6 Business Skills You Need (And How To Improve Them)
Updated November 6, 2023
A woman in business clothes with a purple background standing next to a list titled "11 Core Business Skills Every Professional Needs" and these skills:
• Goal setting
• Critical thinking and problem-solving
• Financial management
• Time management
• Project management
• Creativity and innovation
Business skills allow individuals to thrive in the workplace and make meaningful strategic contributions. Whether you're a business owner or an employee, possessing certain competencies can help you positively impact the efficiency, performance and productivity of an organization. Understanding these capabilities and how to hone your expertise can help you qualify for a variety of corporate roles.
In this article, we define what business skills are, provide a list of six examples, describe how you can improve them and review how to highlight them throughout the application process.
What are business skills?
Business skills are competencies that help people understand consumer habits and organizational behavior so they can use this information to promote the success of the company. Business skills typically qualify as soft skills and may include leadership and communication skills. These skills are particularly important for entrepreneurs, company owners and managers. However, employers in a variety of fields may look for candidates who possess a combination of both business and technical skills. There are several categories of business skills, including:
Time management skills
Sales and marketing skills
Financial management skills
Business skills may vary between company type and industry. For example, a person working in the finance industry may be required to have business skills that include being able to produce financial reports and analyze the market. Employers typically expect individuals in management to delegate tasks and communicate with team members confidently.
Why are business skills important?
Business skills are important because they're a fundamental component of starting, operating and managing a successful organization. If you're a business owner, these skills equip you with the ability to meet the needs of both your consumers and employees. As a potential or current employee, business skills can distinguish you from other individuals in your field and help you advance your career. These competencies can also allow you to help an organization with the following tasks:
Maintaining high product quality
Building excellent customer relations and customer care standards
Increasing performance, productivity and profits through efficient planning, management and implementation of business aims and goals
Forming a reliable financial base and maintaining a prudent financial policy
Maintaining a positive and productive company culture
Motivating employees to improve their performance
Establishing profitable sales and marketing channels
Related: Guide to Company Culture
6 examples of business skills
There are a variety of business skills you can possess to help you succeed in the workplace. While some types of businesses or positions may require specific talents, several skills are common across industries. Here are six business skills you can benefit from mastering, regardless of the industry in which you work:
1. Team building and team management
Achieving a business goal typically begins with the ability to select and manage an efficient team. Knowing how to choose qualified and skilled candidates, assign tasks and motivate your colleagues can help your team members improve their performance. Possessing strong team-building and management skills can help you support others and ensure they work collaboratively towards a shared objective.
It's important for both business owners and managers to be able to communicate effectively with employees, other managers, consumers and other individuals involved in day-to-day business operations. Effective communication skills include both verbal and written capabilities and can allow individuals to share information with a variety of audiences. Possessing strong communication skills can allow teams to:
Effectively negotiating to mediate disputes
Composing clear and concise emails
Confidently speaking in both one-on-one settings and large groups
Keeping communication open between yourself and other employees
Relay the goals of a project and the steps required to complete it
Managers and business owners are typically able to distribute tasks effectively to individuals and teams depending on their abilities and proven strengths. Effective delegation means balancing freedom and responsibility. It's important for employees to have adequate freedom to accomplish tasks but also the responsibility and accountability to achieve desired results according to corporate deadlines.
As a business grows, managers may want to hire team members and be able to provide them with a corporate vision and distinct goals to achieve. Strategic leadership may require managers to understand how to offer employees and teams an actionable plan and the motivation to complete it. Besides business owners, leadership skills are also helpful for those in supervisor positions to maintain effective day-to-day operations and motivate the employees they oversee.
5. Financial management
Business owners and those in management positions are often required to have financial management skills to understand and manage the company's financial needs effectively. Financial management skills include the ability to analyze the current market, understand investment benefits and risks, effectively budget and identify anything that's negatively impacting the company's financial health. In addition to business owners, positions that may require financial management skills include business analysts, accountants and bank employees.
6. Project management
Projects in the workplace usually have specific timelines, milestones, budgets and end goals. Project management skills enable you to handle day-to-day tasks effectively and track the overall progress of a project. Cost control and timely completion are two important aspects of project management skills.
Tips to improve business skills
With research and practice, you can learn and regularly implement business knowledge and expertise into your day-to-day work life. Here are some tips to help you improve your business skills:
Consider researching the business skills that other employees in your industry possess and the competencies that employers look for in a candidate. Determine which skills you already have and which skills you can improve. Regularly researching and studying business skills can also help to keep your skills updated and allow you to remain aware of current and emerging business trends.
Find a mentor
Having a mentor who has extensive business experience can provide you with the guidance needed to develop professionally. Mentors can give you both advice and support and help you determine which business skills may benefit you in your current or desired career. When deciding on a mentor, first set clear goals of what you wish to gain from the relationship. This allows you to choose the person who has the experience and skills from which you most benefit.
Read business books
There are a variety of books about business skills and performance that you can read to broaden your knowledge and understanding of this topic. Consider reviewing the syllabus for a business school course to identify relevant reading materials and stay updated with the latest business trends. You may be able to find these on a university's website. You can also checklists of best-selling business books to find helpful resources.
Related: The 20 Best Business Books
Take a business skills course or class
A great way to improve your business skills is to take a course or class. Many courses are available online, and you may be able to enroll in certain classes for free. This can help you familiarize yourself with relevant terminology and concepts and allow you to develop your business-related strengths.
How to highlight business skills
When applying for jobs, highlighting your business skills on your cover letter and resume can help set you apart from other candidates. Clearly, straightforwardly listing your business skills is key to making a good first impression with a potential employer. Here are a few ways you can best highlight your business skills:
Business skills for resumes
Use your resume to highlight the skills you possess and outline why you're the right candidate for your prospective role. Include a list of your business-related strengths to make it easy for a hiring manager to identify and review them. You can also discuss how you used these competencies in previous roles to help employers grow and succeed.
Business skills for cover letters
Your cover letter is an effective way to outline your most valuable business skills and make a positive first impression on a hiring manager. Review the job description and identify the most important business skills for the position, and include those in a brief and easy-to-read paragraph.
This can show your prospective employer that you understand their expectations and possess the competencies they're looking for in a candidate. You can also use this application document to highlight to include what you know about the company and describe why you're a good fit for the position.
Business skills for interviews
To highlight your business skills or acumen during an interview, arrive prepared to discuss several examples of how you've successfully used or gained skills in the past. Use the STAR interview response technique, which stands for situation, task, action and result, to answer your interviewer's questions in a way that shows the skills you possess, how you used them and the positive contributions you made to previous employers. This ensures you're giving effective answers to common questions.
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