12 Must-Have Skills For Startup Employees


by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)


Question: What’s one unusual skill employees need to get promoted faster at a startup or small biz?



1. Selective Blinders

“The ability to focus and execute is essential in a startup business, and the employees who can ignore bright, shiny objects and accomplish their objectives are golden. It’s a balancing act, surely, but the essential and well-executed project is more valuable than a dozen could-have-been-great and abandoned projects.”

Kelly Azevedo | Founder, She’s Got Systems



2. Professional Friendliness

“Many people, especially Millennials, want to work with their friends. Knowing how to share or take a joke and balancing openness with professionalism are both important in making the work environment comfortable and sustainable.”

Lisa Nicole Bell | Founder/CEO, Inspired Life Media Group



3. The Complete Package

“In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s character says “I finish things, that’s what I do.” That’s what I want in a startup employee. I want them to start a project and then finish it. If it’s successful, even better, but if it fails, that’s fine too. Just start and finish. If you do that, you’ll go far.”

Nathan Lustig | cofounder, Entrustet



4. Can You Use Google?

“At a startup, employees are constantly needing to grow their skill set so they can manage more projects, clients, and other employees. Much of the time, their managers or the founders don’t have the time to teach everything, so an employee who can look up how to do a lot of things proves to be invaluable. That employee also is well positioned to do more and be recognized for it.”

Victor Wong | CEO, PaperG



5. Abilities in Ambiguity

“The most successful startup employees are comfortable with uncertainty and the likelihood that circumstances can and will change on a dime. They thrive on the pressure of doing the best work they can in the moment.”

Alexandra Levit | President and Founder, Inspiration at Work




6. Sell, Sell, Sell!

“One of the most important yet hard-to-find skills for startup employees is sales. If an employee can sell — whether to customers, investors or fellow employees — s/he will be more likely to get promoted. If you’re looking to get promoted, sharpen your selling prowess; it will serve you well throughout your career, and especially at a startup where all sales are an uphill battle.”

Doreen Bloch | CEO / Founder, Poshly Inc.



7. Where’s Your Initiative?

“Apples don’t usually fall off trees into waiting baskets — and neither do opportunities. If employees want to get promoted quickly, they should show initiative by seeking out opportunities actively — in everything they do. Initiative is especially fundamental quality for a startup or small business because there is always more to be done, and never enough people to do those things.”

Vanessa Nornberg | President, Metal Mafia



8. Project Management, Please!

“As an employee, if you show your attention to detail when juggling multiple projects at once, you will be in a better position to get noticed and promoted quickly. Moving up the ladder means more responsibilities and more “management” and overseeing of projects. That’s why management and organization are so important as you move up to higher levels in the company.”

Logan Lenz | Founder / President, Endagon



9. The Opportunity Magnet

“Employees should try to be an opportunity magnet. Employees that bring value to a startup or small business are the ones that are promoted. If you bring opportunities in the form of clients, partnerships, or valuable connections, your boss will know that you are a future leader of the company.”

John Hall | CEO, Digital Talent Agents



10. “Insanity” Management Skills

“I can only speak for my business, but I’d imagine other startups experience those insane days, weeks and months when things are not going to plan, deadlines are tight and approaching, and the only way to have enough hours and get everything done is by inventing a time machine. Show me you can weather the storm and perform under pressure, and you will grow with us.”

Justin Beegel | Founder, Infographic World, Inc.



11. Ideas for Change

“You must have the ability to solve problems. Most people can execute fairly well when told what to do, but very few people can valuably decide what needs to be done.”

Brent Beshore | Owner/CEO, AdVentures




12. Problem Solving Skills

“Being able to work independently and solve problems is crucial to success at any startup. If you want to be promoted, come up with solutions you weren’t expected to deliver. Using the excuse “I couldn’t get it to work,” is not acceptable at a startup! Building problem solving skills and confidence is the fastest way to a promotion in a startup culture.”

Lucas Sommer | Founder CEO, Audimated



Photo Credits

The YEC | Marin | freedigitalphotos.net