hard business skills matter

My Business Acumen (or why hard business skills matter)

For Nikhita, doing her MBA means facing some of her fears such as climbing the dangerous cliffs of Strategy. But that is part of an essential survival test before she can face the climb to the top of the mountain that is her ultimate career. 

No one would imagine that a person chooses to attend a B-School because they need business skills to get ahead in life. But what are these business skills exactly? And why are they important when you have ‘street smart’ and ‘common sense’? More importantly, why would I need to learn it when I can just work with or hire somebody who has those skills?

Business skills come in two parts: Hard skills and soft skills. Today, we are experiencing that soft skills like problem solving, emotion control, leadership become increasingly important. They cannot be quantified and are very subjective. Hard skills are those that are easily quantifiable and, more often than not, included in your resume. These include Finance, Marketing, Sales, Strategy and Change Management to name a few.

Most managers are not expected to be analysts or create cash flow models; they are expected to be more adept at, and in touch with, their soft skills. However, I would argue that without hard skills it is harder for any manager or employee to see the big picture in the long run. You could be a great sales person achieving a high target number of selling a thousand watches in a day. But can you measure that impact on your company’s profits? As an HR manager, do you understand the importance and domino effect of finding the right person for the job? How do you know which kind of marketing you need to use and the reasons for its success or failure? Hard business skills bridge the gap between stellar, individual performance and organisational success. For an MBA graduate holding a managerial position, the latter is inarguably a highly desirable goal.

One could argue, though, that each of us always forays into one of these skills when we are employed. Some people choose to remain in their fields while others bounce about until they find the right fit for them. So why choose to study instead of work and gain this insight?

Sure, you can learn more hands-on skills while doing your job, build your experience and move on to the next big thing! However, when studying for an MBA, you are taught the A-Zs of the business world. And you have the added bonus of being able to implement all the models that you learn in a safe environment with your peers without facing any consequences. You engage in discussions that open your mind to different possibilities. Sometimes, you also get the validation that your thought process is going in the right direction. In other words: You develop, polish and perfect your hard business skills in an incubator, meaning they are there to be called upon when the heat of everyday business is on and you find yourself in the firing line.

Coming from a media background, I knew that my choice to trek through the wilderness of an MBA would mean facing my worst fears. Some of these include dangerous monsters like Analytics and Big Data, climbing the dangerous cliffs of Strategy and navigating through unchartered waters of Finance. However, this is an essential survival test before I face the climb to the top of the mountain that is my career. With able guides in the form of my professors, our staff and my classmates, I can become a victor with a wealth of knowledge and experience of this previously terrifying domain. And then I can push on to climbing to the top of my own personal Himalaya and sit back and enjoy the view.