Leadership is a concept that is sometimes identified only with large organizations, but don’t be fooled by this assumption. Leaders are present in every organization, at every level, and this includes small business. As a small business leader, you are probably more visible and more accessible than leaders in a large company or organization, so your skills are being watched and emulated more closely.
Leadership tools and actions span quite a bit of distance, but here are five important leadership tools for the small business.
First, try “planning proactively”. In small business, it’s easy to become reactive. After all, the ups and downs of small business can be much more tumultuous and emotional since they come on quickly and affect a smaller population. But that it is no reason to avoid making plans and being proactive about problem solving. Be honest with yourself and your team about what issues could be ahead. With this, you should know the pitfalls of small business and be aware of how you can solve some of the problems you might encounter. Involve your team in problem solving at every opportunity. This will give them a “stake” in your business and the chance to participate in planning sessions.
Next, create a vision for the business. You probably have a personal vision and had one when you started the business. Does that vision still work for the business? Have you achieved the original vision? If so, it’s time to think of what the future vision is. Along with a vision, what is the mission and goal of the business? Think about these important details, write them down, and visualize them. You can make your vision part of your everyday life – and remember that a vision does not have to be reserved for the largest organizations. Here’s the biggest benefit of this exercise: leaders are visionary thinkers. When you focus on that vision every day, you’ll start to think like the visionary you are. With vision, comes leadership.
Third, you must share your vision with your family, friends, and most of all, your small business team. This is the hard part. As a small business owner, entrepreneur, and leader, the vision is probably a part of you. With large organizations, the vision is usually a shared one to begin with. But your small business was your idea – it’s your “baby” and a vision that concerns it could be personal. And that is difficult to put out there for everyone to see. But you’ll notice that by sharing that vision, you are letting your team become a part of it and live it every day just as you are. Post the vision around the workspace and keep your pride in ownership. By sharing the vision, you’ll truly become a visionary leader. You’ll find yourself making decisions based on the vision, and leading the team to do the same thing.
Fourth, be sure to manage and lead – and know the difference between the two. Small business leaders are usually in the position of wearing two hats, that of the manager or supervisor, and that of the leader. Management is the day-to-day, short-term direction that you provide. Your management may include dealing with customer and employee issues, vendors, orders, and even front line work. You may find yourself scheduling, managing projects, and hiring employees. But don’t forget to go above these things. Provide direction through your vision. Take time to coach employees on their performance. Cheer them on for good work and gently correct them for not-so-good-work. Show your team that you can manage but that you are also a leader who will take them to the next level.
Finally, be willing and able to change. Small business leaders have pride in ownership. The business you created is close to your heart – and it can be difficult to change. But be aware that change will come whether you want it to or not. Don’t get stuck by not changing to meet new employee, customer, and market needs. Examine your systems and operations and make the determination if they are really working or not. Most of all, accept suggestions for change from your team. Open the floor to new ways of doing business. After all, your team may become more intimately familiar with your business, operations, and customers than you are. By being willing to change and open to suggestion, you are proving your leadership.
If your small business needs a “shot in the arm” or if you are just starting out, keep these five leadership tools in mind at all times. Employ them every day and watch your organization grow.
By Brandon Babcock