Most small business owners start out with a good business idea but little concept of what it takes to manage and grow a business. But you can learn and improve your management skills as your business grows.
While there isn’t a definitive list of skills, the ones listed below will help you build your initial vision and develop your business to its full potential.
Passion and forward planning
The key ingredients you’ll need are a passion for what you do, a belief in why your business exists, and a vision of how you’d like to grow and improve your business.
It’s important to be passionate about what you do. It’s your enthusiasm that will drive your business and motivate your staff to join you in striving to make the most of your business.
- It’s natural for your motivation to cycle through high and low periods, but most businesses advisers will tell you that if your passion has been extinguished, it’s time to get out of the business.
- This is not to say you should give up when you hit your first negative patch or your enthusiasm flags a little. You might just need to take time out, look at your business and how it is performing, and make some strategic decisions.
- Talking things over with your business advisers, mentors or peers might also give your business a new direction and rekindle the passion that got you into business in the first place.
Vision and goals
Establish a clear vision for your business.
- This gives your business direction and helps your employees make the right decisions.
- A clear vision also tells your customers about your business and what your values are. It also gives them an indication of what to expect.
Setting and communicating clear goals for your business is equally important.
- Your vision sets the direction of your business in broad brushstrokes.
- Your goals fill in more of the finer detail, providing direction and milestones for both you and your staff. If people know what is expected of them, they’re more likely to achieve it.
Long-term direction and planning
It’s very easy for small business owners to become consumed with the day-to-day running of the business. This can leave you preoccupied with putting out proverbial fires or operational issues, and with no time to think about market trends and the long-term direction and goals of your business.
- Diarize time to look at your business strategically and map directions and goals for the next five years.
- Plan to do this away from the office, where you’re less likely to be disturbed.
Leadership is all about building effective teams, encouraging people to achieve long-term objectives, and creating an environment to ensure this can happen.
Lead by example
As the business owner, your actions set the work culture in your business and an example to your staff. This means it’s important to lead by example. You can’t expect staff to have a ‘can do’ attitude if you reject all ideas other than your own.
Encourage the culture you’re aiming to achieve by being encouraging and supportive. For example, you can guide initiative and channel it in the right direction, rather than squash it.
Motivate your employees
One way to fuel your staff is by communicating your personal passion.
- Your enthusiasm and drive, which should come out naturally when you talk about your business goals and vision, will encourage more enthusiastic support – but you do need to make the time to communicate this.
- Positive reinforcement and encouragement are other key ways to motivate your staff.
- You might want to consider establishing a system for recognizing and rewarding good performance to encourage this in your business.
Good, clear communication makes managing your business much easier. You can’t expect staff to complete tasks well if your expectations and requirements, or the process itself, are not communicated clearly.
- If you’re giving verbal instructions, it’s a good idea to ask the person to repeat the instructions back to you in your own words, to make sure they have understood you properly.
- If you’re asking someone to take on a new function, it’s important to consider who you’re communicating with and their level of comfort with and knowledge of the task and systems they’ll be dealing with.
- Try to give as much detail as possible, and tell them who they should ask for input if they’re stuck or something goes wrong.
Develop your listening skills
Your staff will feel valued and be more likely to contribute and try harder if they feel you listen to them.
- You should put all other work aside and give the person talking to you your full attention while they are talking.
- It’s also a good idea to nod and make small comments to encourage the conversation.
- Ask questions if what is being said is not clear, and summarize the conversation at the end by saying something like, “If I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is…”
As a manager of your own small business, it’s important to become multi-skilled.
- If, for example, you’re an ace at crunching numbers but not very good around people, you’ll need to start developing people skills to manage your business more effectively.
- Similarly, if you’re good with people but not that comfortable with numbers, you should make the effort to learn some accounting fundamentals so you can follow these conversations in a business meeting and not have to rely solely on your accountant.