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Five Ways to Build Business Acumen

Insight Experience’s simulation-based learning experiences train corporate leaders in developing business acumen and financial literacy. Without fail, I am asked by one of my students at the close of sessions how they can continue to build their business acumen skills and knowledge. For this there is no shortage of resources. One just needs an abundance of curiosity. Here are some of the best resources available to build those business acumen muscles.

  1. Company financial reports: The best way to begin building business acumen is to start close to home by reading your company’s annual and quarterly reports, which can be found easily at the company’s website. These reports contain a company’s financials, including the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement. Perhaps more important, and even more interesting, is the commentary provided by senior leadership, explaining a company’s financial results and, in some cases, guidance on future results. Ambitious learners can read a company’s 10-K and 10-Q reports. These are detailed versions of a company’s annual and quarterly results, respectively, which the Securities and Exchange Commission requires publicly traded companies to publish. The target audience for these reports is the investment community, as they contain more detail and granularity than annual and quarterly reports.background-fin-reports
  2. Financial newspapers: Reading the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is a great way to develop business acumen. While it provides information on stock, bond, and mutual fund prices, which is important to investors, it provides daily articles on a wide range of business news. Their feature articles include perspectives on global markets as well as specific companies and the successes and challenges they face. The WSJ is a favorite of mine, but there are other financial publications, including Barron’s and the Investor’s Business Daily, that target professional investors. All provide both print and digital editions.adeolu-eletu-rFUFqjEKzfY-unsplash
  3. Financial news websites: There is an abundance of excellent financial news websites – CNBC, Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, The Motley Fool, MarketWatch, and the list goes on. My personal favorite is Seeking Alpha. All of these websites offer complimentary access, and some require a subscription for more advanced or customized information. Like the financial newspapers, these sites provide daily, if not hourly, updates on the financial markets and economy. Most sites will allow you to subscribe to news feeds on specific companies. This is a great way to stay current on the company you work for, your competitors, or the broader industry in which you participate.AdobeStock_282187461
  4. Financial and business magazines: Here, once again, there is no shortage of resources. Some of the better financially oriented magazines include Forbes, Fortune, and Business Week. More business-focused magazines include INC. Magazine and Fast Company. These magazines profile all types of businesses – startups, disruptors, and well-established global multinationals — and the business models and market positioning they pursue.AdobeStock_341147885
  5. Academic periodicals: Reading journals, such as the Harvard Business Review, the MIT Sloan Management Review, and Stanford Business Magazine, is another great way to build your business knowledge. These periodicals often feature case studies on unique business and leadership challenges companies face and how they’ve responded to them.AdobeStock_137520954
  6. Bonus resource!Investopedia: Investopedia Academy offers a variety of different courses, ranging from personal investing to cryptocurrencies. But what I like most about Investopedia is that I can find definitions of financials terms, both common and uncommon. If I seek the definition of a term that is new to me or need a refresher on one, I turn to Investopedia. If there’s a financial term you seek, Investopedia is likely to have a description of it.

Armed with these resources and an abundance of curiously one can develop and maintain their business acumen skills. For more on an Insight Experience Business Acumen Leadership Development Program, click here.


Ned Wasniewski is a Managing Partner at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.