Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

14 Corporate Skills You Need for a Killer Startup Career

Founding or joining a startup often seems like the polar opposite of working for a big corporation. But truthfully, many important entrepreneurial leadership skills are best learned from a corporate mold. In fact, having a more traditional work background can provide you with extremely valuable skills and experiences when you embark on a new professional journey—especially in the vast unknown that is the startup world.

To find out which traits wannabe startup employees can benefit from the most, we asked a group of 14 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council: "What's one skill you learned in a corporate job that has benefitted you more than you expected at your startup?"

Their best answers are below.

derek-capo1. Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

“When I worked as a hedge fund analyst, I learned to avoid analysis paralysis. The management team helped me avoid that by encouraging me to become more comfortable in my decision-making by instituting a process and mental model. This has worked wonders in our company because it has caused us to act faster on all facets of the business—whether marketing or operations.”

Derek CapoNext Step China

steven le vine2. Getting the Job Done

“In business, there is no room for excuses. It's all about getting the job done and getting the results you set out to achieve. If you aren't tenacious enough and you don't keep pushing, it won't happen. That is even more true when you're self-employed. If you don't get the job done, nobody else will.”

Steven Le Vinegrapevine pr

mary ellen slayter3. Working With Big Businesses

“Having experience working inside a really large company has been invaluable in helping us land contracts with big companies now. I know how their procurement processes work, including the timelines and paperwork.”

Mary Ellen SlayterReputation Capital

adam callinan4. Selling Yourself

“As anyone in a startup would certainly attest, you often spend more time selling yourself than you do your product or service. Being experienced in sales has been hugely beneficial as an entrepreneur and has endless necessary applications. Whether you're networking at an event or pitching investors, your ability to sell yourself is a must.”

Adam CallinanBottleKeeper

patrick conley5. Running Split Tests

“As an engineer, I was in charge of facilitating many split tests to determine the optimal manufacturing techniques for various processes. Now, as a business owner and marketing consultant, we constantly run split tests for clients to optimize websites, emails, click rates, and sales performance.”

Patrick ConleyAutomation Heroes

grant gordon6. Growing a Thick Skin

“Between the finger pointing, exchanging big bucks, and being thrown under the proverbial bus, learning how to deal with personality challenges and undue criticism was a skill I developed. To lead the orchestra, you have to turn your back to the crowd, and my ability to do that has led to the development of several great companies.”

Grant GordonSolomon Consulting Group

ryan stephens7. Always Bringing a Solution

“When I was younger and in my first couple of jobs out of college, I thought I was clever for identifying and bringing problems to my bosses. I quickly learned I was just creating more work for them and started bringing, at the very least, viable solutions to the problems I'd identified. This is key in startups where you encounter new problems all the time.”

Ryan StephensRyan Stephens Marketing

leah neaderthal8. Always Having a Point of View

“It sounds simple, but always have a point of view. Too often in the corporate world, especially with junior-level employees, we leave it to someone else to make the call, and we defer to rank. When you don't wait for someone else to come up with an answer, you establish yourself as someone with an idea, an insight, and a point of view.”

Leah NeaderthalStart Somewhere

JT allen9. Organizing Thoughts

“It sounds so basic, but structured, organized thoughts that lead your audience through an argument have been instrumental in helping me communicate effectively. I learned with PowerPoint, but there are many different ways to do it. Another is the Minto Pyramid Principle. No matter the method, seek out this capability. It will make life a lot easier.”

—JT Allen, myFootpath LLC

adam cunningham10. Structured Writing

“My first job was under a lawyer who was quite strict about email etiquette. It wasn't just about using bullet points for the key, salient details beyond a proper introduction and sign off, but he also focused heavily on only writing that which was necessary. In other words, he knew how to get to the point, and accordingly, made all those who worked under him get to the point.”

Adam Cunningham87AM

neal taparia11. Using Microsoft Excel

“Every cent you make and spend ultimately steers the direction of your business. You must have a holistic understanding of how your overall finances impact your business. Excel lets you model out bonus structures, make revenue forecasts, and understand how many people you can realistically hire. Every decision you make can be financially measured.”

Neal TapariaImagine Easy Solutions

mitch gordon12. Being Patient

“Progress moves slowly at most corporations. At startups, it moves at breakneck speed. Working at PricewaterhouseCoopers taught me patience. It taught me that sometimes it's worth checking something once, twice, and three times. Not everything needs to move at 100 miles per hour. Sometimes this can be counterproductive. This is a reminder I often need at a startup, because everything is a balance.”

Mitch GordonGo Overseas

fabian kaempfer13. Identifying Inefficient Business Processes

“Big corporations generally have it all together when it comes to efficient business processes and procedures. They can appoint a dollar amount to every asset, physical or virtual, and operate as a well-oiled machine. Being able to identify inefficient business processes has allowed me to create a company with the least possible waste and instill operational procedures that are easy to scale.”

—Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

nick reese14. Organizing and Systemizing

“I've found that the organization and systemization skills I learned in the corporate world directly translate to the startup world. Knowing how to build a system that will run itself (or at least organize itself) is to key to building an agile and responsive business.”

Nick ReeseMicrobrand Media

Image of man thinking and wooden background courtesy of Shutterstock.