Leadership Tips for Small Businesses

Starting a business can be extremely intimidating. There are so many different factors to balance, from first idea and conception (choosing logo fonts for a graphic design startup or sifting through potential¬†shoe store names, for example) to funding and execution. Once a small business is up and running, though, new challenges appear in sustaining a company. Often, small business are born of passion and ideas, and while caring about a company is critical to its success, it’s also important to have people on staff that can successfully execute the role for which they were hired. There are many different leadership styles, but check out these leadership tips specifically for small businesses for some exciting ideas.


Starting a small business means setting off on a journey without a traditional guidebook. Mission and vision need to be generated from scratch, and then more importantly, must be clearly communicated to employees. In larger companies, values are already sketched out and managers simply have to hold themselves to them. By contrast, a startup or individual business doesn’t have this larger framework. Communicating with employees is absolutely critical.

Writing a handbook, code of conduct, or listing values offers a physical way of communicating focal points to employees. For example, if a business owner has a specific vision for telephone or email etiquette but fails to communicate the concept to employees, it is unfair of the business owner to be disappointed when this protocol is not executed. By contrast, communicating this specific methodology during training brings this part of the business to life. Employees often come from all kinds of backgrounds and have experience from other business environments — every company does things a little differently. Communicating mission, vision, and values upfront allows a business to take on its own identity.


The flip side of communicating with employees is, of course, listening. Employees are often the folks on the front lines of a business, making their perspective incredibly valuable. Any good leader listens, but a great small business owner needs to listen a little bit more. Employees will be able to provide critical feedback to help shape the business. If a point of sale system is providing the same glitch for customers over and over again, it could make a significant difference to rectify the problem. If some language on a website is confusing and causing the same question to be asked over phone or email, an employee will be the one to bring this to the attention of leadership. A good leader will foster an environment in which employees feel comfortable sharing such experiences. This is the only way that positive change can occur and, ultimately, the only way a small business can grow to the next level.

Lead by Example

No one likes a hypocritical leader. A positive culture is created when employees feel as though a boss is experiencing struggles right alongside them. A great leader won’t make a negative announcement, like minimal vacation, and then take a long jaunt of their own. A great leader wouldn’t announce pay cuts and then take home a bonus check, even if the employees will never know that this is the case. Rather, a great leader is true to their word and lives large-scale decisions¬†right alongside the employees¬†that these decisions affect most deeply. Professionalism is important, but removing the spaces that often make employees feel significantly separated from bosses will help to improve culture, which will positively impact a business. Having really high standards and lofty goals are good things, and a great team will help make those goals into realities. Applying principles from just these three tiers of tips for small businesses can help turn a good business into a great one.

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