5 Skills Start-up Founders must have (with Development Resources)

One of the defining qualities of a start-up founder is their Entrepreneurial Mindset. As Michael H. Morris and Donald F. Kuratko said in their book, What do entrepreneurs create?

‘Entrepreneurs do not pre-exist. They emerge as a function of the novel, distinctive, and experiential nature of the venture creation process.’

Quote by Michael H. Morris and Donald F. Kuratko from their book:
'What do entrepreneurs create?'

‘Entrepreneurs do not pre-exist. They emerge as a function of the novel, distinctive, and experiential nature of the venture creation process.’

A constellation of motives, skills and thought processes that allow one to see an opportunity and turn it into economic value creation sets a start-up founder apart from everyone else.

But being an entrepreneur, building and maintaining a venture that consistently creates economic value can be very taxing. We’ve all heard entrepreneurs must be everything-in-one – the salesperson, accountant, marketer, boss, and employee. As ambitious as that may sound, it’s a bitter truth that never really goes away, even once your business expands. Your start-up will always demand you to wear multiple hats, considering your mind birthed the entire enterprise into existence.

So, how do you ensure you give your start-up your best?

Empower and equip yourself with the skills required to think, act, and mobilize confidently.

Skills every start-up founder must continue to develop

It is a fair conclusion to make that you already have a penchant for taking risks, problem-solving, and being proactive. These are common attributes for those that venture into starting their own business. The good news is that these exact personality traits, when nurtured, can be a fantastic vehicle to ensure you stay on top of your continuous learning journey. 

Here are 5 skills we believe every start-up founder must never stop learning:

1. Sales Skills

The #1 skill Harvard Business School alums wish they had spent more time understanding at school was how to sell. 

If you don’t have sales,  you don’t have a business. The ability to generate revenue through sales is the unrivalled bottomline skill for any start-up founder. But sales doesn’t limit itself to selling your product or service to a customer. It also extends itself to selling ideas, thoughts, and emotions. This skill is far from being just a department. It is the crux of being a convincing, profitable business. Sales Skills can manifest in many different ways:

  • Selling a business idea to investors
  • Selling your company vision and culture to employees
  • Selling a solution to a problem to your peers
  • Selling yourself as a credible entrepreneur to your stakeholders

Here are some resources that can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Resources to develop better sales skills as a start-up founder

  1. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink (Book)
  2. Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer (Book)
  3. The Art of Sales: Mastering the Selling Process Specialization offered by Northwestern University (Online Course) 
  4. Sales Fundamentals by Linkedin Learning (Online Course)
  5. Sales Essentials: Success Toolkit for Sales Professionals by Skillshare (Online Course)
  6. Marketing & Sales for Entrepreneurs offered by University of Toronto (Online Course)

2. Leadership Skills

You could have the best, most profitable business idea, but unless people want to follow you, you’ll always be a one-man band. In a new start-up environment, a potential employee does not recognize your company, nor do they have certainty of your future, unlike established corporations. The only thing they can be convinced of is you. As your business grows, the impact of your leadership skills gets magnified on the company and its people. 

Leadership skills can look like a myriad of things:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Building Trust
  • Ability to delegate
  • Developing Leaders
  • Inspiring action 

Leadership styles have been tested around the world with changing times. Ensure that your leadership style aligns with what the 21st Century workforce needs. 

Resources to develop better leadership skills as a start-up founder

  1. How to Lead by David Rubenstein (Book)
  2. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek (Book)
  3. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown (Book)
  4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey (Book)
  5. Leading People and Teams Specialization offered by University of Michigan (Free Online Course) 
  6. Strategic Leadership: Impact, Change, and Decision-Making Specialisation offered by Dartmouth (Online Course)
  7. Leadership Certificate offered by University of Waterloo (Online Course)
  8. How to Lead and Coach Gen Z and Millenials offered by Carla Howard  (Online Course)

3. Financial Skills

Any entrepreneur that claims they are ‘not a finance person’ is guaranteed to be headed into trouble. Financial Skills for entrepreneurs is not just about knowing formulas like the back of your hand or being great at mental math. It’s the ability to back business decisions with financial intelligence, because the bottomline will always remain the same: a business has to make money. Basic finance management knowledge is a priority skill for any start-up founder. 

Financial Skills needed by a start-up Founder can look like: 

  • Establishing financial goals
  • Budgeting
  • Analysing Financial Documents
  • Spending rationally
  • Risk Management
  • Negotiation

As the start-up funding environment evolves, founders would do well by up-skilling their knowledge. In 2023, business funding opportunities are not solely dependent on VCs, crowdfunding and revenue based financing is touted to become more popular. Read our blog on Business Trends to look out for in 2023 here.

Resources to develop better financial skills as a start-up founder

  1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Book)
  2. Financial Intelligence for Entrepreneurs by Karen Berman and Joe Knight (Book)
  3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber (Book)
  4. Finance Essentials for Small Businesses by Linkedin Learnings (Online Course)
  5. Entrepreneurial Finance by Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (Online Course)
  6. Financial Fundamentals I offered by BDC (Online Course)
  7. Financing an early stage company offered by University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies (Online Course)

4. Communication And People Management Skills

Although key for everyone, mastering communication and people management skills is even more crucial for entrepreneurs because the cost of miscommunication and mistreated relationships is too expensive to bear in a young company, worse, gaining a negative reputation in the market as an unpleasant person to work for or work with, is not easy to shake away.

These skills are rarely honed once and put away, the workplace setting continues to evolve with millennials, Gen Z now becoming a majority in the workforce. Remote work and flexible hours have obviated the need for in-person meetings, drilling down further the urgent need to update workplace skills. Conversely, the increasing number of young entrepreneurs face the challenge of managing multi-generational teams, forcing them to get creative in their communication and people management skills. This could look like unlearning and learning:

  • Modern remote management styles
  • Non verbal body language at work 
  • Managing cross-generational teams
  • Creating a safe environment for all employees within a hybrid workplace 
  • Resolving Conflict
  • Pitching and presenting using the art of storytelling
  • Closing deals, negotiating in-person, over email, in-text or video calls

Resources to develop better Communication and People Management skills as a start-up founder

  1. Making Conversation by Fred Dust (Book)
  2. The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (Book)
  3. Words That Work by Dr. Frank Luntz (Book)
  4. Managing Generation Z offered by Linkedin Learning (Online Course)
  5. Hiring and Developing your Future Workforce offered by Linkedin Learning (Online Course)

5. Marketing Skills

22% of start-ups fail due to marketing problems. Marketing is commonly treated as the last step of a product’s journey. Founders are guilty of overly focussed on creating products within their domain knowledge, bereft of marketing insights. Additionally, marketing is an ever-evolving domain in itself. It requires constant updation as technology, and consumer behaviour remain forever transient. 

Marketing your product in international markets, demands an even higher requirement of mastering successful marketing trends based on the target geography. Before you hire your marketing team or outsource it, it is recommended to try it out for yourself. Marketing Skills to learn in 2023 can look like: 

  • Understanding how to conduct Market Research (If you’re starting up or expanding your business to Canada, find market research resources here.)
  • Content Marketing Strategy 
  • Understanding the basics of SEO
  • Social media marketing – Optimising video marketing and social commerce
  • Branding – Developing the brand look, feel, voice, personality
  • Email Marketing
  • Paid Advertising
  • PR

Resources to develop better Marketing Skills as a start-up founder

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Book)
  2. Unmarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging by Scott Stratten (Book)
  3. Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (Book)
  4. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by  Al Ries and Jack Trout (Book)
  5. Marketing Fundamentals offered by BDC (Online Course)
  6. SEO Blueprint (Online Course)
  7. Blogging for Business  offered by Ahrefs (Online Course)

As an entrepreneur, you have only yourself to depend on to chart a path for your own professional development. Only you can push and challenge yourself to grow and improve. Self improvement is the investment that will always give you the best ROI % as a start-up founder.

Starting up or expanding your business to Canada? 

We are TBDC, Canada’s premier start-up incubator. We are your bridge to the North American market. Get access to guided start-up advice with us today! To apply, click here. 
Looking to expand your business to North America and make Ontario your new home? TBDC is the bridge you’re looking for and Canada’s premier start-up incubator. Successful companies like Ibentos, Ayottaz have graduated from our programs and scaled through North America and the world, are you ready to do the same and make your mark? To learn more, click here.

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