Career Success

How To Develop Business Acumen

By EverwiseMay 6, 2015

On the Everwise Answers forum, our community of experienced mentors give advice on the sorts of business cases, dilemmas and questions that our high-potential protégés frequently encounter. These are expert opinions. For more business best practices delivered right to your inbox, sign up here.


Question: You know the product of your tech startup inside and out, but you’re having a hard time running the business. How do you get savvy quick? Or find the right help?

Yuriko runs a tech startup. She understands the product side very well and is confident in her capacity. However, she is struggling to keep track of the more business-oriented questions. How can Yuriko quickly learn the business side or connect to people who can help her with it?

Here’s a summary of our mentors’ best advice from the discussion on the Everwise Answers forum.

1. Enlist Advisors

Yuriko isn’t the first to go through this. Others who have started businesses and been successful are now a great resource. Sales and marketing manager Brian O’Connell recommends that Yuriko “connect and meet with some business owners that she thinks may have encountered the same obstacles she is struggling with.”

Yuriko doesn’t have to do it alone. “You are facing one of the most common challenges of a young company. You cannot expect yourself to do it all. Create an advisory group or your own ‘kitchen cabinet’ of trusted confidants who want you to succeed,” counsels hospital systems specialist Mark Ship.

Yuriko can both tap into her existing community as well as engage seasoned veterans as advisors to foster a support network for when she has questions. As commercial real estate expert Richard DeNye points out, “leverage the knowledge of others. If she has a good network of business contacts, she may be able to run issues past a colleague or find a retired manager or executive who might be willing to mentor her.”

2. Network

Yuriko should also try to tap into networking opportunities for her industry. “Yuriko should check out trade shows and conferences in her field where she can meet people on the business side,” advises energy trading expert Cynthia Kase.

As well as networking in person, Yuriko can also reach out online. Banking specialist Arun Bali suggests that Yuriko “utilize professional social media groups” to ask questions and research answers.

3. Recruit Talent

Yuriko can also consider bringing on a colleague or two who have knowledge in the areas where she struggles. As business strategist Jayesh Pajwani suggests, Yuriko should ask herself, does she have the resources to take on a co-founder who is business savvy and complimentary to her expertise?”

After all, Yuriko recognizes that her expertise is the product. She should appreciate her talent and not expect herself to do it all. “Yuriko is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have a characteristic of identifying a product or service that people need and want. Hence, the product side understanding,” highlights engineering manager Bob Mallett.

This is the skill that Yuriko should focus on, instead of trying to master all aspects of her business. In talent manager Sally Thornton’s own experience, “I hired people to round out my skill sets that I didn’t have when launching.”

This way Yuriko can stay focused on what she does best and hire experts to run the areas of her company that aren’t her strengths.

4. Be the Student

Once Yuriko has a partner or employees running the business side, she can become the pupil and learn from them.

To quickly learn the critical aspects of your business, jump in the trenches. Spend time with each person running critical aspects of the business that you do not understand,” outlines Shannon Pickering Brown, founder of her own coaching company.

By doing so, Yuriko can take the time to learn these facets of the business without the pressure of having to run them alone. This will give her a more well-rounded understanding of how managing a business works, a skill that may come in handy in the future.

5. Find an Incubator

Another option that Yuriko could consider is applying for a startup incubator. These boot camps for new businesses offer expert mentorship, resources, and sometimes even seed money.

Incubators are a collaboration of government and private businesses. Many new businesses do not, nor can afford having expertise in accounting, legal, or human resources. As a collaboration, they work together to help businesses succeed by being able to provide what is lacking,” summarizes Bob Mallett.

Being part of an incubator will not only give Yuriiko access to professionals, but will give her a chance to network and work alongside other startups.

6. Read About It

Several mentors proposed that Yuriko find relevant content in books, blogs, websites or organizations with local chapters.

“It’s important to read and learn from real life scenarios. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel. A lot of entrepreneurs probably have gone through the same challenges in the beginning of their operations,” says business development expert Natasha Hazan.

By seeking out the published knowledge of seasoned professionals, Yuriko can discover how other entrepreneurs like herself have become successful.

7. Embrace Critique

Lastly, Yuriko should be open to critiques from both customers and fellow professionals.

“Be someone who’s open to critique. Your product/service is ready to be tested, re-launched, improved, to match the customer’s requirement,” advises account director Ardian Asmar.

As a young company, Yuriko should constantly be adjusting in response to the market and new insight she gleans. This evolution will strengthen both her business and her understanding of it.


There is plenty of great guidance available about these sorts of challenges, here are a few suggestions:

The Mentors

Thanks to the Everwise mentors for their ideas, and to all the others who shared their recommendations on the forum.

Brian O’Connell (Ireland) sales and marketing manager at The Bitter Business, expert in online sales and marketing
Mark Ship (Wisconsin)Healthcare Executive Consultant at Sandler & Ship LLC, expert in the hospital systems industry
Richard DeNye (Chicago) Owner of Westbrook Investments, expert in commercial real estate
Cynthia Kase (Arizona) president at Kase and Company, Inc., expert in trading and hedging financial software and solutions
Arun Bali (Florida) senior partner at Pines Consulting Group, expert in banking and financial services
Jayesh Pajwani (Singapore) CMO at Tetherfi, expert in business strategy and outsourcing
Bob Mallett (South Dakota) engineering manager at Persona, expert in quality management, operational performance and business processes
Sally Thornton (California) founder and chief curator at Forshay, expert in talent management and startups
Shannon Pickering Brown (Texas) Founder of Boss Lady Coach, LLC, expert at helping others move forward in their career 



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