Essential Business Skills for Success (and How to Improve Them)

Your business skills are the foundation of your success as an entrepreneur or in your career. In this article, you’ll learn what business skills are and how to improve them

If you want to be successful, you need some essential business skills.

Without these basic skills, there’s no way you’d be able to collaborate, negotiate, or be productive in your work life.

In this article, you’ll learn why business skills are important and see plenty of examples of business skills.

But first, what are they?

(Psst! While we feature certain third parties in this article, we receive no affiliate compensation for including them and are not affiliated with any third parties other than Shopify and Oberlo.)

What Are Business Skills?

The term ‘business skills’ encompasses a range of skills that enable people to operate more effectively in any business situation or environment. These include both soft and hard skills. Here are some examples of business skills:

  • Team-building
  • Time management
  • Listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Customer service
  • Microsoft Offive/Google Suite
  • Analytical
  • Typing
  • Sales and marketing
  • Negotiation
  • Networking
  • Financial management

What Are Hard Skills in Business?

Hard skills in business are objective abilities that are relatively easy to measure and evaluate. Typically, hard skills are learned in courses, classes, through practical experience, and from educational materials, such as books.

What’s more, hard skills are often specific to a job role. For example, computer programming is a hard skill that software developers need. Consequently, hard skills can also be thought of as technical skills in business.

Here are some examples of hard skills in business:

  • Web development
  • Proficiency in a foreign language
  • Typing
  • Content management
  • Journalism
  • Data analysis
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Spreadsheet management
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Cost estimation
  • Inbound marketing
  • Outbound marketing
  • Customer segmentation
  • Proposal development
  • Sales scripting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Accounting
  • Tax management
  • Documentation and tracking
  • Contract drafting
Hard Skills in Business vs. Soft Skills in Business

What Are Soft Skills in Business?

Soft skills in business are subjective, emotional, and interpersonal abilities that are difficult to quantify and evaluate. Typically, soft skills in business are learned through experience and mentorship.

Additionally, soft skills in business are often easily transferable – meaning they’re relevant to almost every industry, business, and situation.

Hard skills in business get a lot of attention, since schools and universities typically focus on helping students develop hard skills in their chosen fields. However, soft skills are needed to run a business successfully. As the writer Peggy Klaus said, “Soft skills get little respect, but they will make or break your career.”

Here are some examples of soft skills in business:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Team-building
  • Critical thinking
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Analytical skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Interpersonal abilities
  • Adaptability
  • Multi-tasking
  • Integrity
  • Time management
  • Self-awareness
  • Relationship building
  • Creative thinking

The Importance of Business Skills

The importance of business skills can’t be overstated. It doesn’t matter if you start a business, own an established business, or work as an employee – without essential business skills, you’ll struggle to grow your business or advance in your career.

Some basic skills are crucial to managing your work relationships, which can lead to fruitful collaborations and negotiations. Other core business skills are vital to performing specific tasks. For example, bookkeepers need data entry skills and web developers need to know how to build a website.

Bottom line, you need top business skills to succeed.

4 Types of Important Business Skills for Success

What are the most important skills in business? Here are four types of business skills to consider.

1. Effective Business Communication Skills

Business success is largely dependent on relationships. Whether it’s colleagues, supervisors, team members, collaborators, or customers, relationships are the glue that holds businesses together.

As a result, effective business communication skills are vitally important. You need to be able to communicate effectively in person, in writing, and on phone / video calls. Here are some examples of business communication skills:

  • Clear and concise speaking
  • Teaching
  • Active listening
  • Storytelling
  • Emailing
  • Instant messaging
  • Customer service
  • Networking– in person, at events, or on online
  • Nonverbal communication skills
  • Presenting
  • Public speaking
  • Social media management

The entrepreneur and speaker Jim Rohn said, “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”

Business Communication Skills: Jim Rohn Quote

2. Business Leadership Skills

No organization can survive – let alone thrive – without core business leadership skills.

Remember, relationships are essential to business success, and business leadership skills are needed to direct and unify individual efforts.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a duty manager of a retail store, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you need business leadership skills. Here are some examples of business leadership skills:

  • Decision-making
  • Strategizing and planning
  • Organization
  • Delegation
  • Facilitation
  • Project management
  • Evaluation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Reporting
  • Compliance
  • Tracking
  • Time management
  • Coordination
  • Coaching and training
  • Budgeting

3. Business Negotiation Skills

Without the ability to negotiate effectively, businesses could make less-than-ideal deals.

For this reason, negotiation is a critical aspect of business that requires many important business skills. Here are some examples of business negotiation skills:

  • Rapport building
  • Trust building
  • Authority building
  • Listening
  • Critical questioning
  • Defining the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA)
  • Negotiation strategies
  • Creating contingent contracts
  • Planning implementation
  • Conflict resolution

4. International Business Skills

Different cultures, languages, and perceptions make international business particularly challenging. As a result, soft skills, such as communication skills, are especially important when conducting business internationally.

International business also requires a few special professional skills. Here are some examples of international business skills:

  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Cross-cultural communication and language skills
  • Adaptive thinking
  • Open-mindedness
  • Legal and compliance
  • Foreign negotiation

How to Improve Business Skills

It’s important to keep developing business skills throughout your career or entrepreneurial journey. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this. 

If you’re wondering how to develop business skills, here are four easy ways:

  1. Conduct online research: There are plenty of online blogs that provide a wealth of information about business related skills, such as Shopify.
  2. Read business books: To get started, check out this list of the best business books.
  3. Find a mentor: A great way to develop business skills is to learn from people with more experience than you.
  4. Take a course or class: There are many free online courses that you can use to develop business skills. Check out the video below to learn more.

Summary: Important Business Skills

Your business skills are the foundation of your entrepreneurial or career success.

Remember, the term ‘business skills’ encapsulates a variety of skills that allow people to work effectively in their professional lives.

Hard skills in business are objective skills that are relatively easy to evaluate, such as programming or accounting. Soft skills in business are emotional and interpersonal skills that are typically more difficult to measure, such as negotiating and networking.

Finally, if you don’t have many important business skills right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. You can always learn essential business skills by reading and taking online courses.

Thomas is a B2B content writer specializing in SaaS, ecommerce, and digital marketing.
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