(Updated in 2020)
When I look to hire a new employee, one of the key skills I look for is savvy. It goes beyond education, beyond experience, and beyond talent.
Here’s Google’s definition of savvy:
shrewd and knowledgeable in the realities of life.
People can be savvy about different things— social, political, business, tech, cultural. One of the cool things about savvy is that it can be a noun, a verb, or an adjective. Captain Jack Sparrow is fond of using the verb form, meaning “understand?”
In the entrepreneurial world, if you find a partner or employee with business savvy, you’ve struck gold. You’ve found someone who is resourceful, quick, and probably a leader too.
I recently saw a rant by Gary Vaynerchuk about why people over 40 should be more entrepreneurial, (warning there is a tiny bit of profanity in the video) and he touched on this exact quality. People with a lifetime of actual experience naturally build up savvy. They have learned to adapt to different situations because they’ve been through them. They have context.
But don’t assume that savvy is restricted to the over-40 crowd. Practical experience helps build savvy, but you can encounter young people who are “savvy savants.” Often they are referred to as “old souls.”
How to Become More Business Savvy
- Look beneath the surface in any situation; don’t immediately accept things at face value.
- Pick up skills intentionally. Communication skills, in particular, contribute to savvy.
- Take note of things going on around you. Perceptive is another synonym for savvy.
- Don’t be afraid to go against the herd.
- Apply insider knowledge to your advantage (like using curbside checkin at the airport instead of inside counter help).
- Don’t ignore etiquette; pay attention to the details of social graces, which apply even more in business situations.
- Do a lot more listening than talking.
- Humility is important, but don’t be a doormat. Savvy people look for a win-win whenever they can. It’s not always about getting an advantage for yourself.
- Take time to learn about cultural differences.
- Be the most prepared person in the room.
Do you consider yourself a savvy business person? What qualities do you feel make someone savvy?