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The most important skills when starting a business

What are the most important business skills?

Yesterday I held a talk about entrepreneuship. “How to start a successful business” is probably the question I recieved most over the last 2 years. At least if I don’t count “how are you” and my son asking me “where is xyz toy”. Way more people think about starting a business then actually do. The biggest reason for this is: uncertainty.

I want to take one slide out from the presentation. It’s the following slide about the most important skills you need in business:

The context from the previous slides is: You need a lot more business skills then professional skills. From all the business skills, the three most important ones are:

  1. Sales
  2. Marketing
  3. Product Development

If you have those, especially sales, then you can compensate for deficits in other areas. But not the other way around. This is especially true for sales. So let’s break them down.

Sales

Sales is the ability to sell a product or service. It is the ability, to initiate a transaction of values and bring it to an end. It doesn’t matter if it is via outbound (like coldcalls) or inbound (not screwing up, when people want to buy from you).

Sales is, as I had to learn the hard way, THE most important skill. If you have a great product, but can’t sell, your business will fail. If you have a crappy product but still manage to sell it, you can survive long enough, to fix your product.

It’s also the skill, that most people coming from employment don’t have. They simply did not have to sell (at least not for money). Most companies have dedicated sales teams.

Selling transitions very well into other skills as well. Leadership is selling ideas to your people. Hiring is selling your company as a great place to work. It’s even selling your own goals to yourself. I guess, it is the most important skill next to learning.

Marketing

Marketing is creating a desire to work with you. It is a long term investment, so you better start early. Apple has a very strong brand and if Apple would ask you, if you would like to work with them, most companies would say yes. Marketing makes sales easier over time.

Marketing is one of the core skills for sustainable, scalable growth. You can have great sales reps, but their impact is limited by the amount they work for you. A brand scales beyond all employees.

The reason, why I list marketing second, is it’s strategic and long term nature. You need to start early for the long game. That’s why it’s a founder-required skill.

Writing a newsletter, like this one, is part of marketing by the way. It helps you build trust with me and with UTXO Solutions as a company. This is very helpful for both of us, should we decide to work together in the future.

Product development

Product development is the ability to know, how to build a great product and then build it. It is a two component skill.

The first is knowing, what features are important and which are not. You need to understand your customers and translate their needs into features. This is the component that especially technical founders often lack.

The second is actually building the product or delivering the service. This requires technical skills and becomes harder for more advanced products and services. But most of the time, it is overrated. The success of most products depends on small, easy to implement things.

Usually, founders have only one of the two components of product development. Those that are great at knowing what to build, could hire or partner with someone good at building them. Those that are strong at actually building a product, could outsource this process. That’s what services like our customer research sprint are for. To help you find out, what to build.

The reason I list this, as the third skill is that:

  • It’s way harder to sell a bad product
  • A bad product prevents you from building a great brand
  • A bad product usually is less profitable

But what about leadership, hiring and finance?

When your starting your entrepreneurship journey, leadership isn’t much of an issue. You simple don’t have many people to lead. It becomes the most important skill, as you scale up. Hiring is a subskill to leadership to me. You will need it before you can have someone to lead and if you have amazing team members, leadership will be much easier.

Finance often requires a very different personality type. It is however something, you can very well hire for. Just like customer service or project management. They are important. But it is less important, that the founder has them.

Want to improve your product development skills?

Have a look at our next Mastering Jobs to be Done Online Workshop

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