General Business Tips – For example, it is crucial for business owners to ensure that all members of their organization are equipped with skills such as critical thinking, time management and effective communication so that day-to-day operations run smoothly and business goals are reached.
Here’s an overview of why it’s important to improve your business skills and the top ten priorities you should make to advance your career.
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A business foundation can not only lead to greater confidence in the workplace but also open doors to countless career opportunities. For those who have expanded their knowledge by taking Harvard Business School courses, their experiences have led to results such as:
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If you want to achieve similar goals in your career, here are ten business skills you should develop.
A baseline knowledge of economics can be valuable in any industry. In addition to an in-depth understanding of pricing strategies and market demand, studying economics can provide a toolkit for making key decisions in your company.
Nicholas Greco, a former CORE participant who works as an educator and healthcare administrator, said the lessons learned in economics for managers were helpful in helping his organization invest in solar energy.
“I knew investing in solar was a good opportunity, but the Will to Sell concept (WTS) helped me understand and explain why,” says Greco. “Due to additional incentives from city programs and group purchasing power, electrical contractors were willing to sell solar energy systems at much lower prices than usual, thereby increasing our consumer surplus. By explaining the WTS, I was able to convince the owner to go ahead with the project.”
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Research shows that companies including Microsoft, Uber and Blue Apron use analytics to create incremental share-growth and improve their services and operations.
According to LinkedIn, analytical reasoning is one of the most sought-after hard skills in today’s job market. Knowing how to summarize datasets, recognize trends, and test hypotheses can provide an analytical framework for approaching complex business problems and help you make informed decisions that benefit your firm.
“Using data analytics is a very effective way to make an impact in an organization,” says HBS professor Jan Hammond, who teaches the course Business Analytics. “If you’re able to go into a meeting, and others have opinions, but you have data to support your arguments and recommendations, you’re going to be influential.”
Accounting know-how can be beneficial to your career, even if you’re not in a numbers-focused role. Although this may seem like an intimidating topic, it is much more accessible than you might think.
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Concepts like cash flow and profitability are useful for understanding your organization’s performance and potential, while knowing how to read and interpret a balance sheet is important for communicating financial results.
Pankaj Prashant, an engineer who took CORE, said the principles he learned in financial accounting helped him build his technical background and advance his career.
“I keep an eye on my company’s annual report, and the accounting I’ve learned helps me understand where the business can go in the future,” says Prashant. “I’ve been tracking a few more companies for investment purposes, and I’ve realized that I can make more informed decisions with my improved knowledge of company finances.”
Whether you’re just starting your professional journey or working at a senior level, it pays to be an effective negotiator. In a report by the World Economic Forum, negotiation was identified as one of the top 10 skills needed to thrive in the workforce of the future.
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Honing your deal-making skills can not only help secure value at the negotiating table for your organization but for you when advocating for a higher starting salary or raise.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a successful negotiation strategy. According to HBS professor Mike Wheeler, who teaches Negotiation Mastery, it’s about being open to improvisation and planning to think on your feet.
“Even if you see yourself as a negotiator, most of the people you deal with have a different style, at least to some extent,” Wheeler says. “To be successful, therefore, you have to be agile. This means being flexible so that you can deploy different skills depending on the situation and who you are dealing with.”
Strong managerial skills are intrinsically linked to organizational performance. A Gallup study found that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement, emphasizing the need for companies to develop leaders who drive team productivity and morale.
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For experienced and aspiring managers alike, knowing how to conduct meetings and communicate organizational change is valuable. It is equally important for team leaders to be aware of common missteps.
For Monica Higgins, a public relations account director, taking the Management Essentials course was a way to increase her managerial knowledge and develop a new perspective on her role.
“I’m more aware of seeing things through a broader lens from different perspectives,” Higgins says. “I’ve always been a fan of asking thoughtful, learning questions — as opposed to declaring — and I’m now a big fan of playing devil’s advocate.”
Whether you hold a management position or not, leadership skills are critical to success in the workplace. Although some people consider leadership and management to be one and the same, there are differences between the two. Whereas management is focused on implementing processes, leadership focuses more on people and the vision that drives change.
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In addition to honing your management skills, building your leadership skills can be beneficial in any career. From learning to stay calm under pressure to developing your own leadership style, these skills can help you understand how to bring your vision to life and position your team for success.
In any business setting, professionals rely on communication to coordinate efforts and achieve organizational goals. Ineffective communication—or lack of communication altogether—can prove disastrous.
In addition to developing your skills, a major contribution to success is understanding and adapting to the communication styles of others. Other key communication skills include active listening, empathy and reading body language.
Emotional intelligence is another essential business skill, and research shows it’s a key indicator of workplace performance. According to a study by TalentSmart, 90 percent of top performers have high levels of emotional intelligence.
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Emotional intelligence is generally divided into four concepts: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. In short, this skill refers to your ability to understand emotions and recognize and influence others.
Regardless of your industry or position, awareness of yourself and those around you can enable you to have more control over your interactions and achieve goals effectively.
All professionals need strong decision-making skills to navigate complex workplace challenges. Those who work specifically in business or management need such skills even more.
Determining how to allocate resources, which employees comprise a team, and how to implement a new organizational initiative are all decisions that require careful consideration. With a growing number of tools and resources that can be used to capture data, managers can fuel their processes with valuable insights to make data-driven decisions and create better results.
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Whether you’re seeking ideas or advice on a specific challenge or preparing for a career change, the people who make up your professional network can be valuable resources.
To make the most of your network, be open to opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and build new relationships. Once your network is built, it’s important to maintain the relationships you’ve built and find new ways to expand your web of contacts.
If you’re aiming to advance your career, the value of business acumen cannot be overstated. In addition to hard skills (such as understanding financial accounting and economics), you need soft skills (such as emotional intelligence and leadership) as your organization grows.
Regardless of your industry, knowledge of essential business concepts can help you better understand your organization’s performance and gain the tools you need to undertake strategic decision-making.
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Do you want to take your career to the next level? Explore our business essentials courses, and download our free e-book on advancing your career with essential business skills to see how increasing your knowledge can help you make an impact in your organization and be competitive in the job market.
Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School. Before returning to her home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS, she lived in North Carolina, where she held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentaries for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In her spare time, she enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with her family. Veteran-owned businesses are an economic force in the United States. U.S. The Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Business Survey shows that nearly 340,000 veteran-owned businesses in this country employ 3.9 million people, about the same as the population of Oklahoma. Their combined salary is about $178 billion.
But starting their own business can have some unique obstacles for military veterans. Institute for Veterans and a 2020 survey
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