to move things faster. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you hire somebody you might just collaborate with another person or do a joint venture of some kind, which you may negotiate some things there, but you’re still going to need to work with them moving forward to get whatever that joint venture is done.

A lot of management I find comes down to empowering people to make decisions, so that you don’t need to be in a position where you have to micromanage them. Tell them what is it you want to achieve, tell them why you want to do it, what’s important to you along that path, and then let them do it.

If you try to micromanage everything, it’s going to take so much time, work, and effort on your part that a lot of times it’s just not even worth trying to outsource it. You may as well just do it yourself because you have this vision in your head of exactly how everything needs to be done. If you’re micromanaging it, you’re just basically wasting your time. You’re having somebody else do it, and then you’re double-checking everything anyway. It’s not going to work out for you in terms of the time that you’re trying to gain from in and then out.

Rob: I think that’s a mistake that most beginning managers or delegators make. They’re used to doing things themselves and they want the control. I know that I made this mistake in the early days of hiring people that probably weren’t that good. I felt like I needed to give them a lot of instruction.

It wasn’t that they weren’t that good, but maybe they just didn’t have the experience, but I hired them because they were cheap and I didn’t have a lot of money. Like you said, it was probably not worth doing at all. I should’ve tried to find someone with the experience, waited until I had some budget, maybe had them work fewer hours and just on fewer tasks, but have someone who’s more of a fit.

I think one of the things that I’ve discovered about management and teamwork over the years, building this companies, is that a big part of it is getting the right people on the bus. It’s hiring people who work with your work style and hiring people who work well together.

If you do that, even if you don’t have a tremendous amount of budget, you can really get a lot of work done.

Mike: Something else that goes into managing a team is knowing when it’s not working out. Not everything is going to work out. There’s times where you have to cut your losses and move on whether that’s with a contractor an employee, you can do everything in your power to try and make sure that things go well and that you are managing them in a fair and effective way, and that they understand what is it that they’re supposed to do.

Ultimately, there are times when it just doesn’t work out. You need to be able to recognize those and move on in a way that is best for everyone involved.

Rob: The fifth soft skill, which kind of covers or applies to almost all the ones that we’ve talked about already is communication. In every interaction with someone else, it is critical that you have the ability to communicate clearly, to communicate effectively, and frankly, to communicate with empathy with the other person in mind, what their mindset is.

It is not just drilling down, “You need to do this!” But it’s like, “What do I know about this person that I’ve worked with for a year and how they think about things?” “How much control do they want? How much control am I willing to give?” “What kind of instructions do they need?” And kind of tailoring that message, so learning to communicate effectively with people is huge because it saves time and prevents misunderstandings.

This includes, when we think about communication, there’s written communication. It’s your emails; essays, if you’re writing blog post, or anything like that. It’s presenting. It is verbal communication both in meetings or in planning sessions or in brainstorming sessions.

I think a big part of this, I don’t know if this is the whole thing, but a big part of it is figuring out which mode of communication that works best for you and potentially, and I don’t know if it goes as far as to build a team around that, but to realize, “Wow, I really am better at verbal stuff that needs to be part of our culture of our team. They can take a voicemail from me or a voxer, or are willing to jump on a call and chat something really quick because I’m a 10x verbal processor, but my emails really suck,” or vice-versa.

If you’re really good at writing, then build a culture where it’s around Slack or it’s around email. If you’re going to build a company of 200 people, then that won’t work. You can’t dictate it. But if you’re going to build a team of 3-10 people, then a lot rotates around with the founder being effective at what they’re doing.

I do think that are discovering that and knowing it about yourself and potentially improving the other ways as well which is something I’ve done along the way. I’ve traditionally been a good writer. I’ve traditionally not been someone who was good both at public speaking or verbal interactions, in general.

Something that we’ve done in the podcast has made me much more able to process my thoughts verbally and to get stuff out there that’s kind of in my head, and then doing all the public speaking. Early on, it was at conferences from 2007-2010, and then we started MicroConf. Now you and I are in a good way, forced to speak basically two times a year. That just keeps your chops up. It keeps your ability to communicate a message in a way that’s really effective.

Mike: The ability to practice those types of things in some ways, it’s force, but at the same time, you also learn to enjoy it at some point, or at least, I would hope that you would enjoy it if you have to do it enough.

Those types of skills—the presenting skills and the public speaking—those really help when it comes to things like sales presentations or trying to go through an interview process and explain to somebody why it is that they should join your team, or when you’re negotiating with somebody about their salary requirements or what their needs are for them to on-board onto your product and determine what it is that’s holding them back and what their objections are.

All that stuff that goes along with the communication is extremely critical whether you need to follow up with an email or you need to explain it to them in person. Being able to recognize what the preferred mode of communication is for other people, and then adapt to yourself to their preferred mode of communication is really going to be helpful for you to be able to achieve your objectives within the context that they are comfortable in.

You can’t also go via email. I can speak for most introverts who are listening to this. My preferred mode is email, but that doesn’t mean that it works for everybody. Some people actually like getting on the phone and you have to be able to do that. If you want to do a demo of your product, then clearly, you have to get onto a call and do that with them.

There are ways around that. There are some exceptions where you can have videos and things like that, but for the most part, you still have to adapt to the world around you and put things out or present them in a way that other people are able to and willing to consume them.

Rob: That’s really a good point. It’s really hard to hide in a corner if you do truly want to be introverted and do everything via email. You really need a low priced self-service SaaS offering and you’re only going to be able to grow that to a certain size.

That’s not terrible. That’s what I did in the early days, to be honest, until I felt like I needed to force myself out of the shell. It’s not to say that’s something you can’t do, but you’re definitely going to limit—it’s a self-limiting behavior, to not want to improve on the modes of communication that you don’t necessarily enjoy.

One thing I want to touch on, as you mentioned having hard conversations or just having important conversations and there was a really good book recommended to me by Ruben Gomez from Bidsketch that’s called Crucial Conversations.

I’ve read it. I like it. I think if you want to improve your ability to have not just difficult conversations, just important conversations with people, I think it’s a really good look at framing how you should approach them and how you should view them.

To recap the five soft skills we looked at today were empathy, time management, negotiation, management and teamwork, and communication.

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