Many business owners become successful business managers but few grow to the next level – a business leader.
I have worked with many small business owners during the past 20 years. I have noticed a path that the small-business owners who become business leaders travel. In fact, there are numerous books on the subject, and most of them agree on this general path to success.
Typically, a small-business owner has mastered the ability to deliver a product or service and believes that they can “take it to the public” and make money. At this phase, they start a new business, and they are more of a technician than anything else. In order to survive, they have to learn business-management skills. They must grow from technicians to managers.
In other words, they need to learn to be effective not just efficient, in their business.
Business leaders learn to focus on results, not just the process. They learn that they must adapt to changing environments, but they don’t change for change’s sake.
Small-business leaders have a vision and can communicate that vision to others. Not only do they have a vision, but they also create a plan to achieve the vision. They do this by setting goals, determining the actions necessary to achieve those goals and then holding themselves and their people accountable for reaching the goals.
Leaders are able to hold people accountable because they measure performance. Resources are very limited to most small-business owners so every aspect of the business needs to be measured. Leaders measure financial performance, employee performance and marketing performance. They know that all of these aspects of daily business should and can be measured. They set internal goals and measure their business by comparing actual performance to their own goals as well as industry standards.
Adapt or die
In today’s rapidly changing environment, true small-business leaders understand the value of adaptation or die. Too many business managers today are focusing on “perfecting the obsolete model.” They have been busy cutting costs, working on efficiency and surviving in the here and now.
This is natural and understandable behavior. However, business leaders are focusing on the new markets, the new ways of doing business and the new demands of an ever-changing marketplace.
Business leaders not only focus on surviving today but also what the business needs to look like to survive tomorrow.
Business leaders are always listening – to their employees, customers, vendors and the market-place in general. This is how they are able to understand the changes that are facing their business and industry.
Business leaders don’t abdicate control. They may not do the actual bookkeeping, but they know where they stand and what the numbers mean.
They communicate this information with their lenders and investors if applicable.
And last, but not least, business leaders are good time managers. They have mastered the art of delegation, saying no and scheduling important and necessary items on their calendars.
Everyone has 24 hours in their day; business leaders know how to make the most of them.
Lynn Vos is area director of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.