How to Improve Your Leadership Skills as a Small Business Owner

Business owner showing leadership skills talking with their team.

Let’s go back in time for a moment: remember when you decided to venture out on your own to start your business? You likely wanted to be your own boss and take control of your craft and skills. You saw a need in your community or industry and set out to fill it.

To keep your business growing, you’ll need solid leadership skills to develop future-focused strategies and reach your goals. If you’re like most small business owners, you likely haven’t received formal leadership training. You worked hard to turn your passion into a business and learned lessons along the way.

Here, you’ll learn what it takes to improve your leadership skills, enhance your communication, and more.

What is leadership?

Leadership is developing strategic plans, gathering and implementing resources, and guiding teams to achieve goals. It’s no surprise that solid leadership will make your business more sustainable and scalable for the future. With good leadership skills, you’ll be able to:

  • Develop medium and long-term plans for the business
  • Determine the resources needed to achieve your plans
  • Arrange and implement those resources
  • Communicate and reinforce your business’s vision to your workforce
  • Make important choices about how to achieve your plans, often in the face of restrictions and consequences
  • Review your key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your business’s performance and compare it to your planned progress toward your goals

What’s missing from this list? Doing the actual work to create your products or deliver your services. For your business to grow, you need to be able to devote time to lead it and learn the skills for effective leadership.

Leadership for solopreneurs

A solopreneur (or one-person business) usually starts when a skilled craftsperson sets out to give themselves more freedom to do the work they love. Some might refer to this as a “creative-led business.” You can succeed early on this path by delivering outstanding quality products or services to your customers, but of course, there are limitations and risks, too. While you have quality control, you might need other financial controls to keep you on track to hit your target earnings.

Many creative-led businesses hit a ceiling between $500,000 and $750,000 annually in revenues. This is because the owner’s capacity limits production. The business faces an operational efficiency issue and can’t sell more and increase earnings without additional employees to handle production.

What does this type of business need to stay open and profitable? Solid leadership! It comes down to balancing working on the business and working in the business.

Working “on” your business versus working “in” your business

Working “in” the business is where many entrepreneurs feel most comfortable. It’s all about making the products you sell or administering your services. If your name is attached to the business, your customers might expect you to do that work yourself, so you’ll dedicate most of your time here.

But as you spend that time working “in” your business, you’re not spending as much (or any) time working ”on” the business. This is time devoted to building relationships, developing strategy, marketing, and pitching your products and services.

On the other hand, if you’re spending all your time “working on” the business, your client work and production won’t be completed unless you hire employees to handle it.

It’s a delicate balance: go too far on one end, and you’ll either have a productive but not growing business or one that’s planning for growth but can’t fulfill customer orders.

What’s the difference between leadership and management?

Leadership and management are often considered the same topic but represent two distinct areas. Management means ensuring your employees can carry out their assigned tasks competently and efficiently. You’re supervising a team of employees and clearing a path to achieve the goals set for the team.

Leadership involves developing strategies, determining what people are needed to achieve your goals, and directing and influencing them to work towards those strategic goals.

The two areas rely on one another: management depends on the direction of leadership, and leadership depends on management to get the job done. Many businesses choose to separate management and leadership, having managers work underneath leadership as the enforcers of the business’s plans.

If your business is in its early stages, you might not have the resources to separate these roles, and you’ll need to be both the leader and the manager. In these cases, time management becomes critical. You’ll need to make time for leadership while not losing sight of your other tasks. A good strategy here is to set aside several hours each day, or one day per week, to focus solely on planning, marketing, sales outreach, brand identity, and reviewing performance.

Communication is the key to improve leadership skills

Communication is the most important aspect of strong leadership. Your job as a leader is to make sure that everyone knows the goals and directions of your business and how they’re expected to reach those goals.

Once you’ve communicated that to your team, make sure to reiterate it again and again. The business’s vision is the message that needs to be communicated above all else, so make sure you have a clear and succinct vision statement.

You can improve your communication as a leader by doing the following:

  • Communicate your vision statement to the entire workforce every week. Tell your staff how you foresee the business in the future and openly discuss your progress toward that goal.
  • Tie individual tasks back to the vision. When going over a project or job with an employee, show them how their work fits into the near and long-term plans for the business.
  • Request input from employees on the business’s strategic plans. This opens a conversation with a few benefits. First, it can improve the employee’s performance by adding more significance to their work. Being part of the conversation will make your employees feel more inclined to support the business’s goals. Second, you’ll tap into the expertise your employees have developed in their positions and gain valuable insights from their unique perspectives. Their feedback can increase your chances of reaching your goals.

Effective leadership will take your business to new heights.

What can you do to improve your leadership skills? Set a clear vision statement for your business, ensure you have the right resources to dedicate time to lead and evaluate your communication to find areas for improvement. As your leadership improves, you’ll find that your business is taking steps to grow and thrice for the future.

If you need funding to make it all happen, talk to Pursuit! We offer more than 15 different loan programs for nearly any business need. Our team of experts is ready to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more.

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