Running a business isn’t easy, as any small business owner will tell you.
Some underestimate just how much day-to-day work is involved in keeping a small business in the black, and as a result find their businesses struggling to simply stay afloat.
Of course, there’s a big difference between keeping a business running and guiding it into growth and expansion; doing the latter requires leadership skills that some business owners simply haven’t developed.
Small business leaders are a special breed: They’re the ones who guide businesses into the future, making them an essential part of their local communities. The leaders themselves are often pillars of the community, with other business owners sometimes turning to them for advice on how to replicate their success.
Becoming a small business leader isn’t an easy task, but the benefits to your business make it well worth it.
Are You a Small Business Leader?
Some people are born leaders, while others have to work hard at developing the skills necessary to be a small business leader.
Think about how good you are at motivating others and seeing things through to the end. Do you plan everything in detail before it happens? Are you a master communicator?
Small business leaders need these traits and more to really succeed in the business world. If you find that some of your skills are lacking, you’ll need to start practicing to make sure that you have what it takes to really be a leader.
Fortunately, the more effort you put into it now, the easier it will be once everything has become a habit.
Being able to plan the direction of your business is one of the most important skills that a small business leader possesses.
You need to develop a vision for your business, an end goal that you want to reach. You need to be more than just a dreamer, though; you also need to be able to develop a plan that will get you from where you are now to where your business will be in your vision.
Obviously, your vision needs to be realistic. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be ambitious, however. Just so long as you can chart a realistic path from your business in the present to where it is in your vision, your ultimate goal can be anything that you want it to be.
Talking and Listening
Communication is important, so you need to know how to talk to people.
This includes employees, customers, suppliers and even inspectors or government officials. True leaders in business know how to adapt the conversation to best fit the person they’re talking to. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to give others a chance to talk too, of course.
Listening is a key part to communication. Don’t just talk at people; let them be part of the conversation, giving them a chance to voice opinions and taking what they say to heart. While you may not always do what others suggest, it’s really important that you at least give them the chance to suggest it.
Some managers tend to steamroll everyone around them, walking in and causing discord by trying to do everything themselves.
This leaves employees less to do, especially if they don’t have any other tasks available at the time. Leaders know that there’s a difference between leading from the front lines and simply doing everything yourself, though. You hired your employees, so trust them to do the jobs they’re paid to do. Delegate work, and use that delegation to build up your employees and show them that you trust them.
If you don’t already analyze your business performance, you need to start.
Crunch the numbers and see how your profits are doing, whether your marketing efforts have been successful and everything else that you can figure out about how your business is doing. As much as possible, you should also analyze your competition to see what their strengths and weaknesses are.
This knowledge will help you to strengthen your business in those areas where the competition is weak, giving you an advantage and a chance to drive profits even higher.
Perhaps one of the biggest things that sets small business leaders apart from everyone else is their ability to inspire the people who work with them.
Ideally, you should follow your business plans and not waiver, never letting things stop you from achieving your vision. Remain ethical, prioritizing profit without giving in to the temptation to beat others down to make that profit. Let your passion for your business show through in everything you do, helping others to believe in the business simply by seeing your example.
When you can do this, that’s when you know that you’re definitely a small business leader.