Strong business acumen is an essential quality in many roles, and thankfully it is something that can be learned, rather than something that a select few are born with. Obviously, it is most important for business leaders, those pursuing a career in management, and entrepreneurs. However, it is also valuable in all walks of life, as almost all of us are engaged in commercial pursuits where decision-making, awareness of the bigger picture, and good people skills will help us to achieve our goals and excel on our chosen path.
Outside of our immediate jobs, strong business acumen is also important when looking after our personal financial affairs. Whether you have an active portfolio of investments, are managing your pension plan, or are just looking for the best way to save for the future, a high level of business acumen will help you to make the most from your money.
What is business acumen?
Business acumen is an attitude and a way of thinking and looking at life. It means being able to quickly and effectively make important decisions in a business environment. These decisions will be informed by a deep and wide understanding of business practices, both general and specific, and an understanding of your own thought processes, strengths and weaknesses.
In a sense, developing strong business acumen is a process of self-realisation, coupled with the ability to focus clearly and calmly on business matters in a logical, ordered way. However, the really important part is the ability to act quickly and decisively. These definite, informed decisions should resolve complex problems and situations to the advantage of you and your business.
Examples of strong business acumen
Having strong business acumen can mean being able to see beyond surface appearances to the underlying realities. It is often most clearly displayed when a business needs to cut its costs. Maintaining expensive offices and permanent warehousing may look impressive, but it may be incurring unnecessary expense if only used for items that are not needed on a regular basis, or that are soon to be disposed of. These could be better kept in a reasonably priced business storage unit.
A leader with strong business acumen may also find that they have to make decisions regarding personnel. They may be able to see that an individual is not fulfilling their maximum potential in one particular role, and would be better suited working elsewhere in the company. Sometimes, an employee’s true value to a company cannot be measured in terms of direct productivity, and it takes a certain kind of business acumen to see this. Excellent people skills are an important part of business acumen, along with a deep understanding of human psychology and behaviour.
The bigger picture
Someone with solid business acumen will be able to see the bigger picture while still grasping all the finer details and how they connect with each other. In investment terms, this often means understanding the global geopolitical situation and how shifts in the balance of this can affect share prices, sometimes quite dramatically.
A broad understanding of how the financial world works will keep you one step ahead of the game. However, of course, this is meaningless unless you are prepared to act on your understanding quickly and decisively. This requires you to have the courage of your convictions, an inner confidence, and self-belief.
Developing business acumen
We said earlier that business acumen is not an innate quality, but something that can be learned and developed. There are formal courses that you can undertake to learn the basic principles of business acumen, but these also need to be applied in the real world. The key factors are knowledge and experience. Knowing the principles of good business and putting them into practice is the best way to develop the acumen you’ll need.
Another important principle, however, is to know yourself. Courses on self-development may be just as useful to you as those in business management. Unless you understand your own thought processes, you will not be able to develop the clear-headedness and self-confidence you need to make the right decisions in a crisis. As well as formal training, a network of mentors is invaluable to help you develop your skills and stay on track.
Strong business acumen can help you to excel in many fields. Developing this quality in yourself is highly recommended. Through training, study and exercise, you can become a better leader and a more confident and successful human being.