There are many business skills that make up the workforce of an organisation. Some are highly specialised, others are simple, repetitive tasks, while still others are mission-critical applications.
Some we’re born with, many we learn on the job, while others are best learnt on a course or other learning environment.
The skills we need to successfully run a business are also many and varied, and may differ depending on the industry or organisation you’re operating in – whether it be accounting or advertising.
Essentially, business skills help people understand the behaviour of customers, the marketplace, competitors, and the organisation itself, and use this information to excel and set a business on a profitable course.
Since this is a long article, we give you the choice between the different menus of the article. This will make your navigation easier. Here are the main points:
- What are business skills?
- Why are business skills important?
- What are the types of business skills?
What are business skills?
Business skills are the many and varied talents we utilise to build, organise, promote, grow and manage a business or organisation.
Soft business skills include leadership, creativity, problem solving, effective corporate communications, critical thinking, time management, presenting, decision making and more.
In terms of hard skills, a business role requires knowledge of analytics and mathematics as well as computer skills and experience with widely-used business software programs such as Excel, and social media tools.
In the modern agile workplace, which sees many of us working from home and other remote locations, skills in the use of messaging, collaboration and video conferencing are also becoming critical.
If you’re looking to enhance your Business Skills, register for complimentary webinars hosted by Redback here. You also watch on demand webinar recordings!
Why are business skills important?
Business skills are a key ingredient when it comes to starting, running and managing a successful business, not to mention a successful career.
Effective business skills help business owners meet the needs of their consumers, partners, staff and other stakeholders. If you’re an employee, they can set you apart from your colleagues and help you build a successful career.
Both business owners and individuals benefit from professional business skills by allowing an organisation or employee to:
Improve performance, processes and output through the effective development, application and management of a business’s goals and strategy
- Create a strong financial foundation and plan
- Build best-practice customer relations processes
- Establish effective sales and marketing channels.
- Be ambitious and look for the best ways to help an organisation to excel
- Maintain a positive company culture.
What are the types of business skills?
While many required business skills are based on the nature of a particular role or business type – a CFO is going to need a different set of core skills compared with a CMO – there are a number in which most business professionals should be adept. Here are a few that can benefit any business professional, regardless of the sector in which you work.
Leadership is the skill of influencing and managing people with the purpose of achieving desired goals and objectives.
While management is focused on implementing processes and practices, leadership is about the people and vision that motivate change.
Great leaders are able to create and elucidate a mission or plan, and motivate staff and other stakeholders to support it.
Motivated staff achieve better productivity, so effective leadership is key to the success of every business.
Leaders also play an important role in attracting the best people, and keeping them.
Communicate with staff regularly, listen to their ideas and challenges, and allocate time for a mentoring course and personal development sessions for employees.
Whether it’s managing people, resources or an organisation, management is about knowing what’s going on in all facets of a business so you can take everything into consideration when making a decision.
Every business requires someone to plan and execute projects, manage tasks and the people to do them, and take charge when issues arise.
The three key business skills a manager needs include delegation, time management and team management.
Managers manage their own workload by delegating tasks to the most appropriate colleagues in a spirit of collaboration that benefits everyone.
When managers take everything on alone, it not only impacts on their own productivity but also the output of their team. Taking on all the big-ticket items yourself, can leave staff feeling a lack of ownership when it comes to projects, and a lack of trust when it comes to the organisation.
Delegation is not about barking orders. It’s about providing opportunities for staff to take on new challenges, reach new goals and learn new skills.
The better you can build a cohesive team, the more productively they’ll work together, and even for each other.
People working cohesively in teams are far more productive than employees going solo. Building a unified, collaborative team of employees, partners, advisors, and investors who offer a range of opinions, solutions and practices will help you innovate and grow your business.
While regular face-to-face meetings, strategy days and other team-building events don’t look like they’ll be on the agenda for some time to come, you can utilise the virtual space to effectively build a positive team culture, break down barriers and collaborate successfully.
Research has shown that virtual collaboration can be more successful than regular face-to-face meetings, because it reduces the chance of a single voice dominating a conversation.
Many people also feel more comfortable speaking out in a virtual environment when they’re not sharing a meeting room with colleagues or the boss. Private chat rooms can add another layer of anonymity when required. The ability to share documents, images and other files, as well as share and view desktops and work together on virtual white boards, also lets participants collaborate more easily and effectively.
More businesses are also using video conferencing and virtual spaces such as chat rooms for casual get-togethers such as virtual Friday drinks, food tastings, paint and sip sessions, life skills classes, cooking lessons and even coffee breaks.
Managing time is like managing money: you can’t afford to let any go to waste.
While the idea itself is pretty simple, managing your time is an important skill that takes practice.
The key is to learn how to prioritise your work by breaking it down into achievable tasks.
A simple place to start is a to-do list. Just having a list to refer to can remove the stress, not to mention wasted time, around trying to figure out which task you should complete first. Make sure you keep it up to date, categorised and prioritised.
Whether it’s an old school notebook or diary, the voice recorder on your phone or one of the many ‘time management’ apps available, today it’s easier than ever to manage your time properly and productively.
Innovation, creativity, agility. Entrepreneurial skills are about thinking outside the square, understanding how internal and external forces can impact on a particular market or consumer habit, and being willing to take a calculated risk.
These days it’s not only start-ups who are innovating. It’s everyone from your local restaurant who switched from serving eat-in meals to take-away and home-delivered options and the wedding dress maker now fashioning masks due to COVID-19, to the big end of town – led by tech behemoths such as Google and Apple.
The key is to create a culture and working environment that inspires creativity and gives employees the confidence both to excel and to risk failure — as opposed to doing neither.
A business with an entrepreneurial mindset is flexible and open to new ideas. It keeps everyone up-to-date with the latest relevant news, technologies and trends, and provides the tools, training and environment that motivates staff to think on their feet.
Many of the key skills of a good project manager are similar to those we’ve already talked about such as delegation, time management and team management.
However, project managers have to be on top of all the little details too – from start to finish; from timelines, KPIs and milestones, to budgets, tools, resources and goals.
Meeting deadlines, staying on budget and communicating progress are a few areas of priority for most project managers.
So is being close enough to a project that you can step in when issues arise and confront challenges head-on.
There are plenty of project management and collaboration apps and platforms, including some that are free, that can help you manage just about any type of project so it’s worth exploring some of the different options.
Making and managing financial decisions is a critical part of the role of most business employees, and that doesn’t only mean being able to read an Excel spreadsheet, finance report or having a reasonable grasp of general accounting practices.
Key skills include the ability to effectively budget, understanding an organisation’s financial targets and goals, and being able to analyse both internal and external financial situations that are currently having affecting — or may impact — a business’s financial situation.
They also include being able to identify any challenges that may negatively impact a company’s finances, and, correspondingly, being able to draw logical conclusions, and implement action to solve these challenges.
Depending on the type of role, the necessary finance-based skills may also include being able to produce detailed and accurate financial reports and other accounting specialities. In addition to keeping proper records, it’s important to understand just what all the financial reports and figures mean in practical terms for your business.
Marketing, sales and customer service
No matter what product or service you’re selling, well thought-out marketing, sales and customer service plans will help any business attract more customers.
Whether it be how much you charge for a product, how much you spend on marketing, or your ability to analyse threats, the marketplace and industry trends, effective marketing and sales strategies are essential to maintain a competitive edge.
The key is to think about the problem your customer or prospect is trying to solve, and how your product or service will help them solve it.
That way you can create and communicate a compelling narrative that is relevant to your target audience.
When you’ve nailed down your message, think about which marketing channels will be your focus, such as traditional advertising, company blog, email marketing, e-books, social media, and even training and education opportunities.
With more people now attending virtual events due to social distancing and travel restrictions, the virtual space has become a key component of the marketing and sales mix for many organisations.
In fact, one in three of us now attend more than 10 virtual events a month according to the 2020 Redback Report, while two-thirds (65%) now attend more than six a month.
Besides internal company meetings, for most organisations, webinars, interactive workshops and training courses are among the most common types of online events.
Webinars are a popular choice for interacting with customers because they offer a cost-effective way to bring a message to life, launch a product, engage and educate an audience, as well as generate leads and nurture prospects through the buying cycle.
Video conferencing platforms are also being increasingly utilised for marketing, sales and other internal strategic meetings where everyone needs to have a say and collaboration is key.
There’s a huge amount of marketing and sales blogs and other content available online that cover many different sectors and industries, so it’s worth taking some time to search for those that best suit your needs. Try searching for ‘the best sales and marketing blogs’, for starters.
You won’t find ‘Good communication skills’ missing from the list of many job advertisements in any role, let alone in today’s business environment where our personal interactions (whether they’re face-to-face, or not) are still very much a key to success.
It goes without saying that just about everyone involved in the day-to-day operations of a business that requires them to work and collaborate with staff, executive, managers, customers, prospects and other stakeholders should be able to communicate effectively.
Whether you’re sitting in a meeting, sending an email or making a presentation, effective written, verbal and visual communication skills allow you to share information in an easily understandable way, and help build productive working relationships.
Expert communication skills will allow you to:
- Be self-assured, confident and assertive when required to speak in small and large gatherings, both face-to-face and online
- Construct an argument and make your case forcefully and clearly to your manager, customer or colleagues, which will move your ideas forward faster
- Communicate the goals of a strategy or project and the steps needed to accomplish it
- Foster effective communication between management, staff and other stakeholders
- Negotiate and manage disputes
- Write clear and concise emails and other written material.
Here are a few simple ways to develop your communications skills.
- Improve your listening skills: Listen, don’t lecture. Active listening involves paying attention to a conversation, and taking the time to understand what is being discussed. By active listening you can draw out details that might not otherwise be shared. Avoid interrupting, paraphrase and repeat back what has been said, demonstrate concern, ask open-ended questions and wait to share your opinion
- Get out of your comfort zone: Be the first person to ask a question in a meeting or at a conference. Share your expertise, thoughts and aspirations with your colleagues or over a platform such as LinkedIn
- Take advantage of tools and other services: Enrol in an online course or webinar series, join a forum or club, record yourself making a presentation, download an e-book or podcast. There are lots of training and tools you can utilise to learn to communicate better.
Most of us negotiate every day without even knowing it – in fact, we ‘ve been doing it since we were kids.
Whether it’s a spoonful of peas for an extra scoop of ice cream, or free window tinting on a new car, negotiating is a concept we’ve applied one way or another for most of our lives.
That’s not to say we’re all born expert negotiators.
Formal negotiation is a business skill that can be learned through practice and experience, and, generally, people who negotiate for work tend to be more skilled at it than people who don’t.
To put it simply, being a successful negotiator means knowing what to say and the best time to say it. It’s also about knowing when, or when not, to make allowances, or offer reductions or concessions.
The best negotiations tend to be those based on a win-win approach for everyone, that also enable both parties to secure the most favourable outcome possible under the circumstances.
Parties that can come to a successful resolution in a conciliatory, productive manner – whether it be two employees competing over a project or two corporate giants discussing a business deal – will also be more comfortable dealing with each other in the future.
Negotiating is a skill that can take time to develop, so the next time you’re buying a car, selling something on Gumtree or browsing at a market, take the opportunity to haggle — just for practice.
Presentation and public speaking skills
Being able to present your ideas and communicate your story to an audience is a great way to build your own profile as well as that of your organisation.
As we’ve already pointed out, with most face-to-face encounters off the list, most business events are now going virtual.
While web-based video conferencing services make it easy to meet in small or large groups utilising a range of formats, there are a number of differences you should take into account when it comes to presenting or delivering a presentation.
Many of the required techniques for face-to-face events, such as maintaining eye contact, being relaxed and speaking clearly, similar when it comes to the virtual space.
Treat the camera like it’s another person in the room, which means making eye contact with the lens when speaking to the audience. And remember to smile.
If you’re shooting in a studio with guests, keep it natural by turning and speaking directly to them when required.
You should be comfortable not reading from a script because looking down too frequently will weaken your connection with your audience. Some video conferencing services may include a teleprompter or autocue, but make sure you don’t simply stare at it and quote verbatim.
When it comes to your slide deck, create a clear narrative around a relevant experience or challenge that takes your audience on a journey with a beginning, middle and end.
Combine images and text whenever you need to make an important point, and use visual aids such as graphs, charts and short videos to reinforce the main points of your presentation — rather than just to repeat what you’re saying word-for-word.
Building good relationships through networking will help you grow your business as well as your own profile.
Social media is an easy way to connect with customers, industry colleagues, partners and prospects.
It’s easier than you think to become a LinkedIn influencer. The first requirement is to have a great LinkedIn profile. Second, make sure you share great content, and finally, don’t forget to connect with people on a one-to-one personal basis.
With face-to-face networking events on hold, attending digital events is one of the best ways to connect with people, whether it be at an online conference, a virtual breakout room at a digital trade show or a networking chat room.
Joining an industry or business association is another good place to meet new contacts, explore new ideas and stay on top of relevant trends.
In business terms, analytical thinking is the capacity to impartially evaluate the present state of your organisation to determine what your business will look like in the future, and what you have to do to make it happen.
The secret is to know how to collect, review, and gain insights from data that can be used to create and implement a compelling business proposition.
With the growth of the Internet of Things and big data, collecting information is getting easier; it’s learning how to utilise that data that can be a challenge.
That’s why you’ll find a growing number of data analysts popping up on workplaces who know how to interrogate datasets, highlight trends, and test hypotheses to provide a structure for approaching complex business issues.
There are also plenty of courses you can enrol in to learn how to gain better insights from the data you collect.
From the highly specialised, to the routine, it takes a full suite of business skills to navigate today’s complex business world.
Apply your business skills to understand the behaviour of customers, the marketplace, competitors, and the organisation itself, and use this information to set your business on a profitable course.
If you’re looking to enhance your Business Skills, register for complimentary webinars hosted by Redback here. You also watch on demand webinar recordings!