What are the essential business skills and how to improve them?

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11 Crucial Skills Every Small Business Owner Needs From Day One

When you own a small business, you have to take on many of the day-to-day responsibilities yourself—at least in the beginning. Having some basic knowledge across all aspects of business operations can go a long way to making your business flourish, and ultimately turn you into a more well-rounded manager when you do eventually hire staff.

Which skills are the most important to develop from the get-go? We asked 11 members of Young Entrepreneur Council which fundamental skill – tech, operations, leadership, etc. – all small business owners should have to manage day-to-day operations. They shared their answers below.

Many first-time business owners experience anxiety when it comes to turning over duties as the business grows. No leader wants to be perceived as the lazy “idea guy,” but there comes a time when growth is important. Leadership means focusing on the big picture instead of hopping around the office proving you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves. Train yourself to delegate every duty that doesn’t need your authority by spending one hour each month auditing how you spend your time throughout the day. You are not doing your team a favor by backing them up with menial tasks if it means you’re not out there creating new opportunities for them. – Matt Doyle , Excel Builders

A thought leader is somebody with a different way of viewing things than what is mainstream. Some leaders lead their followers, but don’t innovate while a thought leader has something controversial to offer. It could be someone whose story, product or ideas are not popular, but thought leaders have a very distinct thesis and message to share to motivate others. Leadership is very important, but you must be a thought leader to operate well every day. Operations, tech, PR, writing and marketing skills will all follow once you have the heart to innovate, motivate and share. You may be the smartest or most talented person out there, but once your people fail under your leadership, your whole business will fail, too. – Daisy Jing , Banish

This might sound obvious, but the biggest and most consistent gap I see within founders and leaders is not having adequate communication skills. A lack of communication can be a huge vulnerability for teams and organizations. As a leader, you should lead by example and help implement a culture that thrives on proactive, open and honest communication. This should flow in every direction and include gaining feedback from clients, partners and staff often. By not having this skill, negative sentiments can start to grow and spread within the organization. This will eventually impact employee morale and then spread to other aspects of a small business. A common misconception is that good communication is a natural skill. While it can be, it can also be taught and learned. – Jared Polites , LaunchTeam

The whole “get things done” mentality to ensure seamless day-to-day operations for your team almost always runs into a roadblock that was never considered. That’s because a lot of times we’re somewhat reactive to this formula where a client, vendor or customer gets angry and we put measures in to make sure that the problem never happens again. Then, we rinse and repeat, but some changes might only work for a small fraction of situations and could make things worse for the whole. Focusing on what could go wrong with the fixes and exercising context on what your team needs to succeed can get you much further ahead of that issue. It makes you proactive, not reactive and gives the weapons your teams need to run better without you needing to interfere all the time. – Richard Fong , Bliss Drive

Nothing is more important in a business than understanding the finances. A good business owner knows how much things cost, including things like labor, sales, etc. This is important so that you maximize cash flow and have good planning for the future. I had a client do a special for seven years and lose money every week not realizing that the truth is in the numbers. Numbers don’t lie; they give you a real, strong understanding of the health of your business. It also tells you what direction your business is growing in and where it needs more help. Understand your numbers! Your business depends on it. – David Chen , GTIF Capital

Companies are full of personalities and relationships. I have found that the primary thing that keeps all types of people focused and connected is purpose. What are they all striving for? What are the goals everyone in the company is moving towards? Everyone in the company needs to be reminded of their purpose almost every day and it is not enough to write it on the wall. The strength of a leader could be measured by how many personalities get behind and believe in the purpose the leader puts forth. The leaders of the company need to bring inspiration to their purpose. In light of all the things individuals in the company do, there must be a solid, greater purpose that all employees can support. I feel this is what has driven my company’s success throughout all these years. – Dishan Jayasinha , DG Studio

Essential business skills

All businesses have a list of skills they require from employees, found in the employee manual or their contracts. It is crucial to make sure that the relationship between the employer and the employee remains clear and straightforward and that either party understands what their roles in the business are. Below is a list of skills that can vastly improve the understanding employees have in a public workplace. It gives clear and concise instructions for what is expected and encourages an understanding for individuals who require more information.

  1. Delegation skills: Delegation skills involve assigning responsibilities to other people to ensure the completion of targets. Effective delegation achieves harmony within the team members and minimises conflicts between them. It does not matter if you delegate tasks to another organisation or employees. For example, getfinanceessay often accepts orders for the corrections of financial workers’ projects.
  2. Communication skills: They ensure clear expectations and better sensitivity and empathy. To be effective in any business, you must communicate well, especially if you are using business phone services . Improving the relationship between coworkers is vital, and communication ensures that everyone delivers their work in a manner that meets the understanding of their coworkers.
  3. Negotiation skills: These skills help achieve favourable outcomes without hurting the sensibilities of the opposite parties. They help in creating a win-win situation for everyone. Successful negotiations require patience and diligence, and a firm understanding of how to deal with different people, especially in a limited company formation .
  4. Strategic planning: This involves making decisions and optimising the resources available to you for the best possible results. The key is to design a well-defined plan that accounts for all the strengths and potential issues of the company. It also involves the ability to create opportunities for strategic planning to take place. Once the parties selected can work in a coexisting environment, the ability to plan and suggest becomes easier.
  5. Leadership skills: They refer to the ability to motivate your team for achieving a common goal. They involve taking charge, mobilising, and encouraging optimising your team members. It also consists of delegating the task and creating inclusive environments for a team member to feel comfortable in.
  6. Team playing skills: It is essential to work with other people or teams without any ego clashes or issues. Team skills aim to improve your productivity while working in a group. The ability to optimise responsibilities between team members is a vital requirement and needs to be done fairly.
  7. Analytical skills: Analytical skills or thinking helps in objectively assessing the current state of a business, future goals, and calculating the resources and time required to achieve those goals. It teaches you to gather, review and evaluate data that is necessary to formulate business plans.
  8. Sales and marketing skills: They are the skills required to size up the competitors, communicate a compelling brand message to the target audience, and generate profitable revenue. These skills need fresh ideas to be developed through market-related research and targeted marketing within the company’s portfolio.
  9. Time management skills: They help achieve targets in a shorter time frame and increase your productivity and efficiency. Time management also refers to getting team members and coworkers to show up and be present within the working period and be respectful of the hours stipulated within worker manuals.
  10. SEO skills: A website is a key part of any business, and everyone should know how to ensure the website is used to its full potential and connecting with the right audience. This requires some knowledge of SEO best practices so that pages on your site rank in search results for the relevant terms. Not everyone needs to be an expert, unless you’re launching an SEO business, but a basic understanding of SEO when it comes to the business’s website is essential.

What Are The Top Business Skills?

In our increasingly globalized and fast-changing work environments, technical skills don’t suffice. Take the discussion and debate around ‘leadership in crisis’, which gained popularity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to leading a team or the business, what else can a leader bring to the table? Similarly, modern businesses expect you to go beyond your job description and utilize your full potential. Consider this list of top business skills that can help you kick off and manage a successful career, no matter what industry you’re in:

Communication Skills

Communication allows the spread of ideas, opinions, outlooks and innovation. It helps you build strong interpersonal relationships—both internally (for example, coworkers) and externally (for example, clients). It helps you write meaningful emails and construct clear arguments when needed. To communicate effectively, you need to grasp written, verbal and non-verbal communication.

Leadership Skills

One of the most important business skills, leadership is the art of influencing and managing people with the aim to set and achieve common goals. Every successful organization depends on a strong foundation of effective teamwork. As a leader, you need to be able to motivate employees and encourage them to be their more efficient and productive selves. Recognizing their strengths can help you use them to the business’s advantage.

Management Skills

Leadership and management skills often go hand in hand. Management skills are not limited to planning and executing projects or managing a team; it also includes taking responsibility and initiative when problems arise. At an individual level, management skills include managing your time, prioritizing important tasks and delegating responsibilities as needed. Most of all, these skills help you stay organized and plan your work smartly.

Decision-Making Skills

Changing industry demands require businesses to shift priorities. In such situations, you need strong decision-making skills that’ll help you navigate complex situations and arrive at logical conclusions in a time-efficient manner. Moreover, allocating resources, creating and leading a team and implementing new initiatives require careful consideration. Critical thinking and data-driven decisions lead to beneficial outcomes.

Emotional Intelligence

Studies show that emotional intelligence acts as a catalyst for improving workplace performance and productivity. It includes four central components: self-awareness, self-management, relationship management and social awareness. The ability to understand and recognize emotions not only enhances your communications skills and interpersonal relationships but also helps build trust. It further influences your ability to persuade and increase collaboration and cooperation.


One of the most important 21st century business skills, learnability is the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. In an environment that’s being constantly influenced by multiple factors, the ability to expand your knowledge base and respond appropriately has become necessary. The more you’re open to learning more and acquiring new skills, the easier it is to keep up with the times and stay productive.


Setbacks and failure are inevitable aspects of professional life but the way you deal with them is critical to your success. The ability to bounce back and face your challenges is known as resilience. Being resilient helps you focus on long-term goals, navigate roadblocks and handle stress more positively. It helps you look beyond the ups and downs and prioritize solutions.


With the growth of startup enterprises, the work landscape has shifted to a great extent. The ability to be critical, look ahead and keep an open mind are crucial in dynamic environments. Agility skills include being aware, responsive and attending to the changing needs of your clients, customers, workplace or industry.

As you can see, a multifaceted skill set can set you apart from others in a competitive landscape. You can develop some of these business skills on the job and find ways to improve them.

How To Improve Your Business Skills

Many people think that business skills are innate—you’re born with them. That’s completely untrue! You can learn how to develop business skills through patience and practice. Let’s look at the various ways to strengthen your business skills:

Do Your Research

The best way of recognizing industry-specific business skills is to read up and do your research. Start by determining the skills you already have and the skills you’ll need moving forward. If you’re a recent college graduate, it’s best to look at websites of organization’s in the industry you are in and study the job descriptions closely. Regularly researching will help you stay updated about industry demands and stay abreast of emerging business trends.

Find A Mentor

Mentors are individuals who have extensive business experience and can guide your efforts to develop professionally. They can provide you with both advice and support and direct you toward the necessary business skills that are crucial for your career trajectory. Several organizations have a mentor-mentee system in place already. However, it’s important to be clear about the expectations and results you want to achieve from the relationship. Choose someone who is aligned with your career objectives, skills and experience.

Pick A Course Or Class

In an era when the education technology sector is booming, virtual learning and education have become an accessible reality. You can learn from anywhere in the world as long as you have the necessary technological tools and resources. A great way to learn new business skills is to take a course or a class that specializes in your industry. Many such courses are self-paced, making it convenient for you to accommodate them into your schedule.

Harappa provides a one-of-a-kind learning experience that goes beyond formal education. The courses are designed to help you unleash your true potential at work and accelerate professional growth. The Expanding Networks course, in particular, will help you achieve new heights in your professional career. It’ll help you go beyond exchanging business cards and let your collaboration skills become your workplace superpower. You’ll develop constructive relationships and leverage your connections to achieve professional goals. Effective communication, networking and strong interpersonal relationships are important business skills that are cornerstones of professional success. So, what are you waiting for? Start building a robust professional network today!

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as The Importance of Building Relationships , What Is A Rapport , Characteristics Of An Extrovert & Advantages Of Being An Ambivert to build strong professional networks.