Neil Steggall
Neil Steggall Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

What is the number one skill required to build a successful SME?

If you had to choose a single skill or trait you consider essential to SME success what would it be? 

Top voted answer
Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

I would say the skill of enduring hardship. When everything looks bleak, the self resilience to just keep trudging on :D

Leo Eliades

Leo Eliades at Inspire Now Pty Ltd

yes agree, wherever there is success there is always challenge in between

Phil Joel

Phil Joel, Director at SavvySME

Top 10% Sales Strategy

Hi Neil,

Assuming the individuals are already experts in their own fields then I would say Sales skills. A business can't grow if there aren't any sales or customers.



Linda Reed-Enever

Linda Reed-Enever, Director at

Neil I am not sure there is only one by motivation has to be a big Key to get you out of bed in the morning and to keep you going.

Chris Nobbs

Chris Nobbs, Director - Advisory Services at

Hi Neil, I would suggest that Entrepreneurship is crucial (taking ownership of your business venture including risks and returns), without a level of entrepreneurship you may merely be buying yourself (or setting up) a job.

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne, director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Top 10% Branding

Neil – at risk of over-loading the answer, a coupla years ago I did some research amongst seminar attendees on this very subject. When asked to rate their importance for success, those surveyed ranked the following seven qualities most highly: perseverance, the desire and willingness to take the initiative, competitiveness, self-reliance, a strong need to achieve, self-confidence, and good physical health.

None of these are particularly surprising; you'd expect a person who was a successful entrepreneur to be self-reliant and self-confident. However, the top three in ascending order:

3. having great perseverance – sticking with it and not giving up;
2. taking personal initiative – pushing an idea forward; and
1. self-reliance - responding positively to all challenges and learning from mistakes.

The good news is that all three of these behaviours can be learned. You don't necessarily have to be born with them to ensure the success of your business.

Jeffrey Joel

Jeffrey Joel, MD at Auspac Trading NSW PL

Persistence, without exception.

Roger Smith

Roger Smith, CEO at

Top 10% IT Support

It would have to be persistence.

I am a great believer in some of Rocky Balboa's sentiments - every time you get knocked down, you get back up and keep moving forward.   For an SME, you have to learn to roll with the punches, you are under constant pressure from every angle so you have to move forward.  

Think of better strategies, integrate new ideas, innovate and most important of all, market your products and service.  But always be persistant

Phil Khor

Phil Khor, Founder at

Top 10% Leadership Get quote

#1 trait will have to be grit i.e. passion and perseverance for long term goals. Anyone can learn and become an expert at anything but there are inevitably hurdles in business, many of which might even seem insurmountable at the time. And without the will of mind, we won't get far.

I wrote an article about this previously /article/445-do-you-have-the-will-to-succeed-do-you-have-grit-to-grow-your-business

Fleur Leong

Fleur Leong, Director at

I agree with the answers above.  It is also about having the self-belief, mindset, purpose and vision.  When the person has a big enough "WHY" he/she is in business, they will do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Leo Eliades

Leo Eliades at Inspire Now Pty Ltd

love you reply Fleur!

Kelly Robinson

Kelly Robinson at

I would say that persistence is vital but networking yourself and your business would have to be very high on the list.

John Goldsbrough

John Goldsbrough at


From passion comes - commitment, perseverance, attitude, people skills = entrepreneurship

and who better to deliver the best sales pitch...

Iain Dooley

Iain Dooley, Owner at The Procedure People


Hands down. Without exception. If you can sell it, the rest will follow.

Leo Eliades

Leo Eliades at Inspire Now Pty Ltd

Love all the answers provided, I would say at the core it is self-belief, without this there is no inspiration to do anything at all. If you feel valuable, only then can you add value to other peoples lives no matter what business you are in..

Ash McAuliffe

Ash McAuliffe, Director at

There are a lot of skills necessary to create and run a successful SME so picking the top one is hard, so when I look at the traits required, I think about which ones can't be outsourced or performed by people in your team.

The ability to sell is an absolute must, but you can hire great sales people (you need to sell the dream to them first though)

Skills like time management can be learned or delegated.

What can't be bought, borrowed, hired or delegated is the absolute conviction in the mission of the business and the value to the customers. This is the characteristic that gets you up after you've been knocked down, and what makes you think of other ways to make a square peg fit in a round hole.

My answer? Conviction.

Brad Lyons

Brad Lyons, Consultant at

Passion is the number one skill required to build a successful SME.

If you are passionate about your industry you will spend the time to research it. Improve it and promote it.

The difference between myself on the phone and a sales rep is I have no need to push a hard sell. The client can tell I am passionate about what I do and some of that passion is absorbed by them in the form of motivation.

Passion is what your larger competitors are lacking. Sure the CEO may have passion for what they do however it would be safe to say all the employees don't share that passion. Call Telstra customer service, do you feel the person you spoke to had passion for telecommunications?

Tim Stokes

Tim Stokes, Managing Director at Profit Transformations

What has 22 years of mentoring business owners identified as the Number One skill?

People skills.

Customers are people, so are suppliers and of course, employees.

Having skills with people helps in these 3 areas enormously.

People skills show up in businesses with higher profit margins and that means more cash in the bank. 

Skills with people greatly influences how you feel as a business owner too. Unhappy and stressed business owners experience these emotions due to people related challenges - i.e. employees, more than any other reason.

With great people skills - i.e. selling skills, you can sell at higher prices than competitors and win more sales with higher conversion rates.

With great people skills you can accurately identify good attitude employee candidates, in the interview before you hire them, not find out two months later they have a bad attitude. 

With great people skills that include leadership skills, you know how to get employees to perform at their best, to raise them to higher levels of productivity and accountability, freeing up your time as the owner. 

With clients that went from working 80 hours or 50 hours per week, without taking a break because their staff wouldn't work without their supervision, to being able to take 3 month international holidays without any stress or worry, that's the real world difference great people skills can make to a business owner.

If happiness is important to you then people skills will increase your time, freedom and enjoyment with owning a business. What value do you place on that?