12 business skills you need to master

Cameron Fleming | 26 April 2021 | 3 years ago

12 Business skills you need to master

As an entrepreneur or business executive, your drive is to create a successful company as quickly as possible. Passion and loving what you do are important factors, but it definitely requires much more than that to be successful.

History reveals to us a plethora of sad facts relating to this. More than 50 per cent of start-ups fail within three years purely based on the absence of the entrepreneur’s practical business skills. Working hard at doing the wrong thing is not going to give a ‘right’ answer or outcome.

Success and generational legacies demand more than elbow grease, tenacity, and specialist expertise. They require the entrepreneur to comprehend and master an influential set of fundamental business skills.

The skill set required is diverse as small businesses demand that their entrepreneurial owners be multi-skilled pantologists as they build the business. Whilst it is admirable that you commit to such diversity, it is imperative to identify quickly:

  • Which skills are your strength?
  • Which skills are not delegable, and you need to acquire?
  • Which skills should be delegated as soon as possible?
The skill set that you identify as needing to be acquired can be addressed over time as an autodidact. To resolve the other areas, employees can be hired who, you have assessed and verified, have strong skills in specific areas. An alternative to full-time headcount is to outsource a professional, whether that be advice or physical tasks.

We have compiled a list of business skills that we believe are important business success components. You will note that these are mostly soft skills which, in itself, is telling. Being a brilliant engineer or marketing strategist does not make you a brilliant business owner. Work through the listed skills and prioritise which ones you will need to learn, delegate or import / outsource to ensure your business is given the best chance to succeed:

1. Delegation skills

Every entrepreneur knows the never-ending chasing of time. It is a finite resource and incredibly difficult to ‘recoup’. Many a business owner is overwhelmed by avalanches of backlog. The strategic and effective use of this resource is critical to deliver top results and avoid burnout.

Effective and efficient leadership allows you and your team to achieve business goals. You might be brilliant at what you do and therefore battle with letting go and leading the execution done by others.

Voltaire cited an ancient proverb in his Dictionnaire philosophique in 1770 that still rings true today:

Perfect is the enemy of the good. “il meglio è nemico del bene”. Italian proverb

An effective leader can teach – success comes when you’re learning to stop doing everything “your way” and accept that 80 per cent is the new 100 per cent. By doing this, you and your team can come upon new ideas and approaches in your journey together instead of them stumbling blindly behind you. Strength through evolution happens when differently skilled people contribute jointly and amplify the group results.

Effective delegation also needs planning ahead, so everyone is empowered to take action.

Being a delegating leader will deliver you a happy and productive team and will give you an advantage over your competition. Assign responsibilities for task completion especially routine activities of your business.

This is not to say that delegation is simply handing over tasks and walking away.

It requires:

  • Training the delegatee (empowerment),
  • Delegating in advance (preparation), and
  • Balancing controls versus independence (leadership).
Learn how to make your business work versus your business working for you!

2. Communication skills

From a life perspective, all actions result from communication: your brain communicates to limbs and your communications with your friends.

From a business point of view, all transactions result from communication.

Effective communication allows others and yourself to understand information more accurately and quickly and to establish expectations. In contrast, ineffective communication leads to frequent misunderstanding and frustration as well as some very serious failures. In a business environment, good communication will deliver:

  • Fewer mistakes.
  • Better workplace atmosphere.
  • Good persuasion skills.
It is an important part of life and often taken for granted. Good communication skills improve quality candidate selection during hiring processes, strengthen relationships with stakeholders, empower staff by giving them clarity on your expectations and enabling you to be sensitive when dealing with problems.

3. Negotiation skills

Negotiations are a part of our daily lives, whether it’s parents with children, adults in their relationships or businesses with clients and suppliers.

Business negotiation is a formal skill that, as an autodidact, you could develop through experience and practice. The more frequently you negotiate, the greater your chances are of becoming skilled at it versus other people who are inexperienced. Gaining negotiation experience starts from a young age, but formal negotiations in niche scenarios occur later in life.

With experience, you will more likely know what, when and how to say your case, when to concede and, also, when to keep quiet.

Effective negotiations deliver a win-win outcome in negotiations with all parties, even if one of the wins is a perception created by you for the other party.

4. Strategic planning

This is a vital business activity. Through its process, you define your company’s strategy, map out the direction of your brand/s and prioritise allocations of resources. The skill requires a visionary component in order that you can project your company’s future performance. This projection is traditionally within a three-to-five-year framework broken down into milestones.  The projection is ALWAYS aligned to and supported by your brilliantly devised business plan.

Strategic planning creates the difference between busy vs successful.

5. Leadership skills

Leadership is about leading and not about doing. Through your leadership, things will be done via other people.

It is a critical management skill, but ‘management’ is often misconstrued to mean controlling, “keeping a firm hand on”, or pushing staff to take action.

Leadership is none of this but rather is the ability to motivate and inspire your staff towards business goals. You can’t push from behind the team if you are out at the front leading.

Leadership does involve taking charge, but that means taking charge of a situation and does not mean micromanagement or clawing delegated tasks back onto your desk. It requires you to inspire resources to self-mobilize and then to motivate them.

You will forge valuable, long-term relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, and stakeholders through correct leadership.

6. Team-building skills

Team building skills are not event planning for staff in a forest. It involves striving to improve inter-employee relationships, which facilitate collaboration amongst them.

Team leaders are responsible for bringing individual employees together as a cohesive team and getting all their differences to be respected and appreciated.

A well-built team generates far superior solutions and generates more productivity, per headcount, than those same staff members working independently.

The key is to know how to build teams of employees, partners, advisors, and investors that will help you take your business to the next level.

7. Analytical skills

Our workplaces, homes and entertainments options are astoundingly more technologically advanced and complex nowadays. With technology integrating, at a precipitous rate, into every aspect of our lives, the need for farming the big data increases AND the need for analytical thinking.

Analytical thinking skills give you the ability to objectively assess the data on your business and on your competitors, thereby allowing for the correct adjustment to your business plan and future trajectory. This skill will reveal the SWOT of the AS-IS business picture versus the TO-BE business picture.

Knowing how to gather, review, and evaluate data will enable the strategic use and maximum leveraging of data available to you.

8. Sales and marketing skills

Winning sales and marketing methods and policies are essential for growing your business and cultivating stability. Using the information on your competition, the marketplace, and industry trends (marketing strategy data) are critical to business development and the knowledge of WHAT to do with that information.

Knowing how to craft and communicate a compelling message to the right target audience is often an inherent skill that can’t be taught. It definitely needs polishing, though, to be amplified into a substantially more powerful skill.

It will generate new business, build profitability and revenue streams.

9. General management skills

These skills are used in directing and controlling people in a coordinating way to accomplish business goals. It also involves the sourcing, organising or directing of your teams, your financial resources, and technological resources.

A top-notch General Manager will develop and implement a practical and effective management system to run macro and micro-operations, meet stakeholders’ needs, and ensure business growth.

10. Cash flow management skills

Cash flow is the King, the President and the Head Honcho. It creates the most stress for any SMME business.

It truly is the life-blood of businesses, especially startups, and is an effective gauge of your business’ health. Cash flow impacts businesses, positively or negatively, with alacrity and does not suffer fools gladly. Mismanage it, and you will be in hot water very quickly. It is vital to upskill yourself on how to monitor and protect cash flow but ALSO to know how to get that cash to work for you!

11. Financial management skills

Finance management is complex and, at higher levels, has scientific components to it. You need these skills to manage money, income, expenditure, investments and all related risks. Budgeting, reporting and tweaking financial performance is vital and affects the market value of your business.

Upskill yourself or contract in a supporting professional who knows how to interpret and analyse your financial statements. This analysis will identify the items that are adversely affecting your profitability and, with an astute financial manager, will identify ways of leveraging your available finance to the absolute maximum.

12. Time management skills

Some may say this involves a lot of common-sense skills, but that is only true for people born with that skill. It requires the ability to forecast, evaluate, prioritise and sequence tasks whilst simultaneously retaining an overview of the holistic picture in your mind. Not everyone can do this.

This skill will ensure the most effective and productive use of the fleeting resource: time and is a very important skill to master.

You will be empowered to achieve more and by focussing on the activities most likely to deliver value to your business.

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