It goes without saying that for an Assistant to be successful in the role, they need to have strong business acumen. I’ve written about this skill a lot over the years, and I have presented on the topic at various events. It is a topic close to my heart because I genuinely think once Assistants develop business awareness and get a good grasp of the organisation they work in and the industry they really will open up their career to lots of fantastic opportunities and more reward and recognition. Understanding the business makes you a better Assistant, you are part of the organisation and team rather than someone who works separately from everyone else. You can make informed decisions based on the strategy and objectives of the business. I have two resources from Practically Perfect PA to share with you before we delve into more resources to increase your business acumen.
There is are also two fantastic blog posts on All Things Admin that I would highly recommend you read called Developing Your Business Acumen: You Must Read to Succeed and 5 Ways to Develop Your Admin Business Acumen.
Resources to increase your business acumen
Strong Business acumen starts with an understanding of how your organisation makes money, and as an Assistant, you have access to a lot of information that will show you how your organisation makes money.
Understanding your organisation’s financials
I always say that Assistants should read everything that passes their desk, but specifically, you should read:
- Financial Statements (the Annual Report is generally made available to staff). What do the leaders say is vital to your business? What metrics do they use to measure success? Where does the company make and spend money?
- Client proposals
- Project charters (that your Executive is involved in)
- Internal newsletters and updates
- The Organisation’s website – specifically the press releases, company structure and value statements.
Once you start to understand how your organisation makes money, you will begin to know how your business fits into the overall industry and the bigger picture. If you are not sure about the financial jargon that comes with every financial document, I would highly recommend you read What the CEO wants you to Know. Overall awareness of your business’s financials, if they have had a good year, won clients, or if they have had setbacks is so crucial for your business acumen, and it will help you build a partnership with your Executive.
Understanding your industry
Getting to grips with the industry you work in can be pretty overwhelming, mainly if you work in a very technical industry. But you’ve got to try and understand what your business does and how it fits in with the industry. If you work for a global organisation, say a financial institution or a large conglomerate then you should understand the bigger picture of course but then concentrate on what your department does and how it fits into the structure of the overall business. There will be a lot of resources available for you to read up on your industry and I would suggest you start with:
- Trade journals and magazines that you can pick up in your office or are sent to your Executive
- Follow leading industry experts on social media
- In-house courses on your industry (Introduction to Insurance for example)
- Research the competition
Again this will develop your business acumen and give you something to talk about with your colleagues and your Executive. You will understand the climate in which your business operates and start to grasp the objectives of the company.
Improving your business knowledge
There are a lot of great resources available online that can help you improve your overall business knowledge. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Work it Daily (Blog)
- Harvard Business Review
- Business Insider
- Leaders In Heels
- Management Blog
- Leading with Purpose
- Michael Hyatt
As I said at the beginning of the post developing your business acumen is so essential for Assistants. It does set you apart and will push your career forward. The rewards are there if you make the time to develop this skill. The good news is that you can build your business acumen by delving into a lot of free resources. You just need to make the time for it!
The eBook is designed to help you navigate the first few months of your new role. Here you will find everything you need for the initial first meeting with your Executive. You will also find articles on how to navigate the tricky world of working with the Executive Team, building rapport with your new Executive and advice on how you can work effectively with a boss who has never had an Assistant before. Download the free eBook now.