Business skills are highly sought after by many employers as they show you have the skills and know-how to work independently in a business-savvy way.
Let’s take a look some key business skills and look at how you develop them at school or college.
'What are business skills - and how can you pick them up at school?'
What is “business”?
Business is all about producing and selling goods or services to make money. That doesn’t always mean huge profits – there are plenty of social enterprises that put some of the money they make back into good causes.
Charities too are usually run as businesses, with money made going into improving or expanding the charitable services they run, instead of being distributed as profits to the owners or shareholders.
Why are business skills relevant to me?
Running or working in a business takes many skills – virtually every skill in our employability skills section, in fact. However, there are certain skills which are particularly important to ensure a business operates effectively, efficiently and professionally – we list some of these below.
Business skills are relevant to you because they can help you work effectively for any employer – whether they are a profit-making company, a charity or even an organisation in the public sector. Business skills are highly sought after by employers, who look for employees who are savvy and have an understanding of what it takes for an organisation to be successful in today’s world.
They are also vital if you plan one day to start your own business – which research suggests most young people want to do or would seriously consider.
A list of business skills
We could list pretty much every skill there is because they are all useful in business! Instead, we have highlighted some of those most crucial to running a business:
Commercial awareness is all about having a good working knowledge of the industry you work in (or hope to work in). You can boost your commercial awareness by checking out popular industry websites and following relevant social media accounts, as well as by reading up on all the jargon online.
Customer service is the way staff interact with and support clients and customers through any medium, from phone and face-to-face to webchat and email. An organisation’s reputation is built on good customer service – it is the way the organisation gets repeat custom and spreads its name through word of mouth and recommendations. It is about listening well and providing clear, relevant information in a timely and polite way.
All organisations – whether for-profit companies, charities or public sector organisations – need to look after their money. This work is usually done by accountants and finance professionals, but line managers and even ordinary staff often need to use their departmental or team budgets wisely and carefully.
A good leader is someone you look up to, who inspires you to think and act a certain way. Leadership is a great business skill because it encourages staff to perform to the best of their ability by setting an example and a vision, rather than through close and authoritative management. It is a hard skill to have but you can develop it with determination and practice.
Marketing is how you get the word out about the products or services your business offers. This is about advertising and communicating in a clear and persuasive way across every platform available to reach as wide an audience as possible. It is one of the most sought-after business skills in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. Much marketing today happens in the digital sphere, on social media and through search engines, but traditional media like TV, radio and print are still very important.
Simply put, negotiating is the process – or the art – of making a deal. It involves give and take, recognising that in order to reach your goal, you might have to give something back in return. Businesses negotiate all the time – with suppliers, potential customers, trade unions and even internally. As a regular worker, you might find yourself negotiating with another team when competing priorities mean you have to reach a compromise for everyone’s benefit.
Would you help someone out if you didn’t like them? Probably not! Networking is about building professional relationships which can help you achieve your goals – and the other person realise their aims as well. Networking with colleagues can be as informal as chatting to as many people within the workplace as possible during breaks or at the water cooler. Or you could find yourself networking with people from other companies at industry conferences, and making solid contacts could pave the way to a collaborative project later on – or even give you a leg up when you’re looking for a new job.
Being able to oversee a project from start to finish is important within a business setting, where work is often orientated around deadline-driven projects. It requires the ability to think “high level” and hold in mind the overall goals of the project, as well as ensuring each bit of the project is delivered on time in order to meet the deadline. You will have to chase colleagues and contractors to ensure they are completing their bits of the project on time so you can move onto the next phase. This means you’ll need to be able to think logically, communicate clearly and have good people skills.
Sales is when you reach out to potential customers or clients and persuade them that your product or service will help them solve a particular problem in their organisation or personal life. It ensures that people know about a business’s products and services, understand the benefits and are encouraged to make a purchase. Sales is a highly proactive field which involves identifying potential customers as well as building relationships with them and convincing them of the benefits you can provide. It also gives your business the opportunity to understand and better meet prospective clients’ needs by having a direct conversation, and increasing the chances of a sale by customising the product or service to their requirements and negotiating the price.
How can you learn business skills at school?
You use many of these skills across your school subjects. For example:
- Leadership: If you have ever worked in a team or group in PE, drama or any other subjects, you may taken the lead in suggesting a strategy or course of action. Can you think of an example of when you took the initiative and suggested a particular tactic or action plan in a group activity?
- Marketing: In design and technology, you may have worked on a product design project, thinking about how to make the product appealing to its audience and how to advertise this to potential customers. Can you think of a time you did this? If not, can you think of how you might have highlighted aspects of your product to persuade potential customers to buy it?
- Project management: Whether in art, history or a science subject, any time you have worked on a big project at school, you will have had to plan ahead, considering the deadline and any work needed to create a high-quality piece of work within that timeframe. Can you think of an example of an independent project you have worked on to a deadline?
To develop these skills further in a more specific business context, you could consider taking part in Young Enterprise, which allows you to come up with a business idea and develop it from concept to production.
Take a look at our employability skills section to read more detail about the skills employers are looking for.