For entrepreneurs in Korea, it’s vital that you’re prepared to stand out in this competitive sphere. It takes a lot of courage to start a startup, especially in Korea where competition is fierce. Truth be told, though, if you have a great product/service and a toolbox filled with essential skills, you’re already on your way to success. Through my years covering startups in Korea, I’ve seen many great success stories, interviewed many successful entrepreneurs, and seen some key insights into what it takes to make it. These are the 5 skills entrepreneurs in Korea need to survive!

5 Key Skills for Entrepreneurs in Korea

Financial Know-how

As an entrepreneur in Korea, you must have the financial know-how to keep your business afloat. For example, do you even know about filing your taxes in Korea? Doing taxes in Korea can be very difficult and as your company grows it becomes very complicated. Make sure your accountant speaks some level of English to explain the tax process in Korea to you in a clear manner. Knowing how to do finance in Korea is crucial for an entrepreneur in Korea. This could involve knowing how to raise capital, planning your yearly budget, and deciding how to invest your capital. Remember that the financial landscape in Korea could be very different from that in your own country, so be sure to do your research. If you can’t speak Korean, make sure you find a Korean partner that has some experience with running and starting a business in Korea.

Having financial know-how also involves money management. Most startups in Korea fail because they simply run out of money. While it is easy to get seed funding in Korea for around $100,000, that money goes fast. It is vital that as an entrepreneur you know where every cent of your funding is going. Therefore, one of the first steps should be setting up a budget or having an organized partner that can handle the finances. In addition, there are many accounting software and apps that can help startups stay organized without having to hire a full-time employee.

Networking Skills

entrepreneurs in KoreaWe all hear inspirational stories of businesses being set up by entrepreneurs in garages. Even though there’s a lot we can learn from these stories of independent go-getters, we should take them with a pinch of salt. Many startups in Korea are started by graduates from the same university in Korea. Therefore most founders are friends. They know how to work with each other because they are familiar with each other. However, many entrepreneurs in Korea lack the skill to network outside their comfort zone.

There’s so much that can be achieved through networking and collaborations; from getting your name out to having a support network and even gaining potential business partners. Plus, there are so many networking events for startups and entrepreneurs in Korea that you’d be mad to miss out on. In order to improve your networking skills, try to set a goal of speaking to 3 entrepreneurs at your next meetup, whenever that may be. Then increase it by 1 or even 2. By your 5th meetup, you will be aiming to speak to 10-13 entrepreneurs.

From there, you can start to focus on finding meaningful connections that can help your business. It helps to do your research to see who will be at the event. Make them one of your goals. Most entrepreneurs in Korea are on LinkedIn so try to study up on them so you will be prepared when speaking with them at the meetup.

One last tip on networking would be to make sure the person you are speaking to does not feel pressured into committing something right then and there. Most of the time the person you meet at the meetup will not be able to help you directly but they might know someone who can. That is the key. Just let them know what you do and the rest will take care of itself.

Management Skills

Whatever area of business you decide to operate in, it’s unquestionable that managing people will be a huge part of your work. Recruiting staff, scouting talent, and motivating your employees to work to the best of their ability will, for the most part, be in your hands as a CEO. At the end of the day, your staff is putting the money in your tills, so you must be able to manage them well. Understanding cultural differences will be critical for a startup in Korea so keep that in mind.

Make sure your team understands the company’s ultimate goal. This keeps everyone on the same page with the same mission. In addition, this will help you stay organized and focused. Once your goal is defined and explained look for ways each member can help achieve that goal. This will require talking to each member of your team to find out their strengths and weaknesses. It can also be your opportunity to ask for feedback from them on your role as a leader. Therefore it is important to be able to be a good listener in order to provide the right feedback to your employees.

When starting a startup in Korea, remember that Koreans and foreigners have different working styles. Koreans might not be used to the free/fun working atmosphere you are trying to incorporate into your company. It might take a few months before they are able to fully open up and truly contribute to the business. It is important to be patient with them as they transition from the typical Korean working culture environment into a global startup.

A final tip could be to set up a feedback quarterly review where employees can make suggestions regarding the company.

Self Awareness

Being self-aware is a vital skill to have when starting a startup. A good CEO must understand that they can not do it alone. A great team leads to a successful startup. Therefore look for your weaknesses and surround yourself with people that excel where you are weak. For example, if you are bad with figures and projections, then get a team member who has those skills. If you can not speak Korean well, that is fine, surround yourself with strong Korean entrepreneurs. There are many Korean CEOs who think they are perfect and their word is gold. However, that only alienates your employees. Remember you are building a team for YOUR company. Everyone should be there to support and help each other. Know your weaknesses and fill those holes with the right team member.

Korean companies frown upon subordinates’ questions about decisions made by their superiors. However, in order to be a truly successful company, options from all levels should be considered. Creating a team environment might be something new for most Korean employees. Therefore make sure you never shut down any suggestions they might make no matter if it is an idea you don’t agree with. You want to foster an environment where suggestions and feedback are encouraged and not frowned upon. Be aware of your employee’s abilities as well as yours so you don’t overreach and take on more than you can handle.

Trend Awareness

Business moves fast and trends are always evolving. To keep up to date and be able to give your customers exactly what they want, when they want it. You need strong trend awareness skills. Make a point to stay aware of a new startup business and new technological advancements in your industry so you don’t get left behind. A good way to stay up to date on the latest trends is to update your news feed. Stay on top of your social media every single day. Customize your feed to find the most relevant news and trending topics.

Start a Kakao chat room with your team members where they can quickly share interesting articles and videos. A great tip to find the latest news and trends is to use Reddit or read replied tweets and comments on Twitter. Or try using Google Trends to see what users are searching for on Google. Finally, always remember to look into your competitors. By seeing what the competition is doing, you will be able to keep up with the competition.

Naver Blogs is another great place to see the latest trends in Korea. However, don’t always think about what is trending in Korea. Korea tends to follow the latest US trends. What I have noticed is that whatever is trending in the West will start trending in Korea in about a year. There are many successful startups in Korea that have taken a business model from a startup in America that has shown sales and growth. Use this same strategy for the latest trends.

What Other Skills Should a Good Entrepreneur in Korea Have?

So, there you have it, these are the top 5 skills that we believe entrepreneurs in Korea should have! But, now it’s over to you! What’s the most prized possession in your entrepreneurial skills box?

Leave us a comment and let us know!