5 Tips for Being a Successful Small Business Leader

Leadership is a critical trait to possess if you want to grow a successful business. Even if your business is built on a fantastic idea, without good leadership it won’t thrive. So what does it take to be an effective small business leader? Here we discuss five tips that are vital to your success.

1. Be a Good Listener

Did you know that nearly 85% of what we know we have learned through listening? That’s why one of the most important skills you can possess as a successful leader is to be a good listener. You can learn a great deal from the people around you, so make sure you are listening to what your employees and customers have to say about your business. Asking for recommendations and opinions from people with different perspectives can provide you with tremendous insight you might not have otherwise seen. This can also give you a better understanding of your business at all of its operating levels.

Being a good listener is not only a way to cultivate great new ideas for your small business, but is also a terrific way to show appreciation for your employees. Engaging in a dialog with team members will make them feel like they’re an important piece of your company’s success and encourage them to be a longer-term employee. Check out the International Listening Association for ways to improve your listening skills and advance your business.

2. Communicate Your Vision

In order to grow your small business, you must have a vision and be able to communicate it to the people who are responsible for helping you make it a reality. Employees, investors and customers need to understand the goals you have for the company. If they don’t, it is very easy for your business to become lost in a series of unclear objectives. In an Inc. article, Peter Stark, a management consultant and the author of Engaged! How Leaders Build Organizations Where Employees Love to Come to Work, says:

“70 percent of an employee’s level of engagement or excitement about the job or the company they work with is in direct relation to their immediate supervisor.”

This means that, as a leader, it is your job to clearly communicate your vision to employees so that they are excited about their work and the advancement of the company. In turn, clear objectives and goals for the company help bring out quality work from employees.

3. Network and Build Relationships

As a small business leader, people are your greatest resource: customers, employees, clients, and other business owners. As a business leader, it is important that you build a well-rounded team and make connections with people who can help you improve your business. Understand your own abilities and then surround yourself with talented individuals who have the skills you lack.

Networking with people in your industry or in a complimentary industry can also give you valuable insight into the operations of your business and it may even spark an enriching partnership. According to Forbes, using social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is one simple method to connect with people.

4. Focus on Growth

As a small business, every day brings new challenges. Growing your business requires that you, the leader, recognize barriers to growth and how you are going overcome them. At this stage of your business, size is not nearly as important as growth. As you develop as a small business, it is likely that you will meet obstacles. Let these challenges motivate you and see how they can bring your small business the best opportunities for innovation. The ability to innovate and grow is a key to longevity.

Regarding small business leadership, you should always remember that if you’re not growing, you are falling behind in today’s competitive environment. Developing a growth strategy for you business can be tricky. So if you need some help, check out this Inc. article, where former successful CEO, Keith McFarland, outlines some of the lessons he has learned from his study of startups and the best methods for creating a growth strategy of your own.

5. Establish Accountability

For a lot of smaller businesses it is often difficult to establish accountability. This generally has something to do with the wide variety of functions members of your staff are responsible for. In order to improve accountability, start by setting clear expectations for what you want out of your employees. Take some simple steps to determine and analyze their individual strengths and weaknesses, then assign agreed upon goals and objectives to each member of your team. This will make it easier for you to keep track of the responsibilities and progress for each individual. After you’ve assigned roles to your team, it’s vital that you hold everyone accountable for the results they produce.

And of course, you’ll want to set a good example for your employees and be sure to also admit when you make a mistake. Accountability is important for the success of your small business. In this article, Josh Leibner, founder and president of The Strategic Commitment Group, says:

“When people are accountable, they stop watching the clock; they seek ways to make improvements and take initiative to change what doesn’t work. They ask for opportunities to do and learn more so they can be successful at fulfilling their purpose, which in the end gives a boost to yours.”


There are many leadership skills and competencies that, when combined and applied, go toward making you an effective leader and, in turn, can help grow your business. Remember — these tips for leadership are usually not innate, but are a learned skill instead. Take control of business development and invest in yourself. If you put time into improving your skills as a leader, you will make better decisions, get more done in less time, and achieve better results overall.


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