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Hard skills for a small business startup

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Last editedJun 20212 min read

Starting a new business takes guts and determination, but it also needs workable skills. If you’ve got a vision for a winning startup, make sure you have the skills needed to succeed.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are acquired through learning, practice, and continuous education. A hard skill is usually qualifiable through something like a degree, certificate, or objective proof of your ability. Hard skills are like the building blocks that form your talent proposition for a job.

Hard skills examples

The following are all hard skills examples. As you can see, they require specialized study and dedication to be acquired fully:

  • Fluency in more than one language

  • Graphic design skills

  • Computer coding

  • Financial literacy

  • Marketing knowledge

These skills can usually be proven in absolute terms (like with a certificate), or by having experience to back them up (for example, a year of cloud accounting software experience may be considered enough to make you a skilled user). Your resume, essentially, is your hard skills list. It’s the talents you feel best show your value to would-be employers.

Hard skills vs. soft skills

You may have also heard of soft skills. Soft skills are on the opposite end of the spectrum of hard skills in that they are very hard to quantify. As a general rule, hard skills have to do with someone’s talent and value, whereas soft skills are related to how that same person performs alongside other people. Consider an excellent doctor who has a terrible bedside manner. Soft skills are associated with a person’s personality. In some cases, they can be improved over time or through positive influence, but they aren’t able to simply be learnt from a book.

Soft skills include:

  • Positivity

  • Worth ethic

  • Communication skills

  • Leadership

  • Delegation

  • Patience

  • Empathy

  • Creativity

  • Teamwork

  • Critical thinking

As you can see, unlike the hard skills list, you can’t just take a degree in empathy, or improve your work ethic after an online course. Hard skills are essential for making you employable, but a strong set of soft skills may be what helps you rise through the ranks.

What hard skills do I need for my startup?

Startups are a unique case. You need the hard skills to successfully run your business, as well as the soft skills to create a rewarding place to work. That said, it will take a lot more than positive thinking to get your startup into gear. Crucial hard skills for startups include:

Financial literacy

You don’t need to be a management accountant, but a strong understanding of budgeting and money management is crucial. After all, your bottom line is going to be the most important thing in your life during the formative years of your business. If you don’t think you have the skills needed to keep track of the books, you need to study up, or better yet, find a partner who does.

Marketing skills

A startup starts from zero, which means you need a specific set of skills to gain attention. That doesn’t just mean customers, but investors and employees too. It’s great that you believe in your vision, but you need the know-how to get other people believing, too.

Technical ability

We all get to a point in life where learning starts to seem like a chore. If you’re running a business, you can’t turn your nose up at the idea of having to learn dozens of new systems and skills. An affinity with tech will be essential as you build a business for the modern customer. If you can’t even navigate a website confidently, you’ll likely hit some very big obstacles, very fast.

Hard skills vs. soft skills: which is more important?

Soft and hard skills are both important. For example, workplaces that don’t offer ongoing training for their staff are likely to see lower levels of employee satisfaction as they cannot grow their hard skills. The same might be said for workplaces that are rigidly structured, as this may be stifling to people with strong soft skill traits like creativity, leadership, and positivity.

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