8 essential business manager skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 January 2023

Published 19 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A business manager's role is to oversee the day-to-day operations of a company, supervise and guide staff and ensure that the business is running as efficiently and profitably as possible. This could include designing and implementing new business strategies and working with other senior management to determine how current business strategies could be improved. Working in such a varied role requires a wide range of skills. In this article, we discuss the top business manager skills needed for a career in management, and advise on how to improve them.

Top business manager skills to develop

Since business managers often work across multiple departments, they need to have a good understanding of how every part of their company works. They also need a keen understanding of the industry they are working in, to position their company as a market leader. The role includes supervising and guiding staff to make sure they are doing their best work. This requires a wide range of skills, including:

Communication skills

As a business manager, you will spend time communicating with clients, business owners, executives, media, suppliers and external stakeholders. You may communicate in a variety of ways: in one-to-one meetings, presentations, by email or social media and over the phone. This means that excellent skills in both written and verbal communication are essential for a business manager.

You'll need to establish a positive, trusting relationship with employees, management, business owners and external parties so that they feel comfortable sharing information with you and confident in your management abilities. To do this, you should be patient and honest when speaking to others and use body language such as maintaining eye contact, smiling and listening attentively.

Related: 4 Types of Communication (With Examples)

Leadership and motivation

Motivated employees that feel like valued members of the team are much more likely to do their best work than employees who feel undervalued, which means that the business is more likely to thrive. As a business manager, it's your responsibility to boost staff morale and make sure everyone is happy. Practical ways to ensure your team are motivated include:

  • Interacting with your team socially and getting to know them

  • Providing employees with opportunities for career advancement and encouraging them to push themselves

  • Making yourself readily available for your employees to share any concerns

  • Recognising employee achievements by praising them

  • Letting employees know early and constructively if anything is going wrong

  • Setting high standards for work and encouraging employees to achieve them

Related: 13 Leadership Styles and Their Characteristics

Budget management

As a business manager, you'll be responsible for setting budget plans and ensuring that projects are completed within the budget. Business managers have to make sure employees stick to the budget, and may need to have knowledge of financial software that tracks how company money is spent.

Business managers may also have the power to authorise extra spending, for example on external consultants. You need to be able to manage the budget so that project deadlines are met and goods and services are delivered to clients on time.

Related: What does a business manager do? (With skills and salary)

Interpersonal skills and relationship management

Management roles are all about people. As a business manager, you will regularly communicate with various groups of people, and the ability to build constructive, trusting relationships is crucial. You may also sometimes act as a middleman between various groups that don't agree with each other, so the ability to act as a mediator and find constructive solutions to conflict is essential.

It's vital that your team respects and trusts you. You can build this positive professional relationship in numerous ways, including organising social or team-building events and setting aside time to get to know your colleagues on a personal level, while maintaining professional boundaries.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definition and Examples

Organisation and delegation

Business managers have many different duties and need to be able to effectively prioritise and organise their time so that tasks are completed on time and in the most efficient and productive way possible.

A good manager will know how to effectively delegate tasks to team members. This involves getting to know your team and their individual skills, strengths and capabilities so that you can assign tasks appropriately. You will also need to know how to resist micromanaging employees while checking in on them regularly to make sure tasks are progressing as planned.

Planning and strategic thinking

Although business managers supervise the day-to-day running of a company, they also need to be aware of the bigger picture. This means ensuring that the tasks being completed are in line with larger company goals, and meeting with other senior managers to design and implement new policies and business strategies.

Business managers need to be able to see how decisions made today will affect the company's future performance, which requires the ability to think strategically. You will need to encourage innovation and change that will move the business in the right direction and pave the way for continued financial success.

Problem-solving and decision-making

Business managers need to be able to make informed decisions that could have a huge impact on the company's future. This involves skills in problem-solving in critical thinking, and the ability to think on your feet and remain calm under pressure. Sometimes, you may have to make snap decisions on the running of the company or completing a task without much time to think, so the ability to quickly weigh up the pros and cons of a decision is crucial.

You'll also need to be detail-oriented, as keeping a close eye on things that are going on in the company may allow you to spot potential problems and take preventative action before they arise, which is a key skill for a business manager.

Related: Problem-solving skills: Definitions and Examples

Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness is a highly sought-after attribute in candidates for senior management positions. Since business managers are responsible for ensuring that the company runs as smoothly, efficiently and profitably as possible, they need to have a good awareness of the market they are operating in, including how their company fits into the market and where they stand in relation to their competitors.

Business managers should be acutely aware of the company's overall aims and missions and should keep these in mind when making decisions. They should also be aware of any political, economic or legal issues in the industry which could affect the company. Although this skill can really only be developed by working in an industry or sector for many years, aspiring business managers can stay up to date on the goings-on in their industry by reading trade publications or websites and attending conferences or other events.

How to improve your business management skills

If you work in business management or would like to progress into a role as a business manager, skills such as communication, leadership and strategic thinking can be developed in the following ways:

1. Pursue education, workshops or training

If you would like to pursue a career in business management, there are many courses and qualifications available, such as undergraduate or masters degrees. Many universities offer part-time courses, either in-person or online, so you could pursue a degree alongside work.

There are also many training opportunities or workshops available for improving your business management skills. These can last from a few hours to a few weeks and are tailored to tackle specific aspects of business management. Since they are more short-term, workshops or training sessions are also a great way to improve your skills if you don't have the time to pursue a qualification like a degree.

2. Seek mentorship from other business managers

One of the best ways to improve your skills in business management is to learn from successful business managers working in your field. You should look for opportunities to network with other business managers in-person or through online events such as conferences, or even directly through social networks. These people will be able to offer you valuable insights into the business management skills they have honed through years of working in competitive business environments.

Related: Why You Should Be Looking for a Mentor

3. Practice

If you're not yet working as a business manager, look for opportunities to take on a leadership role in your current job, even temporarily or informally. This may lead to valuable experiences for you to draw from when you are interviewing for a business management role in the future.

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