Small Business Leadership 101

So you think you can lead a small business? No, this is not a reality TV show – this is reality. Entrepreneurs can get caught up in starting a small business, and as it grows, most are behind the curve when it comes to customer relations and staff management.

Sure, small business leadership takes vision, drive, goal setting, and decisiveness. However, leading people are a different matter. While there is no absolute method of managing a small business, there are some rules you should follow.

Here is a brief course in small business leadership 101:

Dress Your Best

Dressing your best doesn’t necessarily mean wearing suit and tie every day. It means wearing clothes that are fashionable and a step up from what you expect your employees to wear. If managing a small business you determine that business casual is fine for employees, then you should wear slacks and a nice button down shirt. If your small business is dependent on making impressions with clients, then by all means wear the best suit you can afford.

MBWA (Management By Walking Around)

Small business leadership doesn’t happen behind your desk. It happens when you are visible to others. Avoid the temptation to sit behind your desk all day and put all your focus on the “to do” pile on top of it.

Even managers of corporations engage in MBWA. In fact, MBWA is simple: at various times of the day, simply walk around. Check in with a manager on that project. Ask how an operations team is coming along with fixing equipment. When your employees see you, it lets them know you are not only the boss, but are present and engaged in managing a small business. Even a little small talk will help your employees know you care about them and validate their contribution to your company.

Ask for Employee Input

Don’t hesitate to involve employees with their input. Managing a small business is not a solo job. And others, even those not in management, can have great ideas to help save or even make money. Always be open for this kind of input.

Avoid Using Text Slang In Your Correspondence

Through the years, text messaging via mobile device has evolved into an entire dictionary of text slang. While it may seem easy to jot down a quick sales follow up message and include a happy face “:)”, or inform your client that their joke made you “ROTFL”, the use of such slang is unprofessional and inappropriate. This also applies to internal messages to employees. As a general rule, ALWAYS use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.

Create an “Open Door” Policy

Small business leadership is best when the boss is approachable by both employees and customers. Always make it known that anyone can talk to you whenever there is an important issue on their mind.

Keep Emotions in Check

Sometimes while managing a small business it is difficult to hold in your frustration when things don’t work out the way you planned. And it is easy to start throwing accusations and laying blame on others (see below).

However, remember you are the face of your company, and people, including customers and employees, put their faith in you to lead with optimism, not pessimism, and encouragement, not discouragement. If a client or customer sees you lose your cool, you may just lose a client. By the same token, employees who work for a “loose cannon” are typically on edge and do not perform their jobs effectively.

Some small business owners have a trusted advisor in top management with whom they feel comfortable laying out feelings of frustration. As long as you and your advisor have established this kind of relationship and it is acceptable to share feelings to help get over them and sort them out, then relying on an advisor as a “sounding board” can be effective.

Accept Responsibility

As a follow up to the above, as a leader of your employees and your company, remember that the buck always stops with you. No matter if you’ve delegated certain tasks and business operations to trusted managers, you are ultimately responsible for their actions. If you can accept responsibility in setbacks or even failure, then your employees will respect your small business leadership more.