business_skillsWhen I was little, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. Then someone told me astronauts are really good at math, and I decided it wasn't for me.

A couple weeks later, I thought it'd be cool to be a farmer. But apparently farmers have to get up early. So I decided that wasn't the job for me, either.

Fast-forward five years, when I landed on "famous actress" -- seriously, you can check my middle school yearbook. Then I learned that famous people get very little privacy. This was before social media, so the gravity of this prospect weighed much heavier on me than it does today.

Exasperated, I relinquished that job prospect, too.

The takeaway here? Children are fickle, and every job has its downside.

Since my astronaut-farmer-actress days, I've landed jobs that all had something to do with growing startups, usually through marketing functions. I've also noticed that certain skill sets are typically either required in those jobs or just really, really come in handy. Here are those common denominators -- I'm not great at all of 'em yet, but maybe you can join me as I work on them.

1) Excel

We've written an entire post on why you should relish the opportunity to get better at Excel, but here's why I think it's important: numbers don't lie, but you often need to manipulate raw data sets to get at those numbers.

If you want to tell an impactful story to a Board of Directors, your team, or your boss, you need some numbers to back your story up. And even with robust software and reporting tools, Excel can help you tell more nuanced stories.

2) Public Speaking

If you want to lead a team and influence people, you'll need to get comfortable in front of a crowd. Without the ability to get up in front of a group -- of 10 people or 10,000 -- you're setting a glass ceiling for your own growth prospects. Leaders inspire people, teach people, or just get people to listen to them by telling a good yarn. You might be able to do this one to one, but the real magic happens when you can transfer that skill to one to many.

3) Writing

Writing sucks. I do it every day and it still sucks. But once you get over the sucking part of it, you can get to the part where you actually do it -- and the more you do it, the better you get.

Your success in business relies on your ability to communicate with people -- and today, much of that communication takes place online. Which means it takes place in writing. We've all got to be able to get our thoughts across clearly in emails, business plans, blog posts, website copy, LinkedIn messages, etc.

4) Interviewing

You're great, but you're not the greatest. That's why you hire new people -- to build a team of people that are bigger, faster, stronger than you.

That's your job when you're interviewing -- to pick out those people, and get them to come work for you. Interviewing can be really awkward at first ... what do you ask? Do I need all those weird questions that Google asks, like "Why are manhole covers round?" Am I looking at their resume too much when I should be making eye contact? 

Everyone has their own interview style. I'm most successful when I come in knowing what information I need to glean from a candidate to assess their appropriateness for the role, and what questions to ask that help me assess that.

5) Design

You don't need to be a designer, but most people will benefit from being self-sufficient. Knowing design terminology will help you communicate with in-house or outsourced designers efficiently, and being able to create something -- even something rough -- will help you when you're running lean.

6) Delegation

Remember when we talked about you being great, but not the greatest?

That's one reason to delegate.

The other reason? It's the only way to grow and scale. Letting go of control is scary, but we all have to do it. Hire a team of people that are undeniable. These are the people whose skills no one can question. They are that good. If you get good an interviewing (see above) and hire a team of talented people, delegation won't be so scary.

7) Sales

Everyone has to be a salesperson. You might never have to work in Sales, but you'll have to sell yourself, your ideas, your team, your business, your employees -- and yes, maybe you'll have to actually sell your product, too.

For instance -- there's an expectation at HubSpot that I will be available to help anyone in Sales if they need me on a call. It's a given. There's also an expectation that I'll be able to sell my value to my boss and other higher-ups when asked. I'm even expected to be able to sell my company if I'm out networking -- I should understand our value proposition, our target market, and have a good elevator pitch.

If you can't do these things, well, okay. You might last in your job. But that's not how you thrive.

8) Networking

Networking can be really painful for introverts -- and perhaps some extroverts, too. But it opens up new opportunities that wouldn't be available otherwise, no matter how great your sales and marketing teams are.

Personally, I'd rather do my networking online than awkwardly sidling up to people at a meet and greet -- so I try to do my networking where I'm most comfortable, on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. I also come up with a few go-tos when an in-person conversation lulls. However you get around the awkwardness, it doesn't matter -- you just need to get around it. 

9) Proving Your Value

Theoretically, your boss should be proving your value for you. But there are two problems with that.

First problem: What if you're the boss? Second problem: Your boss is probably busy and doesn't know what you really do.

It's your job to prove your value -- to not just your boss, but also to your prospects, your co-workers, and your VCs. If you can sell what you bring to the table, you'll see huge opportunities in your company and for your future career growth.

What other business skills do you think are essential to success?

Originally published Feb 11, 2014 2:47:00 PM, updated February 01 2017


Business Skills