When it comes to business, there is no substitute for experience. 

The best way to learn about running a business is to actually do it. 

Of course, that’s not always possible. The next best thing is to develop business acumen. 

What is business acumen? 

Put simply, it’s the ability to make sound decisions in the best interest of your company. It’s a combination of street smarts, situational awareness, and commercial judgment. And it’s something that can be learned. Here are four tips to help you develop this essential skill set.

1. Read Widely and Absorb Information Like a Sponge

The first step to developing business acumen is to educate yourself about the world of business. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available—books, magazines, websites, podcasts, etc. Start by reading widely and absorbing as much information as you can. Then, begin to focus on the areas that most interest you. As you read, take note of the lessons you learn and the decisions that are made. How would you have handled the situation differently? What would you have done if you were in their shoes? 

2. Consider Both Sides of Every Issue 

In business, there are rarely absolutes. For every issue, there are usually at least two sides to consider— sometimes more. It’s important to be able to see all sides of an issue so that you can make the best decision for your company. When you’re faced with a decision, take some time to consider all of the potential outcomes—good and bad—before making a move. 

3. Be Comfortable with Risk 

In business, there’s always some element of risk involved—whether it’s taking on a new client or investing in a new marketing campaign. It’s important to be comfortable with risk and understand that there’s always a chance things could go wrong—no matter how well you’ve researched or planned. That doesn’t mean you should take unnecessary risks; it just means you shouldn’t let fear hold you back from taking calculated risks that could lead to success. 

4. Make Decisions Quickly—and Learn from Your Mistakes 

The faster you can make decisions, the better off your company will be—especially in today’s fast-paced business environment. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should start making rash decisions without any thought or consideration; rather, it means building up your decision-making muscle so that when it comes time to act, you’re able to do so quickly and confidently. And if you do make a mistake along the way? Don’t dwell on it; just learn from it and move on. 

Developing business acumen takes time and effort—but it’s worth it. 

These four tips will help get you started on your journey toward becoming a savvier, more successful business operator: stay informed by reading widely and absorbing information like a sponge; consider both sides of every issue; don’t let fear hold you back from taking calculated risks; and make decisions quickly—but don’t forget to learn from your mistakes along the way!

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