Most Founders have a “certain set of skills” that apply to one aspect of their startup, whether it’s deep product knowledge or incredible domain expertise from their previous job.
Unfortunately, in a startup, we sorta need to be a jack of all trades because we’re often the only person doing all the work!
Let’s assume that you could only invest the bare minimum in the various aspects of your startup operations.
Here’s the least you’d need to know.
What about finance? Do I need to know the numbers?
At the very least a Founder should understand how an income statement works.
That simply means “here’s where we’re making money, here’s where we’re spending it, and here’s how much we’re making (or losing).” If you didn’t understand a balance sheet, or complicated projections, or anything else, you’d at least have to understand where the money came in, and where it went out.
Side note — I meet very few Founders who know any of this.
Should I be great at marketing?
Even if you don’t know anything about marketing, you’d absolutely have to understand the fundamentals of how marketing performs.
That means knowing how much it costs to acquire a customer, how well your new prospects are converting to paid prospects, and what your total revenue earned per customer is (so you know you’re acquiring customers profitably).
If you know those numbers, the rest is a matter of testing channels to deliver those results.
Do I need to learn to code or design?
While lots of great companies are built by genius coders and designers, you don’t necessarily need to know their trade first hand to know how to leverage these skills.
A good Founder knows what code and design can do (to affect the product) even if they don’t know how to do it themselves. The key here is to understand the fundamentals of code and design so they can be properly applied.
And yes, those fundamentals are crazy important these days.
What about “management?”
Once you get into more overarching skill sets, it’s hard to be an “expert” per se.
While it helps to have experience, many young managers figure out “management” through on the job training, mostly out of necessity, but also because most companies only have a handful of employees to manage in the formative years.