We are always focused on the need for constant training and education. However, it turns out that one of the biggest needs in the industry isn’t for better communications skills, but rather the need for basic business acumen, especially financial literacy. Last Thursday Ron Culp and Matt Ragas gave a presentation at the BMA Chicago Luncheon filled with statistics that proved communicators need to be business-savvy (or, at the very least, proficient in business basics), and showed attendees how to improve their knowledge without having to enroll in a Business 101 class. IMG_0970

Ron and Matt shared ten ways for communicators to increase their understanding of business in their organizations. These tips gave everyone in attendance plenty of practical, tangible tips that they could take back and start putting in practice right away.

Here are five of their tips:

    1. Review your company’s business model with your team. Transparency is key if you want to engage your organization. Get that information out there and help employees understand how the company makes its money. Ron used his work with a retail organization as an example. His team went to different stores and asked employees if they knew how much the store kept of every dollar spent. The correct answer? Three cents. The employees guessed as high as 60 cents. All your managers should be able to understand the purpose of your business and why profits matter.

    2. Create an in-house MBA program for employees. In a perfect world, recent graduates would enter the workforce prepared with a basic understanding of business. Unfortunately, that’s just not the reality in the industry today. Every organization can implement some form of in-house training. It can be something as simple as reviewing basic business terminology with newly promoted managers. It can also go beyond general business know-how and cover advanced terminology and the inner workings of a company.

    3. Get into the habit of reading and discussing great business journalism. Go beyond the industry and trade publications that you read on a regular basis. There’s something to be said about getting into the habit of immersing yourself in business writing. Matt and Ron recommended Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Business Insider to develop a big-picture business view. Share the articles you find interesting with your team and grow your knowledge of business together.

    4. Watch TV shows and short films about business and the economy. The last thing you want to do when you come home from a long day at the office is read a dry, jargon-filled business book. Instead, try watching a TV show or documentary about business. Shows like Shark Tank and The Profit teach business principles in a way that’s easy to understand and enjoyable for the viewer. Your Netflix account can also prove useful in this regard. Instead of watching another season of Breaking Bad, try watching an episode of We The Economy.

    5. Read Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators. Last but certainly not least, pick up a copy of Matt and Ron’s new book. They are experienced communicators who understand the need for business knowledge. Their book cuts through the extraneous information and gives the reader the basic business principles and terminology necessary to be a better communicator.

This was a great start to the 2015 BMA Luncheon series. We’re looking forward to a series of valuable presentations throughout the year.

Don’t’ forget to register for our upcoming BMA Breakfast Seminar at 8 a.m. on Jan. 21 with Allison Watson, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, US Marketing & Operations and Jim Carey, Integrated Marketing Communications Program, Northwestern University – IMC, on the topic:

Dancing with Big Data (without getting your foot stepped on): Applying hard won lessons from prominent marketing leaders