Business Management Skills You Need to Succeed

Managers in any business are key. They lead employees, spearhead projects, and take initiative. Managers wear many hats and that's especially true in a small business, where the owner is the business manager. Here are skills needed to lead a successful operation.

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Financial skills

Getting your financial systems and processes in place can be difficult for a business owner. Not every entrepreneur has advanced skills to handle the complex financial duties required to run a business. Paying taxes and managing payroll can be especially difficult-you can even end up in legal hot water if not done correctly.

Check out our comprehensive article, All About Small Business Financial Management. You’ll learn key financial business terms like cash flow and net profit. We also share the documents you’ll need to accurately track your financials like a balance sheet and revenue forecast. Finally, we recommend a number of software solutions to help you manage your finances.

If you have the budget, hiring a financial professional is a great idea. Find an expert familiar with small businesses or with experience in your industry. Our blog post, How to Hire an Accountant for Your Small Business, has an overview of services provided by and accountant and outlines signs you might need one.

If you’re seeking outside funding, know where you stand financially before you apply. Consider signing up for SmartBiz Advisor. This free tool acts as an “Intelligent CFO”, revealing your numbers in key areas banks consider. Get your “loan ready” score* here.

* The Loan Ready Score is for educational purposes and is not the same as scores used by lenders for credit decisions.

Marketing/sales skills

It’s no longer possible to just ‘figure things out’ when it comes to sales and marketing. If you don’t have in-depth knowledge of today’s marketing channels and sales tactics, you could be missing out on a ton of business. The good news is that there is a wealth of educational information out there to help you hone your marketing and sales skill set. From simple (and free) YouTube videos to community college classes to online workshops – there’s no excuse to stay in the dark. If you’re concentrating your efforts in other directions, you can hire a seasoned employee or bring on an outside consultant to help with these important tasks.


From negotiating salaries to working with vendors, negotiation is an important component of a small business. Career experts Right Management have outlined specific steps to think about that can improve your communication skills:

  • Listen, listen, and listen
  • Who you are talking to matters
  • Body language matters
  • Check your message before you hit send
  • Be brief, yet specific
  • Write things down
  • Think before you speak

If you feel that your communication and negotiation skills need some work, reach out to a mentor or enroll in an online course.


Poor leadership can affect a small business in a big way. There are many styles of leadership, but the fundamental skills of a good leader are generally the same. You need to create a sense of engagement with your team so they trust you and want to help you reach business goals. Our article, 3 Leadership Qualities of a Small Business Owner, explores qualities you should strive for when leading your business. You’ll learn about the importance of being an active listener, how to be forward thinking, and the best ways to delegate.

Project management

Project management is the way you organize and manage resources needed to complete a project with a start, an end, and goals. A business owner might take the reins or hire a dedicated project manager to spearhead business projects. No matter who is tackling the project, a business owner needs to know what makes project management successful. Our post, 10 Secrets of Successful Project Management, outlines 10 habits to help set you up for project management success. You’ll learn about top-down views, how to ask the right questions, and the right way to learn from your mistakes and move forward.


Time management

At SmartBiz, we get the opportunity to speak with our customers to learn about their entrepreneurial journey. Time management is a hot topic. As one SmartBiz customer says, “The business is my baby and the hardest thing is to turn off that switch. I’m up between 7 and 8 am and on the computer till noon. Sometimes I’m on phone till 1 am in the morning. I haven’t found the sweet spot of work/life balance.”

Are you still looking for that “sweet spot”? Check out this post for actionable ideas to help you get balanced: 9 Tips to Improve Time Management Skills.


Getting your name out there and building relationships are keys to any successful business, regardless of your industry. Networking is a great way to elevate brand awareness and connect with other professionals, current customers, and potential customers. There are many situations appropriate for networking. The SmartBiz Blog has an article with information you can use to get out there: How to Turn Any Event Into a Networking Opportunity.


A cornerstone of business management skills is the ability to make a decision and stick to it. Entrepreneurs make thousands of decisions when establishing their business. A decision might be small, like determining the right printer for your office. A big decision may have large financial implications like deciding to purchase commercial real estate or develop a new product. Use the following steps when faced with a decision – big or small.

  • Step 1: Identify the decision
  • Step 2: Gather relevant information
  • Step 3: Identify the alternatives
  • Step 4: Weigh the evidence
  • Step 5: Choose among alternatives
  • Step 6: Take action
  • Step 7: Review your decision and its consequences


Business owners will get a solid ROI when customers encounter your happy and motivated staff. The SmartBiz Blog has an article to help guide you as you come up with a motivation plan: How to Motivate Your Small Business Employees. You’ll learn how to define your company culture, the skills needed to be a cheerleader for your employees, and why responding to feedback is so important.

Problem solving

No matter how much you plan or how strong your business is, problems will arise. From a broken computer to distribution issues, a good business owner will quickly address problems and come up with answers to keep the business moving forward. You’ll need problem solving skills when dealing with staff, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders. Here are five-steps for an effective problem-solving process in a small business.

  • Identify the issues.
  • Understand everyone's interests.
  • List the possible solutions
  • Evaluate the options.
  • Select an option or options.

Final Thoughts

As a business owner, you’re a work in progress. Continually strive to learn the skills you need or strengthen the skills you already possess. There’s no shame in admitting you need help to develop important business management skills. Reach out to a fellow business owner or a mentor or explore classes and workshops to help out. Your business will run smoother with happier employees and satisfied customers.