Business Acumen & Strategic Management Skills Training in Pittsburgh, PA

Business Acumen and Strategy: Leaders' competitive advantage in the Pittsburgh area

Business Acumen, like charisma or executive presence, is not easy to define, but unlike charisma, a lack of business acumen can destroy an organization's ability to succeed. Fortunately, through effective business acumen training, employees can develop critical and strategic thinking skills and the financial acumen required to effectively manage the business.

Also known as business savvy and business sense, business acumen is demonstrated in one's incisive capacity to comprehend a business situation and swiftly make quality business decisions.

Need a strategic planning process that facilitates strategic alignment and business growth clarity? Our data-driven, research-backed strategic planning workshop builds business acumen while driving out team alignment and a prioritized action plan. Call us at 281-469-4244 or visit our strategic planning retreat page to learn more.

Who would benefit from the training?

TurnKey Coaching & Development Solutions’ customized Business Acumen & Strategic Thinking for Managers programs combine learning with real work projects to produce strategic solutions while developing your team’s business and commercial acumen. The training focuses upon developing strategic thinking and planning competency, strategic agility, financial and business acumen and more through a customized, business simulation competition experience.

Business Acumen & Strategic Thinking for Managers

Alternatively, our data-driven strategic alignment program builds business acumen while fostering alignment and commitment to a common vision. We also have a unique strategic alignment (similar to strategic planning) workshop that uses research-backed tools to drive out leadership’s priorities and the path forward, while cultivating a unified vision and business acumen. For more on our Strategic Growth Consulting and X-Ray program, please visit here.

Brochure for the Business Acumen Training Program

As the cohort works collaboratively, through real business problems, the program improves your managers and/or HiPos’ leadership, collaboration, and teamwork skills. We believe it’s better than business simulation competition for your team, as all of the projects are selected to specifically solve company identified challenges.

An effective leadership development program includes competency development opportunities in three areas - Leading Self, Leading Others, and Leading in Business.

Our business strategy simulation and business acumen program can be optioned alone, or as part of a more comprehensive approach to leadership development. When optioned as part of a builds upon foundational competency development including interpersonal effectiveness and managing and motivating a team, for example. Our comprehensive leadership development program builds over time through phase 1 (leading self), phase 2 (leading others) and finally, phase 3 (leading in business).

Comprehensive leadership  development training

How does it work?

Our Leading in Business Training focuses on Business Acumen Skills through experiential learning opportunities (better than business simulation training), customized cohort work projects, the collaboration between peers and mentors, business case development and capstone project presentations (a la Shark Tank presentations).

Note: Our programs are facilitated on or off-site for organizations. We do not offer public seminars at this time. While we have speakers and trainers that are available to facilitate and speak at public engagements, we do not offer public seminars.


The learning objectives for the program include:

  • Strategic human resource development
  • Align development with the Mission, Vision, and Values
  • Increased competency
  • Business competency development designed to impact the bottom-line
  • Team projects with tangible strategic impact on the business
  • Direct observational opportunities between executives, board members, and high-potential employees in support of future leader identification and succession planning
  • Development aligned with strategic priorities
At the Cohort Level
  • Encourage participants to routinize the sharing of best management practices
  • Expose leaders to cross-functional problem solving with minimal risk to the business
  • Build alliances across functions that can develop into concrete linkages for future collaboration
  • Healthy competition and collaboration, a la “Shark Tank” type challenge and capstone projects
At the Individual Level

The program delivers a business simulation experience with real-work projects for a holistic and immersive, active-learning program. Participant learning objectives include:

  • Develop strategic and critical thinking skills
  • Develop quality decision-making skills
  • Learn how to make a business case
  • Gain an understanding of all areas of a business’ operations
  • Ensure foundational confidence in financial analysis competency
  • Comprehend the importance of strategic agility
  • Build financial acumen and budgeting skills
  • Develop the ability to ask questions that generate new thinking and solutions
  • Set effective team goals
  • Practice negotiation and influence skills
  • Develop insight into the interconnectedness of business functions and operations
  • Collaborate with their team to establish plans
  • Presentation skills development
  • Evaluate and Improve work processes
  • Align organizational systems
  • Engage in systems thinking and a continuous improvement focus
  • Develop risk management skills
  • Understand the builder mindset vs. the protector mindset

leadership development program brochure

Overall, the research shows that CEOs and the majority of leaders are underperforming. According to recent research conducted by the Perth Leadership Institute, the majority of leaders are currently operating below the business acumen competency line and are more likely to be outperformed by their close competitors. Yet, most leaders rate themselves highly competent in the areas of business savvy and understanding the factors that impact the business, while simultaneously rating their peers and subordinates as lacking business acumen skills.

But, what exactly is business acumen? Is it a single competency, like time management, that can simply be developed with a little awareness and practice? The answer is no. Business acumen is a multi-faceted, knowledge-and-experience based competency that highly-skilled leaders use to quickly evaluate all aspects of a situation and determine the right course of action, reliably and with predictably positive results.

By deliberating providing business and financial acumen development opportunities, an organization improves its leaders' analytical capabilities, enhances their logical thinking capacities, and enabling them to remain disciplined and strategic in the face of challenges.

When / Important Logistics / Important facts for ensuring success

Our immersive, business strategy simulation and business simulation competition program leverages active-learning and real-work projects for an effective and results-oriented learning experience.

What are the logistics and delivery formats of the program?

Our programs are infinitely flexible. Each component is custom-designed around your organizational goals and budget.  Programs are available in a variety of formats, including: 

  • Lunch and learns  / Brown-bag learning opportunities
  • 90-minute to half-day introductory sessions
  • Comprehensive programs include full-day to multi-day active-learning training events
  • Development programs (moving employees from skills knowledge to high-performance requires more change and accountability components) typically include a variety of learning events over a period of 12 to 24 months
  • In-Person, on or off-site programs are typically the most effective
  • Virtual, Instructor-Led training is also available

What are the components of the program?

We find that each company or non-profit organization will have very specific goals, budgets, and logistical requirements. Thus, we will not insist on a routine approach. However, we can share that our most effective business-simulation and acumen corporate development programs include: 

  • Stakeholder interviews to uncover the organization's goals
  • Management consulting in support of well-considered and selected work projects (capstone projects)
  • Coaching focused on business-case development related to the company's selected work projects 
  • Cohort groups collaborate on real work-projects and prepare business cases
  • Presentations to the executive team or board of directors
  • The program finale is a fun, engaging and competitive Shark Tank*-like presentation to the company's internal "investors";   
  • Workshops designed using active-learning and adult-learning principles 
  • Training agenda is focused on business, financial, and commercial acumen and is tailored for the industry and specific to your organization (i.e. private/public/non-profit/governmental entity) 
  • Optimal programs include a series of training events. For example, we recommend multi-day, and/or full-day training sessions and bi-monthly half-day sessions focused on the business acumen topics, plus group coaching, internal mentor support, practice presentation sessions, and one-on-one coaching, as needed. 
  • The group coaching is an essential component as each cohort group works with an experienced management consultant and executive coach to build their business cases with relevant feedback and constructive criticism in support of a dynamite presentation at the conclusion of the program.
  • Internally facilitated project meetings to ensure accountability and cross-functional teamwork.  
  • Internal mentors serve as in-house experts and are provided well-defined rules of engagement that ensure fairness across all teams. Tip: Mentors cannot do the work!  
  • The final business case presentations culminate in a memorable and exciting conclusion and celebration. 

Here's a sample time-line of events for our best-practice approach to the training:

Leading in business workshops

What is business acumen? Simply put, business acumen is the ability to keenly understand the company's business strategy, the financial metrics, the external and internal factors influencing success and the ability to make quality decisions that align with the organization's best interest. Acute critical thinking and business insight, means leaders are equipped to discern and implement the necessary changes to achieve the goals of any business initiative. What we have learned is that an employee with a high level of business acumen can see the "big picture;" And, how the various factors from processes and technology to employee decisions and regulations are inseparably intertwined with a company's ability to accomplish its goals. Having a deep sense of business acumen allows employees to extract relevant and important data and to decide the appropriate course of action. This will naturally lead to improved results, more meaningful engagement within the organization and a stronger impulse to be a part of the company's success.

We have also learned that an employees' lack of business knowledge and business education show a direct correlation to organizational deficiencies. Companies fail when employees struggle to fully understand the company's vision and strategic priorities and how to apply critical thinking skills to their roles and responsibilities. This failure to think critically and creatively, or analyze the financial impact of a decision, results in poor execution, and an inability to implement business strategies efficiently. Ultimately, the inefficient implementation of business strategies further increases company misalignment and disarray.

This pattern can be changed with the development of critical and strategic thinking training, business and financial acumen development, and by developing your leader's ability to conduct proper business case analysis, both in-depth and in-the-moment. Business acumen is an essential skill for effective leadership teams to possess. With the fast pace of the changing business environment, it is more critical now than ever, for employees to develop a higher level of business acumen. When a manager is empowered with business acumen training, the manager's confidence grows along with their ability to analyze, think creatively, and make sound business decisions. It is this more elusive skill set of critical thinking that enables an organization to be more nimble and adapt to changes quickly.

Business acumen is not an innate skill. Luckily, it is something that can be developed. And, while some people may grasp the concept easier than others, depending on their personal experience, others may just take more time to master the skill. There are many approaches to developing business acumen, including coaching, mentoring, and on-the-job training, and the most effective method is experiential learning and business simulations. The latter two approaches, when thoughtfully designed, provide a customized learning experience that is also immediately applicable to the real-world needs of the company. Finally, business acumen training programs enable your managers to contribute to the company's strategic priorities, develop keen insights into how the company can avoid costly mistakes, and foster a culture more inclined to innovate than stagnate.

The Training Problem

We know that a one size fits all approach to training employees doesn't work. This is particularly true for developing Business Acumen. We will be the first to advocate for coaching and training, as the benefits are well-documented and undisputed. However, for strategic thinking, financial acumen, and some of the more advanced thinking and analytical skills, an effective program may also include:

  • A change management and accountability approach
  • Real work-projects provide immediate opportunities to apply the skills learned in the training sessions  
  • Real-world business simulation-style training  
  • Subject matter experts to inform and mentor participants 
  • A practical approach for learning about lateral and vertical thinking models 
  • Top-down support to foster real buy-in to the program 
  • Accountability check-points ensure engagement and prioritized attention 
  • Performance management protocols and oversight 
  • Quality assurance measures 
  • Coaching to foster integration and skill practice 
  • Peer-to-peer interaction to maximize learning retention and develop additional learning opportunities 
Adult learning

For our business acumen development program we customize our proven curriculum for relevance and alignment with your business, industry and strategic priorities.  Each program is designed to actively engage participants in rich learning experiences and adult-learning best practices.

NOTE: We do not have public training events. While our programs are available for groups only, we do have individual, one-on-one coaching programs for individuals seeking business acumen coaching. Please inquire.


Please also see more information on our customized leadership development options:


leadership development program brochure


Have questions? We have answers. Please also read our Strategic Thinking & Business Acumen Training Frequently Asked Questions here, for the details on our Business Acumen Training and Capstone Project development programs.

In today's fast-paced business changing environment, developing the business acumen capability of managers could mean the difference between success and failure. Business acumen is the safety net against errors and lost opportunities. When compared to other competencies, the ability to think strategically and evaluate an action against the strategic vision is the one skill that makes good people managers into great leaders. Unfortunately, business acumen training is often dismissed in favor of soft-skill development. Our position is that both are critical for successful company growth or organizational performance.

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Make sure to also check out TurnKey's other services in the city: executive coaching programs, corporate leadership development, leadership team development, programs for emerging leaders and high potentials, Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team programs, business retreats, and strategic planning consultations.

Disclaimer: Shark-Tank-Like* We are not associated in any way with the television show. We think it’s an awesome show and use the verbiage “shark-tank-Like” because it accurately describes how our final capstone, business simulation competition, and business strategy simulation presentations are experienced by our clients. SHARK TANK is a trademark of Sony Pictures Television Inc. and is not associated in any way with this company or program.