Lemonade Stands & Business Acumen at BMA Chicago

Lemonade Stands & Business Acumen at BMA Chicago

Business Acumen at BMA Chicago

Did you ever have a lemonade stand as a kid? As it turns out, that early business experience can help you succeed in your career as a communications professional.

As I learned at yesterday’s BMA Chicago luncheon with DePaul professors Ron Culp and Matt Ragas, having business acumen is one of the top criteria needed to be a successful marketing/communications pro. Ron and Matt discussed how in order to earn—and keep—a seat at the table and maximize your full value, communicators need to be able to speak the language and understand business goals, issues and trends.

The problem is that most communicators don’t hold an MBA and didn’t study business in college.

Ron and Matt at Business Acumen

Ron and Matt offered the following tips to help you develop greater business acumen:

  • Understand Your Company’s Business Model. Transparency is key here. Make sure everyone on your team understands what drives your business. How does your company and clients make or lose money? What are your margins?
  • Look at Quarterly Earnings Releases and Coverage. Read a company’s earnings release and then compare it against the press coverage. Seeking Alpha is a good resource for earnings transcripts to learn business concepts.
  • Check out Investing Education Platforms. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty. Invest a little bit of money on platforms like Dough, TastyTrade and Mint to get involved first hand.
  • Watch/Discuss TV Shows and Short Films about Business and the Economy. Multimedia is a great way to reach Millennials. Watch shows like ABC’s Shark Tank and CNBC’s The Profit and the “We The Economy” film series. Bill Achman also has a 45-minute video called “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich?”, which explains “everything you need to know about finance and investing in less than an hour.” Achman even uses the lemonade stand as an example business throughout the video.
  • Read/Discuss Michael Lewis Books. Author Michael Lewis provides readers with an understanding of complicated business concepts in entertaining ways. They recommended Flash Boys, Boomerang, and The Big Short. Lewis also wrote the books Moneyball and the Blind Side.
  • Read/Discuss Books for Non-MBAs on Business 101: They recommended Show Me the Money and the Portable MBA series.

Overall, the session was very eye opening on how important business knowledge is for us communicators. If you’re like me, you have some homework to do!