This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.

Skills from Your Corporate Career
You Can Transfer into Your New Startup

See also: Transferable Skills

Beginning a startup is easier than it ever was, with multiple incentives, crowdfunding options, and the potential for explosive growth and expansion.

While corporate careers might seem to be, in many ways, the opposite of creating a startup, there are a number of skills that are transferable between the corporate and startup world.

In practice, many corporate career skills are the perfect complement to a new startup. These skills are often what the younger entrepreneurs miss when starting out.


The following are some talents that are ideal to bring into the startup world and can help you avoid startup failure.

1. Organization and Structure

There is a certain appeal with being an entrepreneur in regard to doing things in a unique way, often involving a few people doing a wide variety of tasks.

It also involves “doing things my way”. Of course, as an entrepreneur, this is a fast track to financial ruin. There is a reason that corporations focus on every detail and compartmentalize as much as possible. It works.

Startups don’t fail because their idea is not original or brilliant. They fail because they did not intelligently manage tax, finance, accounting, automation, marketing, website maintenance, branding, employee skillsets, regulations, legal issues, customer support, and a myriad of other essential elements that need to be as efficient as possible while still focusing on the core product and providing value for customers.

An organized approach where no rock is left unturned is a vital skill. It is one of the most important skills for startup founders. Be as dogmatic and organized as possible with all aspects of the enterprise. While the idea that 90% of startups fail is no more than a myth, the fact is that around 60% do. They fail due to mismanagement of resources, stemming partially from a lack of organization.

2. Scaling

As the business grows, everything will need to scale, from web hosting services to employees to office space.

There is definitely a cheap and cost-efficient way of doing it and an expensive and experimental way of doing it. On the flip side, some studies have found that premature scaling is the number one cause of startup failure, being the primary cause of 70% of startup failures. A poor scale-up strategy will destroy a business, and soon after a startup has acquired funding, the focus will turn towards scaling.

The term “scale ups” was recently denoted to accommodate the rise of startups who are frantically trying to scale their businesses. What has happened, particularly in the EU, is that funding has been provided to encourage startups, which has led to a proliferation of startups that cannot scale well. Working in a corporate enterprise, you should be familiar with what infrastructure is needed to facilitate expansion.

According to Joe Bailey at Getsongbpm, “Scaling our technology development was one of the most critical aspects of our business success. Knowing what not to scale was as important as focusing on what to scale, and we were careful to focus on what really mattered to our visitors and to future growth

3. Sales

Good salespeople are valued extremely highly, and with good reason. They are the ones responsible for taking in money, which is the end goal of the business enterprise.

But you are constantly selling yourself and your company, whether you are networking or giving a webinar. The best product in the world may not sell without a dedicated sales team.

Being able to sell is a skill that can transfer to nearly every industry. If you want to get funding for your startup, then you need to be very good at sales or get somebody who is. The best salespeople typically work for the best companies with top salaries, and it is a rare skill.

As per entrepreneur and Stanford MBA Dave Lu, nothing is more important to a startup than sales.
“Sales is by far the most important skill a founder should have...No one tells you that you will be constantly selling as a founder. Selling your business idea to investors. Selling your company and culture to potential hires. Selling your product or service to potential customers. Selling your dream and vision to your employees... you have to become the best salesperson you can be if you want to succeed.

4. Automation Expertise

Businesses that automate processes are going to be successful in the 21st century, and businesses that don’t, won’t.

This might sound dramatic, but there is now an automation tool for practically every task you can think of. There may be software skills you developed that are available for accounting, payroll, marketing, customer support, data analytics, sales acquisition and more.

The power of automation to maximize efficiency cannot be underestimated. Corporate executives are no doubt familiar with CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Pipedrive, and Zoho. These platforms are exceptional for scaling businesses and increasing sales leads, not to mention their core focus, which is customer satisfaction. According to research cited in the Harvard Business Review, it is 5 - 25 times more expensive to acquire a new client than to retain an existing one, and a 5% increase in retention can lead to a 25% - 95% increase in profit.

And this is really just the beginning of automation and just the surface of what it can achieve. Chatbots will soon eliminate customer support. Email and digital marketing already have lots of automation features. Further, research from the McKinsey Global Institute indicates that it is not just low-level routine jobs that will be automated. Middle and high paying jobs have a degree of automation potential, as do all jobs in practically every industry.

5. Efficient Tracking

Successful companies focus on tracking key metrics while retaining all data.

Excel is a wonderful tool that is quite powerful and that all corporate executives and employees are very familiar with. And it is also perfect for basic tasks like tracking expenses and running reports and macros.

The habit of tracking and data analysis is an important one. Because this habit will stick and help the process of going from a startup to a scale up to a medium-sized enterprise to a large corporation. Facebook, Google, and Apple did not wait until they had 5 million users to start tracking. They tracked relevant data immediately.

It is not feasible to track all metrics, and the correlations between data points can be infinite. For new startups, the most important metrics include:

  • Burn rate
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Retention or churn rate
  • Customer lifetime revenue
  • Return on advertising spending
  • Margin

And what metrics a company should focus on also varies by startup industry (SaaS, mobile, media etc) and current size. The burn rate is particularly important. As per William McQuillan of Frontline Ventures - “If the startup is just at inception and there is literally no product at all, then the only metric I care about is burn rate.”

In comparison to large companies, startups have an advantage. New startups need to focus on a few core metrics, while companies will have key metrics per department and more information to track in general. Startups should not waste time on irrelevant metrics.


Non-Transferable Skills

It should be noted that there are some skills that you absolutely can’t bring to the startup world. Some employees can delegate or fail to take responsibility in the corporate world hoping to stay safe and ask for a raise at the end of the year. Entrepreneurs need to take responsibility, as nobody else is going to get the work done.


About the Author


Joe Flanagan is a Senior Advisor at VelvetJobs, an outplacement and employer branding service. His expertise includes HR, recruitment, and business development techniques.

TOP