So you’ve decided to take the leap and start your own business. Does this mean that all the leadership stuff you learned about on your mini-MBA gets tossed out the window?
Ah, the joys of throwing away the corporate policies manual, the bliss of not worrying about reporting lines and organizational structures.
Well, yes and no. Leadership structures are there for a reason. They might look like it, but they’re not just there to keep people in jobs.
1. Have a vision and set goals
When you decided to be your own boss, you had a notion of what it would be like working for yourself. You also had a notion of what sort of business you wanted to be in and why you thought you could make a go of it on your own. This is your vision.
Make sure that you articulate it clearly. Write it down. Pin a copy on the wall in front of you, and come back to it after a month, three months and a year to see whether it still describes what it is you had in mind when you started out.
Don’t be shy about communicating this to your team. Joining a small company is a leap of faith for people and to motivate them to join you and to work hard will take more than a salary.
‘Selling’ people your dream will enthuse them about the mission and make sure that they are all working towards the same goal.
2. Remember the 80/20 Rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle after the 19th century Italian economist who first noted that in many areas of life the 80:20 rules states that 80% of outputs come from 20% (or less) of inputs.
This rule has been proven to be true across an incredibly wide range. From the percentage of income earned to the number of peas produced by plants in vegetable gardens!
Regular use of this tool will help you focus on the parts of your business that are performing best, and so you need to focus more time and energy on, and the parts where your business is performing most poorly (80% of your stock by value is likely to be 20% of your stock by number).
This is especially important for small businesses that are always short on resources whether that’s time, money or people.
This is an indispensable management rule to help guide you when you are looking at almost any area of your business.
3. Don’t neglect the basic management tools
At some stage of your induction into managing a business you will have been introduced to the four functions of management: planning, leading, organizing and controlling (PLOC). Never forget them!
Make sure you understand their application to your business, and don’t be misled into thinking that they no longer apply because, well, you’re just managing a small team.
The amount of time you put into these activities needs to be proportionate to the amount of time that will be spent carrying them. This means that you won’t carry out these activities in huge detail, it simply doesn’t make sense.
However, every business activity needs to be planned. Leading is the initiating of action to carry out the plan; organizing is the identification and marshalling of resources to carry out the plan; and controlling is the monitoring of outcomes against the original plan.
All of these skills are critical to ensuring that your business runs and grows smoothly.
4. Ask your team
You are the owner of the business not the person that does absolutely everything (despite how you may feel some days!).
You are not expected to know everything and you shouldn’t be shy of asking your team for advice and what they would suggest. Although new leaders often find this very difficult asking for advice from your team is incredibly powerful.
You are demonstrating that you value their opinion and so, by extension, them as a member of your team. Also, regardless of whether you go with their suggestion or not, you will also be getting far greater buy-in to your decision.
If you agree with their suggestion they will obviously support it as it is their idea. If you decide to not go with their decision they will still feel that they had input into the decision and so not feel excluded.
Finally by getting input from a variety of people you are more likely to make a good decision.
There’s really no downside. Obviously, you can’t ask advice on everything. Some decisions are small and not worth discussing, but beyond that if you’re unsure about a decision ask you team, you’ll probably be surprised by how enthusiastically they join in the discussion.
5. Celebrate success
Working for a small business can be exhausting. The lack of resources and frequent frustrations can wear people down. Be sure to celebrate successes when they occur.
This ensures that your team takes the time to focus on and talk about success, not just spend their time talking about and trying to fix problems.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Ben Richardson. Ben is the owner of Acuity Training, a Guildford-based personal development and IT training business. He was previously a venture capitalist and investment banker. He’s spent far too much of his life hunched over his phone while waiting for interviews and meetings to start.
More on leading a business
ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of leading and growing your own business. Some of our most popular guides include;
Leading your business
- How to lead inclusively
- Becoming the type of leader people want to emulate and do business with
- Leaders tell people what to do – don’t they?
- Why you must build on your strengths, NOT focus on trying to fix weaknesses
Going for growth
- 5 steps to kick-starting growth in your business
- How finding a great mentor could help you to grow, and your business to flourish
- The Founder’s dilemma – Managing the transformation from start-up to growth business
- Barriers to growth – how to identify them and how to overcome them
Motivating your staff
- How to motivate employees and create a loyal workforce on a budget
- How to design an effective incentive scheme for your small business
- Using staff benefits to motivate and retain employees
- How businesses can encourage a healthy work/life balance and benefit from more engaged and productive employees