When people think of business leaders, they often imagine the leading heads of industry. While these individuals are certainly leaders, so are the small business owners who work to grow their businesses across the United States. In addition, these individuals represent the major industry leaders of tomorrow.
Small business owners often focus more on their “owner” title, forgetting the fact that they are also leaders. However, those business owners who hone their leadership skills can help their company grow faster and become a major player in the larger market. Small business owners who want to become better leaders should consider the following tips:
Share the vision and goals with employees.
People who start a small business necessarily have vision and goals if they have arrived at that point. However, these individuals often hire employees to help them toward their goals without actually sharing what they want for the future. Ideally, sharing the company vision becomes part of the hiring process so that leaders can recruit people who actively want the same thing they do.
In addition, when leaders continue to reiterate the organization’s goals, everyone stays on the same page and works toward the same endpoint. This consistent communication helps people avoid getting lost in the details and keeps them focused on the larger picture, so that they understand how their actions directly help the company toward these goals. Also, sharing this framework creates milestones for celebrating achievements and boosting excitement about what lies ahead.
Focus on building relationships.
Small business leaders need to realize that the most important resource they have is people, including both customers and employees. Trust remains the cornerstone of all relationships, and people can foster trust by being transparent and consistent. When leaders actively work to strengthen the bond of trust with people around them, they develop a support network that is there to help whenever a problem arises. Furthermore, these people can also become great ambassadors for the business. Customers who feel a personal connection to a business owner will get their friends to support the business, and employees who believe in the business’s product will likewise share their excitement with others. Building relationships means getting up from the desk from time to time and directly interacting with employees and customers.
Make fair and just decisions.
One of the most paralyzing challenges for a leader to face is indecision. Small business owners face a wide range of decisions each day, and they need to show that they are decisive, thoughtful, and fair. Leaders who struggle with decisions may lack confidence. In this situation, people need to figure out ways to remind themselves of their expertise and build a sense of internal self-trust. At the same time, leaders should never be afraid to consult colleagues, mentors, or trusted friends when a situation truly is outside of their experience and knowledge. After all, consulting with someone is still making a decision.
Small business owners should also work on developing their own sense of ethics and guiding principles that can help them make decisions that are consistent with their own values and the company’s vision and goals. Having guiding principles can also assure employees and customers that the company operates with consistency.
Listen to what other people have to say.
Communication remains one of the most essential skills for any business leader. Sharing the company’s vision has already been discussed, but it is just as important to listen to feedback that other people provide. Leaders who become self-centered and stop paying attention to the opinions of others put themselves at a serious disadvantage and begin to create barriers to communication. Employees and customers can have incredible ideas for the future of the business when leaders listen to them. While not all feedback will be helpful, leaders should take note when they hear the same message consistently and think seriously about how they can implement the advice.
Pay attention to company culture.
During a company’s earliest stages, its culture begins to develop. When leaders do not pay attention to culture, they may start to have trouble recognizing the organization that they built. Leaders need to set the tone for the company by creating expectations for employees and being vocal about the values of the organization. In many ways, leaders set the tone for culture by their own example. When small business owners embrace openness, collaboration, and trust, they encourage others to do the same. Openness can help prevent some of the toxic elements that can ruin a company, such as negativity and finger-pointing.
Keep a finger on the company’s pulse.
Great leaders are hands-on. While keeping track of all operations at a company becomes impossible as the organization grows, small business leaders need to pay close attention to how the company’s resources, from money to manpower, are spent. Organizations grow when leaders identify redundancies and inefficiencies. By eliminating this excess, more resources can be directed to what really matters. Trimming the fat signals to employees and customers that the leader really cares about the company and wants it to succeed.