54 Skills Learned while Building my First Business

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Since making the difficult decision to re-structure Portlight, the first online business that I helped build over the past three years, I have been spending a significant amount of time reflecting upon my experience and identifying what I learned that I can take with me into my next venture.

I am a strong believer in self-reflection and its ability to not only open your eyes to different methods of thought, but to also challenge you to re-experience events throughout your life. When you take the time to seriously reflect on certain periods of your life, you are able to gain a better understanding of how it shaped you. With a greater understanding of self, you are able to launch into your next chapter of life full of energy, intelligence, and ambition.

I plan to take the 54 skills that I learned while building my first business into the next venture that I start. Ideally, the mistakes that I made in the first will be leapfrogged forcing me to take on greater challenges that will yet again teach me more about being an entrepreneur.

I’ve included links to resources so that you can learn too! Enjoy 🙂

54 Skills Learned while Building my First Business

Starting a Business

1. How to create and use a Founder’s Agreement
2. Establishing your idea as a formal business with the government – LLC, S Corp, C Corp
3. Registering as a business in different states and what the limitations/benefits are to the business
4. Searching for office space, negotiating a lease, and working with a landlord and realtor
5. Learning to complement my experiential learning with educational content through business books
6. How to apply the lean startup methodology to starting a business
7. How to create a 1 year strategic plan and then communicate it to a team
8. What proprietary information actually means


9. Managing the sale of hundreds of thousands of products on the Amazon Marketplace and making sure Amazon is happy with your performance as a seller –> a lot harder than one may think
10. The systems and processes associated with inventory management and data integrity
11. The top 500 Internet retailers in the United States
12. Handling customer service issues via the Internet
13. The logic and operations behind the holiday shopping season in America
14. How supplier relationships are created through business development and sales
15. The internal operations that are necessary to run an eCommerce store anywhere in the world
16. How manufacturers, distributors, and retailers work together
17. The difference between drop shipping and wholesale relationships
18. How to identify the top brands in any product industry

Recruitment, Interviewing, and Hiring

19. How to conduct Skype interviews
20. Writing an official offer of employment
21. Hiring slow and firing fast
22. How to work with colleges to recruit new employees
23. How to negotiate a salary from both sides of the table

Company Structure

24. How to use Google apps for company organization and simultaneous workflow
25. How to use Skype for team communication across the globe
26. How to structure systems and processes for productivity and scale

People Management

27. How to lead an effective meeting with a purpose and team contribution
28. How to resolve a dispute between coworkers when it seems unsolvable
29. Creating health benefits for employees and presenting it to them
30. Offering retirement accounts for employees
31. Managing an unlimited vacation policy for the company without resulting in burn out
32. How to manage a team of virtual workers from around the world
33. How to use Upwork for hiring international freelancers
34. The importance of vision for a CEO
35. How to inspire others to work hard through leadership
36. How to fire someone from your company based off of performance
37. How to go through multiple rounds of layoffs without creating animosity
38. How to build a values-based company culture

Financial Management

39. Managing financials of a million dollar company – daily recordings, projections, payroll, etc.
40. Creating sales and gross profit projections for hiring purposes
41. How to manage a large volume of transactions on a credit card
42. How to place a numeric value on a company through various valuation models

Web Development

43. How to create a website on WordPress in 2 weeks
44. How to build an eCommerce store with WooCommerce within 2 months
45. How to communicate with web developers to achieve company goals
46. Basic HTML and CSS to manipulate web pages and understand how a site was built
47. How to inspect element on a webpage to identify key elements and properties –>Hint: Right click then click Inspect Element 🙂
48. How to design the blue prints for web development projects to ensure you are getting what you want


49. How to network with influential people and build a personal brand on LinkedIn
50. How to make a positive and lasting first impression on someone
51. How to create an advisory board to complement the team

Internet Marketing

52. Starting, managing, and growing social media tactics for a small company
53. Basic SEO tactics and practices for content
54. Creating a marketing funnel that slowly works potential customers through digital marketing practices

If you made it this far…

You must have enjoyed the skills and lessons that I learned while building my first business. Share this column with your network to help spread the learning!

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About Connor Gillivan

He is the co-founder and CMO of EcomBalance , AccountsBalance, and Outsource School. His writing has appeared in Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications online. He has scaled multiple companies to 7 and 8 figures per year. He was the co-founder of FreeUp, which was acquired in 2019 by The HOTH. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Article Comments

  1. Serina Shollenbarger

    March 1, 2016 3:34 am Reply

    Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff, thankyou.

  2. Cory

    September 25, 2016 1:07 am Reply

    Connor I really enjoyed this article, however, I do feel that something is missing. Maybe adding a “Best Practice” to each of the skills you learned would add value / substance to this article. Example-
    1. How to create and use a Founder’s Agreement.
    – I found that xyz……..

    Again, great article!

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