Business Acumen: 6 Development Tips to Grow Your Knowledge

Sujan Patel is the founder of Mailshake, a sales engagement software used by 38,000 sales and marketing professionals. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.
  • August 6, 2021

How is it that some people seem to always have the right answers?

Perhaps it’s an innate talent, perhaps it’s luck, or perhaps it’s business acumen that’s been developed through hard work.

The truth is that many things come together to make a good business person but one thing that will stand you in good stead is business acumen.

What is Business Acumen?

Business acumen is the ability to take your knowledge, experience, and the facts you have available to you and make the best possible business decision. This is something that you’re constantly improving on, even if you don’t know it.

It may seem like business acumen is mainly for people in more senior positions, but it’s something anyone can work on and develop. This knowledge can help you make better decisions, improve your job performance, and help your business achieve its goals.

To improve your business knowledge, it’s important to have a good understanding of the business you work in:

  • How it works
  • How it makes money
  • Business strategies
  • Operational goals
  • Sales results

When you have a good idea of the big picture, then you can make decisions that benefit the business as a whole and show good business acumen.

No matter what your goals are, these skills can help you move forward in business and showcase yourself as a skilled operator.

6 Tips for Developing Business Acumen

Business acumen is something you can learn.

Like anything, certain people might show more natural aptitude than others, but there is no substitute for hard work. If you actively seek out knowledge and are conscious about your learning, then you are going to develop your skills and build your business acumen.

Experience plays a big part in this as well, so it’s something that you’re constantly working on. The more you expose yourself to new situations, the more knowledge you have to draw on in the future.

Here are six ways you can work on developing your business acumen.

1. Get to Know Your Company’s Business Strategies

It’s hard to help your company grow if you don’t have a firm grasp on what it’s trying to achieve and how it intends to go about it. You can have good business instincts, but if you don’t familiarize yourself with the goals of the company, your business acumen is going to be missing a key ingredient.

No matter what your position is in the business, it’s always helpful to know what you’re trying to achieve and the strategies that are going to help you do this.

If you can familiarize yourself with key processes such as the supply chain, business cycle, how your company makes money, and talent acquisition, then you’ve got a better basis from which to make an informed decision.

When there are gaps in your understanding of how your company operates, then your decision-making is less likely to have a positive impact on your business goals.

2. Listen to Your Customers or Clients

Customers and clients are what keep businesses running. Without them, there is no revenue and things start to get difficult.

The strange thing is, there are many businesses that forget to ask their customers for feedback.

Your customers have first-hand experience of how your business is performing and this is invaluable. The more you know about your customers, the more you can use this information to grow your business acumen:

  • What are their pain points?
  • Which questions do they need answered?
  • What do they love about your company and products?
  • What do they want to see you do better?

No matter what’s going on behind the scenes, your business will always need customers. If you don’t have a good picture of what your customers think, then your business acumen will be lacking.

3. Find a Mentor

One of the great things about working in a company is there are lots of opportunities to learn from your colleagues. You may not always incorporate the things you learn from others, but it is an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge.

Sometimes you may find someone who themselves has great business acumen, and you can choose them as a mentor.

This is a great opportunity to ask them questions about their role, learn how it fits into the overall business strategy, and get fresh ideas. No matter how good your business acumen is, it’s always beneficial to be able to bounce ideas off people and learn new things, and a mentor is perfect for this.

They often say that there’s no substitute for experience, and with a mentor, you can learn from all their experiences, cutting your learning curve.

4. Understand the Financial Side of the Business

If you work in a role that’s not clearly linked to the financial side of the business, then it’s easy to think this part isn’t as important for you. Every decision has financial implications though, and if you don’t understand the finances, you can’t hope to make informed choices.

You don’t need to have a degree in finance to understand the key financial aspects of your business, it just takes a little digging:

  • Tracking key metrics
  • Analyzing metrics to see how they impact your business
  • Follow financial resources to improve your skills

To make the best decisions, you need to have a complete picture of your business. You can’t do this if you’re only focused on the sales side, or the human relations side, instead, you’ve got to have a foot in all corners.

Understanding the financial side of your business will help to improve your business acumen and grow your knowledge.

5. Listen to Your Company’s Quarterly Earning Calls

To make good business decisions, you’ve got to make sure you’re up to date with what’s happening with your business. A good way to do this is to listen to your company’s quarterly earnings calls.

If you’re not finance-oriented, then it might be difficult to understand the fine details, but it can still give you a good idea of what’s going on in the company. As you learn and get used to deciphering these calls, they can give you a very good picture of what’s happening with the business.

This is something where your mentor can help you out. Explaining what key terms mean and helping you turn the information into coherent ideas.

You’ve also got the option of listening in to your competitors’ company earning calls which can give you a better feel for what’s happening in the industry as a whole. It’s these small extras that can really add to your business acumen and give you more insights with which to make decisions.

6. Read, Read, Read

There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from growing your knowledge.

One of the best ways to develop your business acumen is simply by reading. There are lots of amazing (often free) resources out there, so use the time you have to learn.

We tend to focus on experience in business, and without a doubt, this is very important, but learning from other people’s experiences can be equally beneficial. The knowledge you’re aiming to learn is all out there, you’ve just got to be open to finding it.

Business acumen takes time to develop

It’s something you will work on throughout your career.

While a key component of business acumen may be experience, that’s not to say you can’t quickly grow your knowledge. By seeking out information and being open to new experiences, you can quickly develop your business acumen and make better business decisions.

Business acumen can take you a long way in your career, so it’s something that’s well worth working on.

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