This post is one in a series of tips designed to help small business owners better-navigate the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup crafted to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters.
According to the Career Advisory Board’s 2013 Job Preparedness Indicator study, business acumen is one of the most desired but rare leadership in today’s economy. Having strong business acumen means possessing a clear understanding of the company’s strategy and “ecosystem,” including global trends, macroeconomic shifts, and regulatory changes. Leaders with strong business acumen can absorb information from a diverse array of sources, imagine future scenarios, and use their good judgment to make sensible decisions.
As an entrepreneur, business acumen is essential because you must be able to see and communicate the big picture, and you must have a working knowledge of all functional areas of your organization – from accounting to public relations. Successful business owners leverage business acumen to stay on top of the market and outsmart the competition. They are highly visible and skilled at using that visibility to their advantage.
If you don’t consider business acumen to be one of your strong suits, here are a few suggestions to brush up before launching your business.
Increase Your Financial Literacy
A good first step is to learn about the most important financial documents you will be responsible for as a business owner. For instance, do you know the components of a balance sheet? This document is a snapshot of a business’ financial status at a given point in time, detailing assets, liabilities, and equity. Are you familiar with income statements? These tell you the earnings and profitability of a business for a specific period of time (quarter, year, etc.). Can you put together a cash flow statement, which lists the sources and use of cash and provides information about your business’ investing and financing activities?
Financial literacy will enhance your business acumen because it will allow you to keep tabs on the health of your business and make better, more informed decisions.
Read Business Publications
Keep abreast of current business issues and events via the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the Economist. As you peruse these outlets more frequently, you will start to notice re-occurring trends as well as common economic and business drivers. You’ll also learn about your industry’s leaders, competitors, customers, processes, and innovations, thus gaining a solid understanding of your business’ place in the world.
By familiarizing yourself with global sources, you will also increase your global competence, an element of business acumen that involves knowing how to do business effectively in different cultures.
Get Cross-Functional Experience
Partner on projects with other parts of your organization and master what they do. Get mentored by leaders who have skillsets you don’t. In asking for help, suggest a one-hour, high level information transfer meeting to start. Ping each person for resources you can use to follow up and gain more in-depth knowledge. As you learn, engage your mentors in discussions to master how they think about an issue. While you are picking the brains of the smartest people you know, don’t forget to consider ways you can assist them in return.
Tap Into Training Resources
Whether you are currently working at an established organization or just immersing yourself in the entrepreneurial community, you can sign up for business acumen boosting coursework in the form of in person seminars, conferences, or webinars. The U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE, and outlets such as Entrepreneur, Inc., and Fast Company, frequently sponsor free events. Many community college courses and online courses from vehicles like Coursera are also relatively inexpensive.
When targeting business acumen specifically, you might review the content taught in top MBA programs and piece together less time-consuming and more impactful ways to learn the same information.
Please stay tuned for the rest of the posts in this series, which will include advice on enhancing your self-discipline, risk-tolerance, and management skills.
Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post.
We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!