How to Build Your Business Acumen

See also: Developing Commercial Awareness

While it’s fair to say that the crisis surrounding Afghanistan may have sounded the death knell for President Joe Biden’s honeymoon period, his competency has now been called into question with regards to the economy.

More specifically, confidence in Biden’s ability to drive an economic recovery in the US has recently dropped to 44%, against a backdrop of rising inflation, labour shortages and continued supply chain bottlenecks.

With this in mind, it’s crucial that businesses and their leaders are able to display considerable acumen in the current commercial climate.

Here are some steps to help you build this attribute and achieve sustained success over time.

1. Implement Hands-on Learning

Let’s start with the basics; as practical, hands-on learning can help to teach business acumen and relevant industry insight as a core competency amongst leaders and managers alike.

This certainly provides an effective way to transfer practical skills and knowledge, even relatively vague and transferable attributes such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

Remember, business acumen is a relatively vague and hard to define term, while its meaning may vary depending on the precise industry that you operate in. However, hands-on training can help to identify the universal and industry-specific principles that underpin business acumen, while imparting these in an effective and easy-to-understand manner.

But how do you bring such training to life? Well, using gamification and simulations can comprise a particularly effective strategy, particularly in terms of engagement levels and driving peak levels of retention.

According to studies, around 80% of US workers believe game-based learning to be more engaging than other trading methodologies, while such an approach has also driven a 60% increase in employee engagement stateside.

By leveraging gamification and simulation to your advantage, you can create cutting edge training sessions and teach business acumen as a tangible and core competency.

2. Find a Mentor

Even if you’re a relatively experienced entrepreneur who has successfully launched your venture, you’ll find that the most seasoned and successful business-owners have committed themselves to an ongoing journey of learning and development.

The same principle applies to ambitious employees, who must also invest in personal and professional development if they’re to successfully build their business acumen.

In both of these instances, you could improve your knowledge and levels of relevant business acumen simply by identifying a potential mentor.

This individual can exist within your company (if you’re an employee) or operate as a successful leader or entrepreneur elsewhere, so long as they have a relevant skillset and are able to command your respect as an individual.

Certainly, individuals who remain successful and can demonstrate a track-record of attainment even during challenging economic times will typically boast increased levels of business acumen, as will those who have continued to reinvent their ventures in the wake of social shifts and technological innovation.

3. Understand Your Business Finances in Detail

If you’re an entrepreneur who owns a relatively large business, you may well have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to help the company finances and continually balance the books.

This type of delegation is crucial in large corporations, of course, especially if it enables leaders to focus on their core strategic vision and maintain an overview of the business as a whole.

However, practical business acumen is built on an understanding of transactions and company balance sheets, as well as a detailed comprehension of profit, turnover and a business’s overall operating margin.

Not only does this type of insight help you to make more informed decisions as an entrepreneur, but it also enables you to build business acumen and create a far greater understanding of how a company operates on a daily basis.

So, even if you employ a CFO as part of your business, we’d recommend taking a keener interest in your company finances and learning more about its fundamental operations.



4. Listen to Your Customers

In addition to following and understanding the core financial elements of your business, you may also want to learn and draw inspiration from elsewhere when looking to demonstrate genuine business acumen.

You don’t need to restrict yourself to fellow entrepreneurs or economists either, as the feedback provided by your customers is often one of the very best learning experiences you can ever engage with.

Let’s face facts; customers are at the epicentre of your firm, with core demographics dictating everything from the types of products (or services) that you sell, your pricing and the channels that you use to target audience members.

Similarly, customers also include people who may work internally within your business, including employees and co-workers alike.

So, there’s no better resource when looking to gain superior insight into your venture and build business acumen, particularly in terms of determining the most relevant company challenges and identifying practical and actionable solutions.

There are several ways in which you gain feedback and insight, from the analysis of gathered data to customer surveys and target focus groups.

Make no mistake; the information here can help you to understand your business in far greater detail, creating a greater sense of awareness and acumen in the process!

5. Go Old School and Read Some Books

We’ve already spoken about the importance of simulation and gamification when conducting cutting edge business acumen training.

However, it’s still possible to draw insight from a wide range of sources, with books remaining an incredibly valuable resource in fields such as management, leadership and business acumen.

So, we’d recommend developing a library of career and business acumen-building books over time, with authors and entrepreneurs such as Daymond John, Thomas Erikson and Ramit Sethi offering access to an incredible wealth of knowledge.

Of course, you can be selective about which books you read, depending on your own experience as an entrepreneur and the precise market that you operate in.

However, the key is to identify several books that can help you to understand the importance of business acumen and provide some insight in how to build this consistently over time.


About the Author


Lewis Humphries is a freelance copywriter at Contenting.

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