The greatest people in business have certain attributes in common. Several personal qualities are important, like a thirst for continuous education, personal drive and motivation, strong goals and ambition, clear vision, and always a great deal of passion.
Beyond those personal qualities though, what makes a successful business person stand out from the crowd? Here are 21 business skills you need if you want to get ahead:
1. Written - Most people in business spend a lot of time communicating in writing. While the inter-office memo and the fax are old hat, you will spend a good few hours a day fighting your inbox. Add to this reports, white papers, proposals and resumes, it’s certain you will need to sharpen your word power to succeed.
2. Social Networking – We are not all social gadflys, some of us struggle to make small talk. It is a key skill to learn though, it is true what they say, sometimes it is more who you know than what!
3. Speaking – Public speaking ranks high amongst the worlds most popular fears. You must overcome it and the best way is to practice. It might feel more comfortable working from the safety of your desk but at some point you are going to have to present. Better to have some experience under your belt before being forced to perform unprepared when it really counts.
4. Sales – You might think you do not need to sell but we all sell every day. From even before your first day you will be selling, starting at your interview all the way to asking the boss for a raise. In normal life we sell, persuading your partner that you really need that new purchase, getting out of that parking ticket … persuasion skills can come in very handy indeed.
5. Negotiation – If you can’t sell perhaps you can negotiate. A lot of the skills are the same but you will find people who have been in business for a while can drive a hard bargain. If you do not have the skills you will lose out each and every time.
1. Strategic – A business that lurches from one crisis to another is not going to stay around very long. Obviously if you are in charge then you have to set the marching orders. Can you clearly see the road ahead?
2. Project – I know many people in business who see their role as the hot headed maverick that shoots from the hip and flies from the seat of their pants. Unfortunately most of them eventually crash and burn. Project management makes your life and that of your team less stressful and gets things done on time and on budget. It might not be the white knuckle ride that some enjoy but at least you will be able to clock off at a reasonable hour!
3. Financial – The top reason why businesses go out of business is bad financial planning. All the cash flows in the wrong direction. Having worked through the dotcom boom and bust I have seen first hand what too big a budget in the wrong hands can do. Someone needs a firm grip on the numbers and it had better be you otherwise someone might just take a trip to a tropical island at your expense.
4. Risk – I’m a natural worrier which though it annoys my wife, does have the advantage in business that I tend to see the potential potholes and bear traps in any plan. If you can imagine a risk you can set about to mitigate it.
5. Logistics – Money is just one resource you need. Any business has inputs and outputs. You need to have the right people in the right jobs with what they need when they need it to get their work done. Logistics might not put you on the cover of Time magazine but it could make you a hero in your office.
1. Time management – I once had a boss who could never get to a single meeting on time. He would always turn up ten minutes late, red-faced, unprepared, looking like he had slept in a bush. He had a growing collection of speeding tickets and a bigger collection of excuses and apologies. Time management reduces stress and increases your respect.
2. Meeting management - Most of us hate meeting but they are a fact of business life. There are always the few who love them as a way to avoid real work. There are many tricks from firmly sticking to the agenda through to holding meetings standing up just before lunch. Whatever works for you if you can get meetings to be productive and under control you will get ahead.
3. Leadership – In the Dilbert universe leadership might be something you step in, but in business it really helps to be able to take the lead. Can you get people to follow you? Are you able to get people to do things they don’t want to do for the good of the team?
4. Systems – If you are repeatedly re-inventing the wheel there is something seriously wrong. Effective systems bring consistency, efficiency and reduced costs. Learning how to create and implement both human and automated systems can go a long way to being more competitive.
5. Personal Productivity – What are your rhythms, when are you more sociable, detail-oriented, creative or lacking energy? Where do you excel and which areas are a struggle? Before you can lead anyone else you need to work out how to get the best out of yourself.
1. Imagination – Many people neglect their creative side feeling that it is better to be all about the logic, but in fact some of the most successful business people are also the most imaginative.
2. Inventiveness – If you can imagine it you can create it, and if you create it then you can sell it! Look around you, think of the things you buy and use, someone had to have the idea before it was built and sold to you. You might be surprised how few mad inventors there are, more products are invented in a marketing office than a garage.
3. Problem Solving – A big part of surviving in business is about solving problems fast and effectively. An employee who is good at keeping their head in a crisis while fighting fires is a worthwhile asset to any business.
4. Brainstorming – Some people think brainstorming is all about having stupid ideas while ridiculing the contributions of everyone else while drinking coffee, eating cookies and flirting with the secretary from floor 2. Perhaps this is why brainstorms get a bad name? If you can brainstorm great ideas, fast then you will be one step ahead.
5. Making connections - Some of the best ideas have simply been about connecting two otherwise unconnected ideas together. Could you invent the next iPhone?
I am sure the sharp-eyed amongst you have noticed there are only 20 points in this list. What is number 21? Perhaps the most important skill of all; the ability to switch off! It is so easy for the stresses and strains of business life to burn people out so you must develop the ability to relax and unwind.