Did you know that more than half a million businesses are started each month? 543,000 small businesses are started every month, to be exact. It’s a big number and we can conclude that entrepreneurship is indeed alive and well. A lot of us are willing to take the risks of investing our time, money, and effort to be profitable.
But what about the survival rate? 7 out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. The numbers could be better. They tell us that the more mature businesses have a higher chance of survival. The younger ones however, are more likely to fail than succeed.
There are plenty of reasons why some businesses fail to make the cut. A lot of it is due to the lack of core business skills. But in my opinion, business success is something you learn through experience. Trial and error is the best way of recognizing the mistakes that one may commit along the way. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from others’ mistakes and experiences.
Luckily, we got that part of the learning process covered. We’ve compiled a list of business skills that we deem essential to be a successful entrepreneur in one infographic. Check out the full image below. Be sure to click the image for a higher resolution and read our explanation below it
1. Business Analytics
In business, there’s no shortage of situations when you need to be decisive. Not only are these decisions important in the grand scheme of your business, some of them will be critical for your success. However, making decisions through your gut instinct is not a sustainable process. You need to have the data to support your business choices.
Thus, knowledge of business analytics tops our list of essential business skills. An entrepreneur needs to be a data-savvy manager to make the right call in every situation. According to Bloomberg, more than 80% of data is unstructured. Every business needs a person to make sense of this data and communicate it well in data presentations and on sales sheets.
McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the U.S. needs 1.5 million data-savvy managers, 10 times the demand for data scientists. Indeed, a person who can ask the right questions and interpret the data to make appropriate decisions is a must in every business.
2. Social Media
This one is a no-brainer. In fact, I think we have exhausted the list of why social media is important to a business. The internet is the current dominant force in human interaction and social media is the place where these interactions often happen.
But the thing is, the social media world is as dynamic as the real world. Trends come and go. Posts can be a hit and miss. You need to stay ahead of the curve in order to stay relevant.
By far the biggest role of social media marketing is reputation management. 71% of consumers who gets a quick response on social media are more likely to recommend the brand to others, compared to just 19% of customers who do not receive a response. Social media is not just a channel to share your brand content but rather to build a relationship with consumers. And for that, you need trust.
3. Data Storytelling
In a 2009 interview with Google’s chief economist Mal Varian, he talked about the importance of data visualization. “The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades,” he said. True enough, Mal’s words are apparent in today’s business world.
Data analysis, as we’ve tackled in the first item of this list, is important for business decisions. However, not all people are good with just the numbers. As Mal said, we need to visualize and communicate this data for it to become actionable. Your advanced degree in mathematics or statistics would not matter in business if you cannot make your managers and stakeholders understand the reason behind your recommendations.
This is the same reason why infographics are effective in communicating data. People are visual creatures, with 90% of sensory information, transmitted to the brain visually. With proper graphics, they are more willing to read even the the hardest statistics-ridden content by 80%.
Knowledge of the spreadsheet program Excel grabs its own spot for this list for the sole reason that it is the most important computer software in the workplace today. It’s also the same reason why employees are required to at least have a working knowledge of the software.
Currently, more than 81% of businesses use Microsoft Excel for a variety of applications, with budgeting, planning, and forecasting topping the list. The basic functions are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with the software. It works hand-in-hand with business analytics and data storytelling. And I believe that if you master the pivot table, you basically have the best tool for business in your hands.
5. Basic Programming
Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that businesses looking for computer programmers will decline to 8% over the next decade. However, a report from job analytics firm Burning Glass found that 7 million jobs in 2015 required coding skills. These are not programmers but rather IT workers, data analysts, artists, designers, engineers, and scientists.
Basic programming is one of the core business skills because of our ever-increasing dependence on computer technology. With it, we can massively improve our capabilities as entrepreneurs. The ability to input mere commands into a machine to automate tedious tasks leaves us more time to do more demanding ones.
6. News Awareness
There’s a reason why that Oreo Tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl was one of the most prominent marketing stunts in recent memory. Oreo’s marketing team turned a bad situation into a well-timed tweet, to elevate their brand message. Marketer David Meerman Scott coined the term newsjacking to describe the process of leveraging trending news as a marketing advantage.
Awareness of the news and other trending affairs should be one of the core business skills for a budding entrepreneur, especially with the prominence and pace of social media. You should know the events that are relevant to your target audience in order to engage them. However, simply being aware of these event is not enough. You should know when and when not to use a current event to promote your business. A lot of marketing faux pas nowadays derive from using memorial events like the 9/11 terror attacks to sell something. Use news to your advantage but stay tasteful.
7. Communication Skills.
Communication is the foundation of an effective business. After all, your business is comprised of several departments like cogs making up machinery. Without communication, the gears will fall out of sync and it would be virtually impossible for each department to work together.
3 out of 4 employers believe that teamwork and collaboration are very important for business. However, only 27% of employees have actual training in communication, and only 18% get communication evaluation during their performance reviews.
Clearly, we all know the importance of communication as one of the most essential business skills and yet we seldom focus on it. Improving communication skills only takes a little effort on your part but the benefit is massive.