Getting Started:  Learning the Basics of Business Management

Develop your business management talent stack.

Welcome to the Business Management Stack. This free online course will survey the basics of business management. We will cover a general overview and the foundations of the world of business management and then dive into the changes and opportunities in the field. We also look at ways to build up your Business Management Talent Stack.

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This free online course will direct you to free podcasts, articles, and videos to explore business management. Each section will provide students with two to three hours of learning material to build upon their talent stack.

While the resources offered in this course are free, you will be given an additional opportunity to invest in your learning with books, courses, and degrees at the end of each section. This free online course is just the beginning. We encourage each student to consider how this information can be the impetus for future growth, even toward an advanced degree like an MBA.

The World of Business Management

If you are a working professional, you have obviously realized that there is a distinct hierarchy of jobs, from entry-level up to the C-suite. After the entry-level positions, professionals start dipping their toes into business management. And while, at first glance, business management might seem like the logical next step, the honest truth is that not everyone is equipped for the job.

Business management is about managing the people, projects, and finances to move an organization along a proposed vision. It is important for business managers to have a general understanding of all aspects of business, the core vocabulary needed to communicate to the people and teams across the organization, and the ability to merge advanced hard and soft skills. 

Hard Skills

The fundamental hard skills in business encompass topics like accounting, marketing, data analytics, global business, business law, economics, ethics, and finance. While business managers do not need to be CPA certified, they should be adept at reading and understanding financial documents and understanding finance and accounting vocabulary. Business managers might not be able to set up digital marketing campaigns, but they must understand the basics of marketing theory and be able to vision cast with the marketing and graphic artist teams.

Harvard Business School lays out what they explain are the business fundamentals that professionals in every industry should know. Take a moment to read through their list and identify where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Soft Skills

In an Inc.com article, Marcel Schwantes suggests that many managers do understand how to manage the basics of their jobs, but “real effective managers are also leaders who care enough about human beings to set them up for success.” Enter soft skills.

The number one soft skill that business managers need to master is communication. Across the board, excellent communication skills give managers the biggest advantage in their job. Other soft skills include motivation, change management, time management, organization, conflict resolution, decision-making, empathy, and creativity.

Because business leaders must lead teams and projects, they must have the hard and soft skills of business leadership. Both are needed. The IT entrepreneur needs to have soft skills, and the smooth-talking networker needs to have the hard skills to back up their claims.

Listen to this Women at Work podcast about Becoming a Leader when Everything is Shifting. This podcast has really great dialog about taking a moment to reflect on if you want to take on management roles. Spend some time reflecting on that in your particular role and context.

Pitfalls of Business Management

One thing to keep in mind is that there is no one way to be a business manager. Every person is different, and it is illogical to believe that there is only one type of talent, personality, education, personal background, professional background, and even skills that can excel in business management. Further, there is no one set of weaknesses and strengths to embody. Extroverts can lead, and introverts can lead. Those with a myriad of degrees can lead, and those with no degrees can lead. Men can lead, and women can lead. And those of all sorts can also fall into trouble and hardship. This means that there is great capacity for each business manager to grow and build in whatever context they find themselves in. And each business manager must find their own voice and their own strength when leading their organization.

But what are some of the most important things to strive for and pitfalls to look out for?

Listen to this Your Brain at Work podcast about compassion in the workplace. At one point, Dr. Rock and Ret. Colonel Miska talk about how important it is for people within organizations to find shared goals. And that shared goals can cross pretty much every interpersonal boundary and allow groups to meet goals. How do you see soft and hard skills playing into this task? What pitfalls lurk amidst the business managers day to day to keep clear shared goals from happening?

Investment Opportunity 

What’s great about business management is that there are always ways to shore up your skills or learn something new. Check out this Fundamentals of Business Administration and Management course from UCLA, designed to help managers learn to structure and systematize organizations in any industry.

Foundations of Business Management

History

The history of business management spans back into time throughout the history of work. It spans to ancient times, constructed around tyrants, kings, and slaves, winds through times of familial systems and apprentices, and takes off in the recent history of industrialization, labor laws, technology, and globalization. 

Read through this brief overview of how the modern business era has changed since industrialization. How do you see the passing of labor laws as an important stepping point in business management? Do you think that the view of the value of the average worker has changed much since the initial implementation of these types of labor laws?

Check out this timeline of the U.S. workplace within the past 100 years. The workplace has gone through tremendous change. How do you think business managers have guided and stalled these changes?

With the history of business management fresh in our minds, read through this article on why managers are important. How have you seen these key management aspects change over time? Have you seen any changes in your professional history?

Technology in the Workplace

One of the most critical tools in the modern workplace is technology. In fact, it is not just a tool; it is a driving force in today’s business. Listen to this TedTalk about digital business. The speaker, Richard Heaslip, talks about how for those who have grown up online, millennials and after, the virtual environment has changed how they interact with each other and how they look at their companies. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Heaslip also reports that digitally mature organizations are more successful. He spoke in this TedTalk in 2015. Technology in our lives and in the workplace has changed since then. Do you still see this to be true?

Globalization

One of the biggest business expansions because of technology was the ease of globalization in business. The global connectivity results have meant not only the ease of global sales but also the growth of global/virtual teams. This ability of global and virtual teams makes diverse teams more attainable. While some larger diverse cities already have a diverse workforce to hire from (diverse in background, class, race, religion, etc.), other geographical locations have more of a homogenous group. Some might not understand the impact this makes, but diversity can have a huge impact on a business.

Take some time to listen to this podcast on diverse teams. This conversation continually reports that diverse teams are smarter. Have you seen this to be true in your workplace? How do you think the role of management helps create and guide diversity, or lack thereof, in the workplace?

Data

Another big impact of technology in the workplace is the prevalence of and reliance on data and data analytics within modern businesses. Read through this interview with Serena Huang, a leader within the Kraft Heinz Co. Huang touches on how data can be used as a tool in business functionality and in managing people. In what ways can you see data and data analytics as helpful within your workplace?

This article from Gallup explores the idea of management in the workplace. Gallup reports the idea of using metrics to track turnover, absenteeism, and safety. They were able to see the links between these metrics and employee engagement. After reading through this article, explore what part of data analytics excites you, if any? What part seems intimidating?

Investment Opportunity

Another great creation from modern technology is the influx of top business schools offering online classes for the masses. Anybody can benefit from top schools like Harvard and Cornell. Check out one of these courses or certificates to see if one could be a great stepping stone in your business management education.

Changes in Business Management

Leading teams and organizations through change has long been an important aspect of business management. During change, it is important for managers to think creatively and innovatively and use all the hard skills that they possess. But equally important is to be able to effectively manage the people within your organization dealing with change. Interestingly, our brains and our bodies are predisposed to react to change. Read through this Forbes article on our brain’s response to change. How does knowing that our brains activate our flight or fight response when faced with change affect your view of change management in the workplace?

Covid

While, as stated before, change management has long been on the radar of business managers, the recent few years of pandemic times have heightened our level of change in our day-to-day lives exponentially.

Spend some time listening to this Harvard Business School video on managing through crisis and follow it up with this article from the Neuroleadership Institute. They both touch on the idea of authenticity and not relying on optimism. Is there any aspect of this mindset that seems counterintuitive during hard times?

Near the end of the HBS video you just listened to, Professor Koehn proposed that “In the midst of every storm, there is some pocket of light and possibility.” This is such an important mindset for managers to have. Managers must resist the homogenous mindset of labeling a situation as solely good or bad. There are always ways to improve in a “good” or “successful” situation, and there are always moments of possibility and growth within the “bad” or “failure.”

Let’s put that mindset to the test. But hold in mind that while this mindset should not delete the pain or suffering that might happen within certain situations but can allow some to still move forward during a crisis. For example, has anything within the last couple of years during the pandemic opened up opportunities or growth in your business mindset or situation? 

Technology Changes

One recent change or expansion during the Covid-19 pandemic has been the ability of some business professionals to work from home. In fact, there has been research done on the outlook of professionals on working virtually versus going into the office. Read through this article by the Pew Research Group on how the pandemic is reshaping the workplace. More and more professionals are citing that they are working from home, not because they have to, but because they want to. While it is important to realize that not everyone wants to or can work from home, it is significant to realize that as working from home became more accessible, more professionals enjoyed the benefits of doing so.

Read through this article by Microsoft. It is important for business managers to also realize that working from home can provide a more inclusive culture for employees with disabilities. In what ways can you see virtual teams providing an atmosphere that is more inclusive? Are there ways this format is exclusive?

Managing Virtual Teams

If you are new to managing virtual teams, this type of management might seem overwhelming. So, let’s hear from some experts. Read through this article by George Pitagorsky on managing virtual teams. First, realize that this article was actually written in 2007. So, while virtual work has exploded during the pandemic, it is not a completely new world in business. From the article, identify some of the biggest challenges you see happening today in virtual work environments.

Since communication is always an important focus for business managers, and managing communications through virtual business teams can be a new growth point for some, take some time listening to this podcast by Virtual not Distant. What things stood out to you in this podcast? What communication tips can you start employing even if you aren’t in a leadership role?

Investment Opportunity

If you need to shore up some knowledge or skills in the area of virtual teams, check out this course from Udemy. This course has been taken by over 40,000 students and covers topics in increasing accountability and engagement in virtual teams, how to increase effectiveness, and even how to choose technology tools.

Opportunities in Business Management

The Great Resignation

As we talked about before, within each crisis are moments of opportunity. Let’s first name one of the crises that is happening in businesses today, the great resignation. So many people are writing about it: USA TodayNPR, and the Harvard Business Review, to name just a few. This article from NPR proposes that the pandemic has changed the way people look at work. Meaning, with more options, hello remote work, professionals are asking themselves where and when they want to work. 

Listen to this podcast talking about people quitting their jobs. What stood out to you in these professionals’ stories? What could you infer about the managers within these situations?

So, what does the great resignation mean for business managers? Where is the opportunity?

Well, we have actually been talking about the opportunity for managers to change turnover for a long time. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “people leave managers, not companies?” Read through this article on why organizations hire managers. Managing people, projects, and finances is as true and integral in virtual teams as it is face-to-face. So, what does this mean for you? It means that now is a great time to work on your management and leadership skills.

Strengths

If you are working or are going to start working on your management skills, you might be wondering where to start. Remember how we discussed that everyone is different and everyone manages differently? It begs the question, do you know where your strengths lie? Read through this article listing out some common strengths and weaknesses of management. Do any attributes in the list jump out at you as strengths of yours? Weaknesses?

Author of Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker, suggests that managers should not try to change themselves. The managerial magic lies more in the truthful identity of oneself and leveraging your strengths. Watch this short video on Drucker’s Managing Oneself summary. He suggests that knowing your strengths is a great tool in knowing how you can make a difference. Knowing your strengths can also leave room for teaming with others who have strengths in areas you do not. If you know that you are not a creative thinker, make sure you have one on your team to help you innovate. If you are not cautious and careful, make sure that you have someone on your team to highlight pitfalls in order to help create a more effective plan.

Read through this article on the Six Thinking Hats, originally created by Edward de Bono. This system was outlined as a way for better thinking and, by extension, organizations to make better decisions. Do you see how having a team with diversity of thought can be helpful for managers and organizations? 

Watch this detailed video on the six thinking hats. Do you see yourself with strength with a particular hat? How can you start integrating this thinking into your business today?

Job Opportunities

So, let’s say you are working on your management skills. Are there really any jobs available for you?

It is true that the workforce has been topsy-turvy during the pandemic. Businesses have shut down, professionals have left work in the great resignation, and companies are trying to stay as flexible as they can amid health concerns and a fluctuating economy. The truth is that those with experience and education in business management will have an advantage in the workplace over those that don’t.

Business management also intrinsically offers a more fiscally advantageous job situation. Let’s look at the numbers. If your specialty is in IT, you might start out as an information technology specialist. They average an annual salary of around $58,000. But if you advance in management positions as an IT managerdirector, or CTO, your salary reaches heights over $160,000. This type of growth is seen across the board. Look up the salaries of in your line of work. Then compare them to the management roles in your field. Does this affect how you pursue a management career?

Investment Opportunity

Let’s take a look at your strengths and work on how to leverage them. Buy the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and take the assessment outlining your particular strengths. 

Also, check out Drucker’s Managing Oneself to find more on how to leverage your strengths.

Business Management Talent Stack

We have done a deep dive into the world and foundations of business management, and we have highlighted some of the current changes and opportunities available. The question now is how to develop your particular business management talent stack. This process is going to marry some very foundational and heavily traversed roads and also some very nuanced and individual exploration.

Remember, the idea of your talent stack is to tell your story and make you stand out from the crowd with your particular background, in all its idiosyncrasies and glory. So, what can this look like?

Business Foundation

First, you need to shore up your foundational business skills. How are you in the accounting world? Do you understand the terminology, theory, and tools? Remember that if accounting is not your desired sector to land in, you do not need to be an expert, but you must be adept in this field. If you are looking to shore up some knowledge in this field, a great first step is to visit our free accounting management course. The other areas to build a solid foundation are marketingfinanceanalyticsITglobal management, and economics. Be sure to check out those talent stacks. For students who are interested in furthering their research into these subjects and adding a more substantial accomplishment to their resume, it might be time to start looking into MBA programsTo learn more about what this degree holds, watch this short video from Richard Walls

Check out this article from U.S. News about business management degrees. What are some other benefits of business school that graduates can benefit from, other than the foundational business education? 

Now, take a moment to write out some of your pros and cons of pursuing this type of program.

Unique Story

Above and beyond business foundations, what can you leverage in your story, or possibly in a future pursuit, to stand out in business management? Have you ever started a business or worked a side hustle? That is a great way to leverage your entrepreneurial skills and expertise. Have you served on a board or volunteered in your community? If so, you have nonprofit experience.

This part of your talent stack has no limits. Every aspect of your personal and professional history has informed you as a person and professional and can be leveraged in the workplace. If your experience is limited, don’t fret! There is always time to start molding your story. Are you interested in cybersecurityhealthcarehospitalityhuman resourcessustainabilitysupply chainsports management, or project management? Check out one of our free online courses to explore the area and see where you could fit in.

Failure

A fair amount of time has been spent discussing strengths and success, but what about failure? Anyone in business or management is going to have a very intimate relationship with failure, whether it be their own, a team member, or an organization. How should we be viewing failure within business management?

Check out this podcast by Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-hour Workweek, on how to turn failure into success. Ferriss’s guest AJ Jacobs repeatedly says that he is a fan of his failures. Why is that? How do you feel about your failures? What kind of mindset can you adopt to have a more advantageous relationship with future failures that might pass your way? Remember that, with the right perspective, failures can give you unique experiences that you can leverage in your talent stack.

Investment Opportunity

This is the time to reflect and see if an MBA is a good next investment for your business management career. There are on-campus and online programs, fast and slow schedules, and many specializations to choose from. Do your research, explore rankings, and ask questions. And remember that while this is a great investment, the reward is even greater.

While this is the end of our free online course to help you develop your business management stack, it is the beginning of your next steps and the construction of your unique talent stack. Check out our other stacks and MBA rankings as you research your opportunities. Happy building!

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