C. Elements of Business

And How Might My Skills and Interests Apply

Many of you know that one of the first questions I ask you when you come to talk with me about internships and jobs is –

  • “What are your key skills and how have you demonstrated them?”
  • “What are you most interested in doing and why?”

The College offers a number of online tests to assist you in being introspective, to help answer those questions.  The Directory labelled “Online Testing” is a helpful resource.

Business Elements

This write-up is intended to give you a sense of the basic elements of business to better understand where your skills and interests might apply.

This outlines what are common roles in business and what skills are most need in those roles. 

Just as you have a mix of strengths some more dominant than others, business roles typically require a mix of strengths in varying proportions.

Product Design
/ Marketing
Identify customers and needs to design a product
which fills the demand.
Product Manufacture Makes the products with the goal to be on time and cost.
Sales Identify specific customers and
convince them to buy the
Accounting Maintain the data (the scorecard) to enable a business to know
whether it’s performing as
Leadership / Personnel Hire, train and direct a team of
people to perform all the roles.

This is a simplification but it captures several major elements. These roles are needed to make a business function.

My goal is to help you to understand what’s involved in business, what’s some key terminology, and what skills typically apply.


This first video (nine minutes) provides an overview about what are some key elements of business.  I’ll get into more detail in the individual elements.


I recommend that you watch the short video on marketing.

What are some skills used in marketing?

Analytical Skills – Think of the image with the target over the consumer, marketers have to evaluate (1) who are potential consumers, (2) how big is that group, (3) where are they located, (4) what do they want and where, and (5) what would they be willing to spend among other questions?

Communication Skills – Marketers (1) need to explain the opportunity to convince their business to make and sell a product, (2) then need to promote the product to potential customers.

Teamwork Skills – Marketers often work in teams both within marketing and beyond.  Marketers, for example, would work with production to make certain a product can be made as designed for the right cost.  Similarly, marketers would work with sales to ensure that customers learn about and buy the product.

Abstract Thinking – Some of the most significant marketing involves an ability to imagine products that haven’t previously existed.  Think of one of the most famous examples, Steve Jobs, who made groundbreaking products.  Dealing with uncertainty may make some people uncomfortable.


Production, sometimes called Operations, is often described as moving an object through time and space to a prescribed outcome.  If you’ve worked on campus for your service scholarship or know students who have, you should have a sense that organized production is critical.

The following video gives just a glimpse of what’s involved in production

Planning – Operations requires planning to plot out what needs to be done, when and where and by whom.  Think of Dave Gaston planning a garden or Jacob Coke planning the menu and cooking schedule.

Consistency – One might also use the term discipline to describe the consistency required.  Jacob Coke needs food cut to a specified size and cooked in a prescribed manner.  To get the desired output, the production must be consistent day in and out.

Dealing with material – Dealing with materials is challenging.  Where does one get consistent inputs?  What is needed in the way of tools?

Dealing with people – Unless production is accomplished by a sole craftsman, there’ll be a team involved.  As in the kitchen example, it’s likely a team with complementary skills.

 Efficiency – While consistency is needed, production also benefits from workers who can see how the process could be improved.


Sales involves connecting the potential customer with the product as described in the video.

Being an effective salesman requires several skills including the following:

People Skills – Understanding what motivates a potential customer is important.  There’s a buzzword, “solution selling”, which conveys that customers are motivated to solve a problem they face. 

Communication Skills – Clear, compelling communication is key whether you’re describing how your product provides a solution or how it’s distinguished  from competitors’ products.

Technical Skills – Many products require a salesman to know technical attributes to distinguish its function from competitive products.


In stark contrast with production which is moving tangible objects through time and space, accounting is highly abstract. Accounting involves counting, measuring, keeping records, displaying data in a useful form.

The following two short videos provide some overview of accounting concepts.

Some of the skills required of accountants are:

Consistency – Like production, accounting requires a worker to be careful and consistent but in the case of accounting, with data.

Comfort with abstract concepts –

Analytical – While not every accounting role requires analytical skills, many do.


To be added shortly.