We talk about it all the time on BiggerPockets: Success is a mindset. It’s the will to act and the will to persevere. We know that building an investing business is tough work. It takes years of dedicated study, courage, and vision.

But it definitely helps to have some hard skills.

In one format or another, time and again we’ve discussed the importance of the following three characteristics and their importance to long term success in Real Estate and other business.

1. Understanding the “Why”: Whatever the reason — be it freedom, security, or greatness — successful people tend to know why they are doing what they are doing.

2. Clearly Defined Goals: Successful people know where they are going, what they need to do to get there, and have a clear plan to get there.

3. Action: Successful people take the necessary steps to achieve success.

So what? I spend my days on BiggerPockets. I already know that!

Related: 3 Simple Traits that Will Take You Far in Business (and in Life)

I can’t take a course, pass a test, and then get my “why” down. I can’t read a textbook, go to a lecture, and then be a successful “big goal” planner. And no class can physically make me take action once it concludes.

Talking about these things is sometimes unhelpful. They are intangible qualities that are very difficult to teach and require a change in mindset. That’s usually not a process that you can start today and see real results from tomorrow.

Here’s a different take on developing your business skill set. I’m going to discuss two subjects that I’ve studied heavily and believe contribute to success in business. They are particularly useful to those of us attempting to grow a business, but are practical in most professional fields and occupations as well.

The best part is: competency in these skillets can be defined, measured, and improved. You can start immediately.
2 Business Skills to Start Developing Today
Skill #1: Familiarity with Spreadsheets
My first job out of college was in corporate finance for a large corporation, so I may be a little biased towards this skill set (5 days a week, 9 hours a day for a year was spent crunching numbers in Microsoft Excel). Biased or not, part of owning and operating a business (or a personal portfolio) is accurately reporting numbers, reviewing numbers, and predicting future numbers. If you plan to be successful, you will deal with a lot of data, and over time, you will (hopefully) deal with increasingly large numbers.

Dealing with these numbers can either be very time-consuming and problematic — or very easy. A basic Microsoft Excel course (by far the most powerful widely available spreadsheet program) will pay enormous dividends in saved time, increased accuracy, and improved organization in the handling of your finances and critical business data. Novices and those who try to pick up this skill as they go will experience large and increasing handicaps relative to their peers when it comes to reporting, analyzing, and forecasting for their businesses.

How to improve:

I consider myself an expert in the manipulation of spreadsheets (though I’m sure I would be laughed at by true wizards). I attribute 90% of my skill to self-study via this course offered through a series of YouTube videos:

Excel Is Fun (Finance Course)

Everything I do that deals with numbers in my job, business, and personal portfolio is easier because I have developed comfort with spreadsheets. No, it is not absolutely essential to success in business, but I’d argue that your lack of familiarity with spreadsheets will slow you down considerably the longer you avoid them.

If you don’t like my suggested course, try GCFLearnFree. They are great for developing basic skills with Microsoft Office.

If you don’t like that one either, I came across this article that lists 40 awesome courses.
Skill #2: Basic Accounting Competency
Why it’s important:

I don’t understand why Accounting has a stigma — everyone seems to hate it! That doesn’t make any sense to me. I think that going over the numbers at the end of each month is one of the most exciting parts of building a business — you get to see it grow and develop each month! The numbers show you where you are weak and where you are strong. They allow you to spot problems, find solutions, and make big decisions with confidence.

Isn’t it better to have a full understanding of all the numbers involved with your business, how they improve or decline on a monthly basis, and how to play the tax game, than to pass it off to some CPA at $100+ per hour? Not only are you paying way too much for this relatively straightforward service, but you are missing an opportunity to study your business thoroughly from the ground up!

Related: 3 Business Tenets Necessary for Intelligent Real Estate Investing (The Buffett Series)

No one is saying you can’t pass off the mundane data entry and itemized accounting to a bookkeeper down the line, but I’d argue that you are doing yourself a disservice by not attaining and retaining the ability to do it yourself — and to do it well. There’s nothing like going over every single dollar of revenue and expense to understand your business.

I’ll use one of my favorite analogies here when it comes to explaining the importance of accounting:

Building a business is just like any other competitive sport. You have to be smart, visionary, and hardworking — and you have to have talent. But even a superstar like Lebron James couldn’t play basketball and succeed if he didn’t know the rules.

Here’s how to tell if you are an Accounting newbie and don’t know the rules of business:
You don’t know what’s legal and what the “fouls” are when it comes to business expenses
You don’t know how to keep score and have any idea if your business is “winning” (profitable)
You …read more