Essential Business Skills and How to Master Them

by Josh Biggs in Business on 2nd February 2021

Your attributes and traits, such as drive, determination and intelligence, are undoubtedly valuable. However, they aren’t the only factors that influence career success. 

In truth, no amount of passion or resilience will suffice without an established set of fundamental skills. Whether you own a business, manage, or merely exist in the workplace, your performance is driven foremost by competence. 

An employee with outstanding communication and organisation abilities can summit the corporate ladder before anyone else starts climbing. This also applies to entrepreneurs in their industries. Leaders who excel in negotiation and resource management stay ahead of the competition.

So, what exactly are business skills? Why are they important and how can you learn them? Keep reading to find out. 

What are Business Skills?

Business skills improve your understanding of consumer and company behaviour, which subsequently enables progress. 

There are two categories. The first comprises soft skills that are primarily crucial to owners and managers. You can also develop technical skills based on their relevance to professionals in your field. Here are some examples of both:

  • Analytics
  • Delegation
  • Finance
  • Team building
  • Problem solving
  • Sales and marketing

Every position, organisation and sector demand certain business skills. For instance, the key abilities to enter a management position may include leadership and strategic planning, while the list of requirements for an accounting promotion can mention adaptability and market research. 

Why Are Business Skills Important?

You need business skills to create, grow and maintain a company. They are the tools with which you satisfy customers and staff members. As one of the latter, your business skills differentiate you from other candidates and assist in career advancement. With ample skills, entrepreneurs and employees alike may accomplish the following objectives:

  • Encourage workers to exceed expectations
  • Enhance customer care and public relations
  • Foster a positive and productive team culture
  • Identify lucrative sales and marketing channels
  • Improve product or service quality
  • Practise sound financial management
  • Set and work towards goals 

There are several business skills that are advantageous in any workplace. If you’re not sure where to begin as an owner or manager, you can focus on covering the basics. This will provide a solid foundation for building your skill set. As an aspiring candidate or employee, it’s wise to set your sights on in-demand skills that companies are attracted to. 

Communication

This soft skill is essential for success in all areas of business. It forms the basis of every interaction and mediates the exchange of ideas, opinions and solutions. 

Communication helps employers convince customers, cultivate loyal teams and create lasting partnerships. Working professionals rely on communication to form relationships and secure promotions. To do this effectively, you need to display proficiency in written, verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.

Exchanges that take place over screens and keyboards are particularly vital in the current age of remote working. There’s a noticeable difference between a well-crafted email and a wall of text that fails to convey any value. 

Of course, you should try to listen at least as much as you speak. There are two sides to every conversation and great communicators know how to occupy the receiving end. Also important is constructing arguments and remaining assertive to bargain on your behalf. Here are a few simple ways to strengthen your communication skills:

  • Leave your comfort zone by speaking up in meetings and talking to high profile individuals
  • Get to know your clients or colleagues on a personal level with casual conversations
  • Keep an open mind to what others have to say

Leadership

You don’t need to be in a leadership position to benefit from the ability to persuade people with the aim of achieving set goals and objectives. That said, entrepreneurs who are great leaders get the most out of their staff and spend less time dealing with HR issues like dissatisfaction and retention. Happy employees work the hardest. 

Leadership skills are also paramount to attracting top talent and ensuring they stick around through difficult periods. You need to recognise the boundaries between yourself and others. There’s a balance to strike between maintaining authority and still being inspiring, encouraging and understanding. 

These are the leadership qualities that were voted most important in a study conducted by Harvard Business Review. Among them are integrity, honesty and innovation. Managers are also expected to push for results, promote teamwork and display technical expertise. You can hone your leadership skills in the following ways:

  • Clearly communicate your motives with careful diction and body language
  • Go above and beyond to build healthy relationships in the workplace
  • Refine your mentorship skills by teaching others or taking a programme yourself

Negotiation

It’s all about knowing what to say and how to say it so that your desired outcome is realised. As an owner, having effective negotiation skills saves your business money by helping you secure better deals and bigger investments. For employees, you will be able to negotiate increases and promotions, as well as favourable working arrangements.

Improving your negotiation skills is as simple as practising in daily life. Get into the habit of asking for lower prices whenever you purchase or order something. Aside from helping you learn the techniques, you might just score a few deals along the way. Remember to negotiate with a smile and be firm but polite. 

Networking

This soft skill ties in with communication. Networking is the best way to reveal new business and work opportunities. You can build your network by interacting with members of your industry online, namely through social media. It’s also useful to attend conferences, meetups and local events where you can reach out and form valuable connections.

Management

Although they offer similar benefits as business skills, leadership and management are not the same. The former refers to influencing and motivating followers to contribute towards objectives. On the other hand, management involves controlling individuals or teams to accomplish an established goal. 

You need both soft skills to succeed. Many owners and team leaders fail to delegate because they’re reluctant to forgo control. This highlights the necessity for the kind of trust that enables you to assign tasks or outsource to contractors when it’s clear that doing so will save time. 

Another key factor is nurturing company culture. Your team members should be aware of your vision and mission, as well as their role and personal objectives. Staff perform much better when cognizant of the meaning and purpose behind their work. You can vastly improve your abilities in this aspect with project management apps, including:

  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Evernote
  • Podio
  • Microsoft Project
  • Trello

Team Building

Teamwork and collaboration are one of the top skills for professionals in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. You can read through this guide to explore more essential skills in the area. Not only are they crucial to workers, but also entrepreneurs who want to lead more innovative and productive teams. 

Your team building skills have practical utility outside of internal staff groups, too. The advisors, investors and partners who drive your business forward each form their own teams, and you can grow them just like employees. 

Financial Management

How you spend, save and squander your money has far-reaching effects in both your professional and personal life. 

Business owners with strong finance skills can effectively plan projects and implement new services. They also have an intimate understanding of what is driving sales and where profits are best invested. Working professionals who practise effective money management are likely to be the first pick for promotions or transfers to the financial department.

You can improve your skills in this regard by making time for regular learning and research. Head online and dive into content and publications related to finance, whether it’s Bloomberg, Forbes or The Economist. Pay attention to any new and unfamiliar concepts that you discover in the process. 

Also, don’t forget to utilise the latest financial solutions and tools for your industry. There’s often a learning curve to these technologies, but the effort you put in is often well worth it. 

More Essential Skills

Let’s end off with a couple of additional business skills that you can practise moving forward, namely:

  • Analytics
  • Delegation
  • Sales and marketing
  • Time management

How to Improve Any Skill

Perhaps the most challenging task is figuring out how you can improve the skills that you’ve decided to focus on. In most cases, good old research and practise is the answer. 

It’s especially important that you perform regular research in the areas that are subject to change and emerging trends. This is vital to keeping your skills up-to-date and ahead of the competition. Fortunately, the internet offers a wealth of resources that can help you here. Courses, classes and content abound on every business skill you might encounter.

That said, not all your learning endeavours need to be an online affair. Traditional business books are just as valuable, and mentorships are the perfect way to get hands-on experience. 

If you’re acquiring these skills while searching for jobs, remember to adjust what you mention on your cover letter and resume for each application. In other words, highlight what you know the employer is looking for. 

Categories: Business