Leadership & Management Soft Skills

10 minute read

7 Essential Skills To Help Startups Meet New Challenges

Claudia Buckley

Claudia Buckley

In the exciting (and sometimes scary) world of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), growth often introduces new and unexpected challenges–whether financial, technical, or management. Unlike their larger counterparts, startups often lack the structured departments that can help navigate these complexities. Given that a staggering 99.9% of US companies are SMEs, these challenges are an integral part of the vast majority of American businesses' journey. 

The importance of vocational training in fostering innovation within SMEs is a topic that is often underrepresented in literature. However, according to recent research, government support for SME competencies can have a significant impact on a firm's innovative capabilities. The study evaluated SMEs' patent applications and noted a positive correlation between those that received government training support and their subsequent innovative output. It's particularly interesting to note that even firms that marginally obtained support produced higher innovation output than those near the eligibility threshold who didn't receive aid.

The findings suggest that government support and vocational training can significantly boost an SME's technological capacity. This study underscores the importance of developing skills such as leadership, customer service, and project management within your organization, as these can foster a culture of innovation.

Even firms that obtained minimal government support and skills training produced higher innovation output than those near the eligibility threshold that received none.

Countless skills contribute to an organization's success. The complexity of managing a startup calls for a broad range of abilities - from leadership and strategic thinking to project management and customer service. While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of skills that can drive success, we've distilled them down to seven crucial ones. This selection was not easy. Like trying to choose the most beautiful stars in a night sky full of twinkling possibilities, we had to carefully select from a galaxy of competencies. 

The following seven skills, we believe, are essential for a growing business to meet new challenges and thrive:

1. Growing your own managers

According to business experts from the Wyoming LLC Attorney office, startups quickly outgrow their capacity. Success often hinges on the ability to be flexible and to learn quickly. One of the key ways to equip your team with the necessary skills is through dedicated training programs. Leadership training can help mold competent managers out of your existing team members. This training helps team members quickly adapt to their new managerial roles.

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2. Delivering effective criticism

As team members grow into leadership positions, both you and they will need to provide constructive feedback. The ability to deliver criticism in a manner that encourages improvement rather than causing resentment is a vital managerial skill. Training on delivering effective criticism can provide the necessary techniques and tools for this delicate task.manager delivering constructive criticism

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3. Customer service

Every growing business faces the challenge of maintaining excellent customer service. Customer service training equips your team with the skills to handle customer concerns, inquiries, and complaints effectively, and provides the basis for differentiation when you are competing against much larger players in the market. Superior customer service will be your ticket to ensuring customer loyalty and satisfaction.

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3. Resolving conflict

In any organization, conflicts are inevitable. For startups, they can sign its death warrant. When opinions are strong and emotions run high, the ability to resolve conflicts amicably is a critical skill for maintaining a harmonious workplace and keeping the business afloat. For example, what happens when co-founders disagree on a new investment or strategy? Conflict resolution training can help team members learn techniques to navigate and resolve disputes effectively.

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4. Project management

As the business grows, so do the number and complexity of projects. From project planning and project meetings to scrum and certification, project management principles are transferable to every industry and job role, so everyone needs some type of project management skills. Our Project Management Basics course equips your team with the skills to handle larger and more complex projects efficiently, ensuring that goals are met on time and within budget.

Everyone needs some type of project management skills.

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5. Productivity

The ability to work efficiently is vital in a growing business where resources are often stretched thin. Productivity training can teach your team strategies and techniques that can significantly boost productivity and output. As our gift to you, we’ve put together this list of the best office productivity tools (most of them available with free or budget-friendly versions) to help you and your team along your startup journey.

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7. Sales

Finally, it's important to remember that in a sense, we are always selling, whether to customers, investors, or even within the team. Sales training equips team members with the skills to sell effectively, contributing to the business's bottom line. And don’t think sales is just about getting your product or idea into the hands of your customer or audience – today’s buyer is way more sophisticated than that, their expectations are high, and the competition is stiffer than ever. So making it up as you go along just won’t do.

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What outcomes should we expect?

Individuals all learn differently, and the scope for improvement and growth is vast. However, the following example may provide a glimpse into the reality of refreshing our skills as a business grows:

There was a vibrant team, let's call them "Team A". Their passion was evident, their ideas revolutionary, but their organizational skills were lacking. Rapid growth often led to chaos, missed deadlines, escalating team conflicts, and increasing customer dissatisfaction. Even more alarming was the skyrocketing staff turnover rate, drained resources, and palpable tension within the team.team conflict

Realizing the perilous state they were in, Team A's leadership knew they had to change. They began to invest in the professional development of their team, emphasizing a broad spectrum of crucial business skills. The transformation didn't happen overnight, but as the team continued to develop, positive changes began to appear.

Meetings became more structured, project timelines were met, and conflicts began to be resolved in a constructive manner. Customer complaints began to decrease, and the general work environment started to improve. The once chaotic team was gradually transforming into a well-oiled machine.

One of the most significant transformations was the dramatic decrease in staff turnover. Team members were no longer leaving in frustration but were staying, growing, and thriving within the company. The right mix of skills not only saved the business but also cultivated a positive and sustainable work environment.team collaboration

This story is a testament to the power of investing in skills development. It's about a group of passionate individuals who were once on the brink of disaster but managed to turn things around by developing the right skills. And in the process, they managed to resolve one of their most pressing issues - staff retention. The journey of Team A shows that with the right mix of skills, a team can navigate through the chaos, become more professional, and ultimately save their business.

Creating the path for skills development

Navigating the landscape of business management and growth is an ever-evolving journey, necessitating an array of skills. However, it's important to understand that learning is not a one-size-fits-all process; each individual has a unique learning style and pace.

This is where the benefit of a flexible Learning Management System (LMS) comes into play. A good system can provide the adaptability needed to cater to various learning preferences and paces. The good news for learners is that our LMS can deliver content in various formats - from videos and interactive sessions to readings and quizzes, enabling each learner to engage with the material in a way that suits them best.

Online learning platforms allow for self-paced learning, meaning individuals can engage with the material on their own schedule and revisit concepts as needed. By providing a flexible learning environment, an LMS empowers individuals to develop their skills at their own pace, in their own style, ultimately bolstering their ability to contribute to a business's growth and success.

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The journey to success is long and often challenging, but by prioritizing continuous learning and adaptability, businesses and individuals alike can thrive in the face of new challenges. Remember, a business's greatest asset is its people, and investing in their growth and development is investing in the future of the business.

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Claudia Buckley

Claudia Buckley

Claudia is a project manager and business skills instructor at GoSkills. In her spare time, she reads mystery novels and does genealogy research.