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5 Must-Have Skills for Every Successful Small Business Owner

5 Must-Have Skills for Every Successful Small Business Owner

If you look for successful small business owners on the internet, you’re likely to find a hundred different names and their stories of becoming successful. You’ll find these people and their stories as different as night and day.

Running a small business is associated with huge responsibility–one that is linked with taking care of your investors and employees, serving your clients or customers, and most importantly living up to your own goals and standards. Starting and operating a new business can be hard as roadblocks you never thought to imagine might crop up, including limited time, manpower, and budgets.

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With a solid team and the right tools, however, soon you will be on your way to reaching your business potential. To help find success as a small business owner, I’ve compiled this list of five essential skills that you must keep in mind.

1. Get organized

There is no question that the work you perform in your business are different than other business owners, but there is a strong connection in how you execute them. Think about it like making a grocery list; you get everything you need in one trip. You won’t drive back and forth for each item. Similarly, you should aim to consolidate your errands and the tasks of your business. Group similar tasks and aim to accomplish them on a specific day or at a certain time. For example, instead of checking your emails constantly throughout the day, answer your emails in the morning, and once again in the afternoon. By consolidating your tasks and getting work organized, you will eliminate multi-tasking and can focus on essential tasks to finish a project.

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2. Enable your team with ready information

To make the right business decision your team must have all of the information about your market, your customers, your competitors and your business processes. Putting your team in a situation where they have to hunt for the required information is not productive for any kind of a business. It encourages frustration, and lack of accuracy for your team. In return, they will make a guess rather than hunting down the right information. Effectively using and managing information is critical to driving business and streamlining operations in the Big Data era. Think about the kind of information and the system to provide it to your team on a daily basis for their routine work. Do they have all the required information at their fingertips, or do they need to ask the manager and work up the chain to access it? You might need an online database management system to provide teams with all kinds of information in real time, ensuring instant data management.

3. Get in the cloud

According to a recent story on Forbes, 78% of U.S. small businesses will have fully adopted cloud computing by 2020 ,more than doubling the 37% in 2015, resulting in more databases taking up residence on the Web. The use of cloud-based applications and software can significantly improve business efficiency. Give your team members the possibility to work from anywhere, whether they are at home or are out of the station on a business tour. When you and your team members can work from any location, your productivity will increase. Look for ways to shift your business to a cloud to tap into this always-available work approach. Engage a professional to make cloud-based software for your business databases. Manage your sales and inventory in the cloud or web databases. Make it effortless for your sales team to work on the road, adding live sales figures and updates into your system.

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4. Motivate your team

Being a business owner and an employer, leadership is a crucial key skill for success. In order to get the best from your team members, you must motivate and invigorate them. The success of your business will depend, to a great extent, on the spirit and productivity of your employees, and it is your responsibility to ensure that they are getting what they need (morally or monetarily) to perform exceptionally. You must be prepared and available to know the concerns from your staff.

5. Track performance

It’s essential to set business goals and objectives for your company, and to be able to measure progress. As a business owner, you need to establish specific measurements that show your business performance against the set goal. Measuring and tracking business performance will identify issues and success factors that will advance the overall organizational performance. Consider looking at your weekly sales or database software. Check your performance. Are you retaining customers? Track how your team performs. Are they hitting deadlines?  Find tools that can help you to track performance within your day-to-day business.

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Featured photo credit: Photo Giddy via flickr.com

More by this author

Tayyab Babar

Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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