How to Develop your 'Commercial Awareness' & why it will help you in your career

In order to really be commercially aware you need to have a pro-active approach to changing your attitude to understanding commerciality and the wider business environment.

 

Commerciality

Just being good at your profession has never been enough. On top of having the technical expertise needed to do your job, you need to be commercially aware!

We often hear about ‘Commercial Awareness’ and why it’s important to be commercially aware, however many graduates and even experienced professionals are often lacking commercial awareness and a real understanding of what it means to be commercially aware.  The importance and the meaning of commercial awareness is often overlooked by most, including myself, and taken for granted.  Gaining commercial awareness is not a task or a matter of simply reading a few articles and doing some research.  In order to really be commercially aware you need to have a pro-active approach to changing your attitude to understanding commerciality and the wider business environment.

So…….. What is ‘Commercial Awareness’?  What is Commerciality?  

Commerciality is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as ‘the ability to produce a profit’.  So what does that mean? Basically commerciality is relating to the business and its viability or its ability to produce a profit.  It’s all about creating value or adding value in excess of the value of the inputs.

Commercial awareness is much more than just understanding what commerciality is and making a profit.  Commercial awareness is, “The understanding of the economics of a business. Understanding the business benefits and commercial realities from both the organisation's and the customer's perspectives.” (UCAS, 2013).  Commercial Awareness is, “The knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want, and what problems there are in particular areas of business” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2013).

These definitions focus on understanding the business and are pretty clear and easy to understand, but when it comes down to it ‘Commercial Awareness’ is about understanding even more than that.  It is also about understanding the wider economic, environmental, social and political environment.  It is about understanding how they interrelate and how they affect your business or industry.  If you understand all this and have a good working knowledge of all the important areas, then you will be at a distinct advantage.  You will be able to spot new opportunities and be ready for any threats.  You will be able to better understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses.  You will be a better business man or woman.  Obviously we can’t all know and understand everything there is to know.  The idea is to have a continuous proactive approach to asking the searching questions and understanding how your business is affected by the wider business environment. 

Developing your Commercial Awareness

Grow

There is no quick fix for this and like I said it is really an attitude of mind, but you have to start somewhere, so here is a list of things you can do.

  • Become more proactive in your approach to work. Sorry to have to tell you this, but you have to go the extra mile. 
  • Get some work experience and utilise it to its fullest potential.  Any practical hands on experience will help.  Think about how the business works and how you add value. 
  • Read quality newspapers & relevant sector publications, every day.  
  • Learn about your company as a whole.  Don’t just focus on what you are doing.  Learn what others are doing and why they do it.  Learn about the customers and the competitors.
  • Reflect on what you have learned and observed in the business environment and be flexible and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
  • Research your industry.  The competition, the substitutes, the suppliers, the company financial records, the companies’ mission statement, the predicted future trends and technologies, potential threats and opportunities and so on.   

How will all this help you?

  • For self-development          
  • To know how you add value to a team/company/ economy
  • To make a profit                  
  • To respect others roles
  • To understand why you are doing what you do
  • To have a wider working knowledge base
  • To understand future trends and be forward thinking
  • To anticipate change
  • To show your worth
  • To find new opportunities
  • To further your career
  • To understand the competition
  • To understand your customers
  • To know the real value of things
  • For motivation
  • To consider all stakeholders
  • To impress others
  • To stand out from the crowd

How does it help the Business? How does it help my Business, E3 Consulting?

Thinking

Generally understanding how a business operates and makes a profit is obviously very important.  It is also important for all employees to understand how they add value to the business so that they can be more efficient and more focused.  The general benefits are similar to the personal benefits.  Here are a couple of examples where being commercially aware employees helps E3 Consulting.   

A good example of where good commercial awareness can help E3 consulting is in knowing about BIM (Building Information Modelling). BIM is a new digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building/ facility.  It allows all the planners/ architects/ quantity surveyors and other professionals to work collaboratively off the same system for increased communication and a more efficient design process.  BIM is increasingly being used in planning and construction and has the potential to greatly affect the industry.  Understanding this new system and how it will affect the property industry ‘early on’ allows you to get ahead of the competition and be ready for the changes.  Someone who is commercially aware will know about this new system and can act accordingly to make the most of it. 

Another example of how being commercially aware can help E3 is in a client meeting.  Imagine you are meeting with a new client to discuss the tax savings on a particular building.  An employee with sound commercial awareness would’ve done thorough research and would know that this particular client has some other large developments.  Going into this meeting with this knowledge means you can ask open and guided questions about other potential developments and draw out more material information on future opportunites.      

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you to better understand ‘Commercial Awareness’ and how important it is.  Gaining commercial awareness is no quick fix, it requires you to go the extra mile and put in that extra effort to get ahead.  Just remember not to focus too much on the wider business environment and loose site of how your business operates, adds value and makes a profit.

Commercial awareness is essentially about an attitude of mind being applied proactively on a day to day basis.

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