Many small business owners have a terrific idea for a business, but they may need to learn what it takes to manage it successfully. As a small business owner, the management traits you bring to the table are crucial to your success.

The good news is you can learn and improve your management skills as your business grows.

While there isn’t a definitive list of essential traits, the ones listed below will help you build your initial vision and develop your business to its full potential.

Loving what you do

First and foremost, you must wholeheartedly believe in your business and know why it exists. It’s essential to be passionate about what you do.

Your enthusiasm will drive your business and motivate your staff to join you in striving to make the most of your company.

It’s natural for your motivation to cycle through high and low periods, but most business advisers will tell you that your passion will get you through the challenging periods. 

That doesn’t mean you should give up when you hit your first rough patch, or your enthusiasm wanes a little. Instead, you might need to take time away, look at your business and its performance, and make strategic decisions. For example, you may need to hire new staff or invest in technology to overcome the hurdle.

Planning your business

You’re the visionary that everyone else will rely on to chart the course ahead. Establish a clear vision and goals for your business so everyone else can see what you do.

  • A clear vision tells your customers who you are and what you stand for. It gives them an indication of what to expect when they do business with you.
  • Goals provide direction and help you and your employees make the best possible decisions with a common strategy.
  • 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. People who know what you expect are more likely to achieve it.

It’s easy to become consumed with the day-to-day. Unfortunately, this can leave you preoccupied and without time to think about market trends and your business’s long-term direction and goals.

  • Make 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.

Developing a strong company culture

Leadership is about building effective teams, encouraging people to achieve long-term objectives, and creating an environment to ensure this can happen. It’s a tall order, but it’s so important when building a business.

Foster the culture you want by being encouraging and supportive. For example, you can guide and channel initiative in the right direction. That way, everyone feels part of the team and will contribute enthusiastically.

Lead by being a role model, and remember that how you treat the business is how others will treat the business. 

Communicating effectively

Good, clear communication makes managing your business much easier. You can’t expect staff to complete tasks properly if your expectations, requirements, or processes are unclear.

  • If you’re giving verbal instructions, it’s a good idea to ask the person to repeat the instructions back to you in their own words to make sure they have understood you correctly.
  • 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 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 help if they’re stuck or something goes wrong.

Listening to your employees

Your staff will feel valued and more likely to contribute if they know you listen to them. Develop some best practices, so your team always feels heard.

  • Put all other work aside and give your attention to the person talking to you.
  • Nod and make specific comments to show engagement.
  • Ask questions and summarise the conversation at the end by saying, “If I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is…”

Be aware of areas that would benefit from outside help

Nobody is gifted at everything, and it makes sense that you’ll need help occasionally. It pays to acknowledge that you need assistance.

You could further enhance your skills by taking time for independent personal development or investing in a course if required. Or, you could outsource some of your business functions to get expert help and gain peace of mind, especially once you start growing.

Final thoughts

There are innumerable skills that a manager should possess to drive a small business to success, but it’s rare that anyone comes ready with everything they need right away. So instead, focus on leading your team with attention and compassion, and grow your skills as necessary, and you will find that you’re on the right track.