To be described as business savvy is a compliment that many of us pay to others and aspire to have made about ourselves. Because the longer you work in business and the harder you strive to achieve your own definition of success, the more you realise the length of the road you must travel to be correctly identified as business savvy. So what exactly are we describing when we use that term? What does it take to become business savvy?
To start the process of defining what makes an individual business savvy, you should go no further than business expertise. It’s a simple phrase to use, but the reality of what it means is that you understand the industry of business as well as the inner and outer workings of a company. A business expert – or an expert in business – can look at a business with an all-encompassing viewpoint, while simultaneously understanding the detailed actions and interactions that drive the powerhouse of a business forward. So if a business savvy individual is first and foremost an expert in business, what other characteristics do they commonly display? We’re going to take a look at six, and see if we can go further to define the business savvy skill set.
1. The power of communication
A business savvy individual recognises and uses the power of communication to learn about their staff, their business, their market and their network. This focus on communication is both as an expert listener and a skilled speaker. It’s not just verbal but also translates into the internal and external communication processes that unite, drive loyalty, and define a business. Communication is a priority and is therefore prioritised.
2. Problem solvers
Being business savvy is not just about what you know – it’s also about how you use that knowledge. Problem solving skills can either be naturally occurring or developed, and they are definitely integral to the business savvy definition. It’s about attitude as much as it is about a skill set. The business savvy mind thrives on finding a solution and understanding how to implement it. It seeks out better ways of doing things, and hunts down opportunities for growth and innovation.
3. Plans and processes
Business savvy individuals are masters of both planning and processes. This means that they are able to understand the steps required to take a concept from idea to reality, and that they can evaluate the impact of planning, driving and delivering any initiative that they can conceive. Their understanding of process allows them to focus on the details of what they need to happen, and is a great supplementary tool to be used when they’re communicating their plans to those who will be expected to deliver them. Because they understand the connections between the different areas of the business they are able to quickly assess breadth of impact. And their consideration of process and planning extends to their ability to consider the impact of the company’s past, as well as the strategic goals that lie in the company’s future.
4. Numbers focused
A business savvy person is all about the numbers. Like an explorer reading a map or a doctor listening to a heart beat; a business savvy individual knows that numbers hold the secret to the health of their business. By scrutinising the performance of the business and the wider economy they can predict: the success of a product or service; the potential of a market; and the opportunities to expand globally or avoid an economic crisis. It’s much more than just accounting and measurement.
In combination with their problem solving skills and their focus on processes and plans, the ability to translate numbers into action and profit is a key characteristic that sets them apart from other business people. There is a tendency for it to lend itself to an obsession – but because the devil is in the detail it’s an obsession that only enhances their understanding and control of the business.
Sales is the beating heart of a business and is often recognised as the hub of customer understanding; the entry point of cash into the business; and a reservoir of information on the competition and market. If you want to understand the opportunities or challenges that could impact the success of the business, Sales is a good place to start. If you’re business savvy you know that Sales should be recognised as the important resource that it is. A business savvy leader becomes the conduit for taking insight from the sales team and feeding it to the rest of the business: creating opportunities for innovation, growth and acquisition.
6. Business Development
Because they are excellent communicators and problem solvers, it’s not surprising that business savvy individuals also excel at business development. They cultivate an extensive network which provides a rich source of new business because they listen well to what people need and react accordingly. When a business savvy person spots an opportunity they are quick to present a solution: they have an ability to spot potential and translate it into growth. They never stop looking for the next deal.
When we describe someone as business savvy we are undoubtedly identifying an expert in business. In addition to business expertise we recognise a certain skill set and group of characteristics that set them apart from other experts in their area. The ability to listen and learn; the desire to grow individually, as a team and as a business; the recognition of the numbers that underpin every success or failure. A business savvy individual is set apart by their constantly evolving excellence in their field, and because of this they will lead and inspire others to become experts and business savvy individuals in their own right.
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