10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Acumen and Why It’s Important!
Has your organization been struggling with poor communication skills? Have you fought questionable decision-making by your team? You’re not alone! This is a problem that many organizations are struggling with, and it all leads back to one key skill: business acumen.
Your executive team wants the entire business, not just a single unit, to be profitable.
They want all employees to understand and contribute to how your company makes money, and employees want to feel that the work they do is worthwhile and makes a difference.
The problem is that most people in business, don't get business — they lack an understanding of strategy, finance, and business acumen.
So, what do you do? Well, there are some very simple (and affordable) steps that you can take to help improve your personal business acumen and that of your team.
What does business acumen mean?
Business acumen is the ability to quickly and confidently make decisions to address different business situations in a way that is likely to lead to a good outcome. And who doesn’t want their team making decisions that lead to good outcomes?! The ability to make these decisions also leads to improved financial performance (money, money, moneyyyy) and the development of strong leaders. Two things that are necessary to keep your business moving forward!
Why is business acumen important?
Ok, so I feel like I’ve already made a compelling case for why business acumen is important...but if you need more convincing, I can give you even more reasons!
First, it allows you and your team to speak the language of business...and that’s a must when you’re trying to communicate with leadership and executive teams. Have you ever spoken to the CFO or Finance team and not understood a thing they were saying? ...c’mon, I can’t be alone! To ensure you can take an active role in important conversations, you need to be sure that you understand how to speak the complete language of business… that includes the numbers side of things too! I know, for some of us this sounds like torture… well if you’d rather have a root canal than sit through one finance class, don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be painful and boring.
That leads to the next point, by understanding your business’s corporate strategy and where it’s headed, you can effectively develop and present ideas you have. Positioning yourself as a trusted confidant and partner for your company. We all love to feel appreciated and it’s really motivating to know that your role is impacting the organization!
Most importantly (well, in my humble opinion), is that business acumen gives you the insight needed to look outside of the silo of your position. By understanding how the whole company functions, you will better understand how the decisions that you make impact the whole organization, not just your department or functional area.
Three things all employees should know!
Of course, there’s a very long list of things that employees should know, but I’ve whittled it down to three that I think are essential.
The company strategy and goals, and the path the company has laid out to achieve these goals.
How the business makes money.
What all of the departments within an organization do, the basics of how they do it, and how that impacts other portions of the organization.
Ten steps to develop business acumen
So, how can you improve your business acumen? Both personally and for your entire team? Here is a list of TEN pointers that will easily help you begin to improve your business acumen (...oh, and even better… most of them are FREE).
Understand the financial statements - the balance sheet, income statement, and P&L are critical to understanding the business, how it makes money, and its current situation.
Listen to the company’s earnings call - the earnings call is a perfect opportunity for employees of a company to hear firsthand how their company is doing, and the goals the company has moving into the next quarter. Never listened to an earnings call? Need some help understanding them? Don't worry, we've got free Earnings Call Labs that can help!
When the CEO or CFO speaks to the company, get a sense of what that means for you - listening to these conversations allows you to align what you’re doing within your role to the strategic direction of the organization.
Find a mentor - at Acumen Learning, we’ve found that a mentor program is an amazing tool for growing business acumen! Pairing business acumen experts with those still learning will allow relationships to develop, knowledge to be passed, and synergy within the organization. Mentors will not only teach, but they’ll also help their mentees practice skills and guide them on their business acumen journey.
Read - I can’t stress this enough, never stop reading. I know, you get busy and it’s something that can fall to the wayside... but there are so many amazing books that will help guide you on your business acumen journey. In fact, we created a list of 10 books that we love… spoiler alert... Seeing the Big Picture, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller written by our Founder and CEO Kevin Cope is on the list ;).
Pay attention to industry news and business - in order for you to really understand the hardships and opportunities for your organization, you need to know what’s going on within both the business and the overall impact.
Take advantage of education opportunities - to grow your business acumen, it’s essential that you understand that you are ALWAYS a student. The great news is, there are so many opportunities out there to learn, and many of them are free or very affordable. For instance, here at Acumen Learning, we offer two free learning opportunities, a webinar series run by our Founder and CEO, Kevin Cope, and Earnings Call Labs that simplify the process of listening to and understanding earnings calls by using a real company. Check out the latest schedule and register here!
Cross-train in different departments - to really understand how each department within your organization works, their processes, and how they impact every step of the business, cross-training is an amazing opportunity!
Make business acumen a priority within the organization - to really improve a business, it’s essential that everyone within an organization has good business acumen. The best way to achieve this is by really building a culture of business acumen throughout the organization. Ensure that everyone has access to the training and resources necessary to grow it, and see the difference it makes! Check out our corporate training options.
Listen to your customers - we all know it’s cheaper to keep current customers than it is to find new ones… not that you should only do one! But it’s important that we listen to customers to help grow our business acumen - they’ll let us know what is happening in the industry, and what we need to do to continue to compete. They’ll also let us know their pain points, and what we can do to help so that we can craft the appropriate solution.
Now, these things won’t improve your business acumen overnight. Business acumen is a skill that takes practice and requires you to keep your skills up to date, but do these things consistently and you’ll definitely notice an improvement quickly.
Remember to sign up for your free business acumen training, by joining us for our webinar series with Bestselling author Kevin Cope — writer of Seeing the Big Picture! He will teach you the fundamental elements of all companies and help you be seen as a major contributor.