Better Small Business Leaders: 8 Things They Know

How to Become a Better Small Business Leader

As an entrepreneur, you must have functional leadership skills. It goes with the territory. These skills are key to managing and motivating employees, communicating with customers and inspiring people through your clear company vision. No, leadership is not one-dimensional: there are plenty of different approaches to the practice of good leadership.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how entrepreneurs like you can become better leaders in their small businesses. There’s no denying that running a small business is both demanding and rewarding. No denying either that people management has a major role in both.

Whether you’re just starting out in business or have been in the game for some time, this article counts down the eight most useful tips for meeting — and exceeding — the difficulties of small business leadership.  

8. Inspiring Others With Your Small Business Vision

The initial step in creating a business vision is working out what it will encompass. That is, what are the parts of your operation where the special “way we do things” is pivotal? In what parts is it merely optional?

For example, for a product-led business, your vision might pertain to design and quality, whereas for a service-based business the vision might speak more to customer service. A brand-first business might emphasise packaging and positioning.

Make your vision as specific and detailed as possible. What does success look like? Describe what it feels, sounds, tastes or smells like. Convey this in a compelling way and you’ll get your whole team aligned.

7. Get Buy-in For Your Vision

Visions take a little while to crystallise; by the time yours does, you will know it inside-out and back-to-front. This is good, because now you must get your staff and stakeholders up to speed on it too.

Creating “official” printed vision statements is useful and often necessary, but vision implies visual. Provide some kind of imagery that shows your business vision at work in the real world.

Sketch out how your products will be used, how your premises will operate, how your people will deliver your services — all can illustrate the essence of your business that makes its value prop compelling. Of course, that vision statement you worked on so hard should also be highlighted for how it is expressed in your concept images.

6. Take the Initiative to Ensure Open Communications

Solid communication with other coworkers is essential if the business wants to be successful. After all, if your team doesn’t communicate, how can they know what is expected of them?

Many of the ills in many companies lie in their inability to communicate effectively. If you can’t get on the same wavelength as your staff, they will only be able to understand your communications “to the letter” rather than being able to get the spirit of what you intend. And, the onus is always on you to speak to your team at their level and in ways that are relevant to them. 

If you are not so good at verbal communication, try using email backed with conventions and policies that keep the comms clear (one good rule is to have only one topic per email). A team chat is often also handy. Implement one of these and it means everyone has a voice and everyone’s input can be seen and addressed methodically.

5. Break Down Your Own Barriers

As an entrepreneur, you’re always pushing yourself. Your ambitions and goals are what sparked your entrepreneurial ways in the first place. However, if you’re not careful, this self-directed drive can lead to a lack of self-awareness. What you don’t know can hurt you.

A thoughtful leader will take time out from all their hard work for some introspection so that they have a clear understanding of the gaps in their own skillset and how to fix them or work around them. It often comes down to setting up procedures with more care or altering your expectations of others.

Without an honest sense of which aspects of your character, skills and intellect are mediocre, you will subconsciously program corresponding inefficiencies into how your organisation functions. Confronting the inevitable fact that you have shortcomings might hurt your ego temporarily, but not doing it will cripple your success permanently. 

4. Be More Effective at Giving and Receiving Feedback

When running a business, you must create space for feedback and discussion. There are two main channels you must set up: one to receive input from customers and the second to encourage dialogue between yourself and your employees and/or partners.

Providing these outlets will help you more effectively give or receive feedback in the future. Further, when people give feedback you must use active listening and interpretive skills to understand not just what they are saying, but why they’re saying it. If, for example, a product malfunctions, is the customer really complaining because the product didn’t work or, rather, because the malfunction feels like you’ve broken a promise to them?

3. What is Your Business Good At … And Bad At?

An extension of the practice of looking at your personal strengths and weaknesses is looking at those of your business itself. The classic business analysis tool of the SWOT comes into play here. As the acronym goes, it helps you identify and categorise: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

It can be applied at every scale, from the micro — say, a single product line — and right on up to encompass the whole of the business. Further, because it seeks to account for every contingent factor, it also looks at what external forces and developments are in play.

2. Giving Your Team True Motivation

The secret of great leaders is that their people believe in them. That is, they are backed by a team that cares. This care — not money, not prestige — is what makes for true team motivation. This means that team engagement is a fundamental task.

To gain this kind of engagement, you must provide your team with a stimulating environment, sense of purpose and meaningful work. Get it right, and your team will always go the extra mile for your business because what lies on that mile accords with their personal values.

1. Approachability, Commitment, Honesty — The Big Three

You can’t be a great leader if people think you are unwelcoming, are flaky or are evasive with the truth. However, as “the boss”, there will always be a perceived status barrier for staff wanting to engage with you. It is upon you alone to bring that barrier down.

Try keeping your office door open and make a point of welcoming people in for a catch-up. Demonstrate that you are committed through modelling ideal company behaviours, such as regarding your presence during business hours. And, last, the most effective way to prove that you are honest is to back up verbal promises by following through in action.

Leadership Is Initiative Made Social

Leadership is something many entrepreneurs don’t engage with consciously. In running their teams, they just do what feels right and what seems to work. There’s no one around to tell them any different.

However, you cannot put off developing your leadership skills if you want your team to do its best work and for your business to achieve its vision. Think of leadership like an iceberg; there’s much more going on below the surface than what most new entrepreneurs expect.

Fresh business advice straight to your inbox!

We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.