A holistic approach to business Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2007

As waves of change sweep over the business world, the most successful people learn to ride the momentum.

In order to leverage opportunity, individuals have to develop a broad knowledge of the business world and an acute ability to understand how each part connects to make up the whole.

“Taking a holistic approach to business is basically the ability to successfully blend the identification and integration of the business process,” says George A. Redmond, program chair of the Business Administration Major at Franklin University. “A qualified generalist who is capable of understanding and integrating the major functional areas of management, finance, marketing, accounting, production, and research and development will have a great advantage. A strong business administration foundation coupled with a sound general education base educates ‘the whole person.’”

Smart Business discussed with Redmond the significance of taking a holistic approach to business and how individuals can develop this ability.

What are the components of a well-rounded, holistic approach to business?

Some of the key components are a broad-based working knowledge of business coupled with the ability to think critically and communicate effectively. This means possessing both business acumen and a sound general education foundation. I see four key qualities driving a holistic approach:

Competency: While employers expect employees to learn on the job, they also expect new employees to bring a certain level of competency and a solid foundation of knowledge so that their learning curve is short and steep. These days, employees must be proficient in many aspects of a business.

Productivity: Because business moves at such a fast pace and innovation is the norm, employees have to adapt quickly and be almost immediately productive. Developing solutions to new problems is an essential part of a well-rounded business approach.

Innovation: Employees are expected to come up with new answers to solve business dilemmas. The ability to find solutions to new problems tends to involve thinking out of the box. The key is to identify knowledge and expertise that reside in nontraditional sources and apply them to the business at hand.

Responsiveness: The true test of a professional is not the ability to respond to routine problems efficiently, but the ability to function effectively when the unexpected happens. Use of the well-rounded approach requires the ability to quickly grasp the pertinent dimensions of an unanticipated situation, assess its impact and implications and take action to maximize the benefits and minimize the damages.

How can professionals acquire a broad range of business knowledge and tools?

One of the best ways is by obtaining a broad-based business degree in business administration. These students are exposed to every aspect of a business and acquire a good working knowledge of each area. This academic program prepares people for any task ahead.

The business administration student is provided a body of knowledge that is a blend of theoretical principles and practical applications. Students learn how to conceptualize problem scenarios and to develop solutions by transferring the knowledge they have received. Once individuals have obtained their formal degrees, they need to continue to see learning as a lifelong activity.

Why is it crucial for companies to encourage a holistic approach to business?

Businesses must focus on the holistic approach in order to stay competitive. Most companies have gone ‘lean and mean,’ which means employees need a broad scope of business knowledge. The era of the narrowly trained specialist seems to be ending. Even the process of developing business managers is changing because businesses require a more versatile approach to innovation and problem-solving.

Why is it essential for employees to take a multifaceted approach to business?

We live in an age of constant change, innovation and ‘right-sizing.’ Constant change is the driver of the multifaceted, holistic approach to business. An employee with a strong and varied business education has mastered this approach. These people are ideal candidates because they’re highly adaptable within the marketplace.

Ultimately, the goal of business education is to develop versatile decision-makers who will be better equipped to make quality decisions within a highly competitive environment. Because businesses are fast-paced, they are looking for individuals who will be able to hit the ground running. Companies are seeking to hire business graduates who are competent, productive, innovative, and able to anticipate and respond to crises.

GEORGE A. REDMOND, program chair of the Business Administration Major at Franklin University, has more than 20 years of management and college-level teaching experience. Prior to teaching full time, Redmond was a financial manager at Waters Chromatography Division of Millipore Corp., a multinational company. Reach him at redmondg@franklin.edu or (614) 947-6142.