What skills are a must when you’re running a business? How do you become a leader that drives success and promotes an engaging and productive work culture?
You don’t necessarily need an MBA to make your business flourish. You do, however, need these business management skills.
1. Strategic Thinking
A leader takes charge by building a strategy to achieve business goals and help the company grow. Whether your plan is to improve the company’s bottom line or respond to a crisis, your decisions will impact the outcome.
Sound planning involves these elements:
- Analyzing internal and external drivers
- Developing an overarching goal
- Strategizing objectives to achieve the goal
- Implementing a plan to meet objectives
Communication is a core business skill. It’s crucial for leaders to cultivate open communication to accomplish the following:
- Set a level of expectancy with employees
- Streamline processes by making sure every team member is on the same page
- Build a foundation of trust
- Develop rapport with employees
- Offer insightful performance reviews with strategies for improvement
- Collaborate effectively with team members and other internal leaders
Bradley Stevens, business coach at LLC Formations, offers this advice about communication, which he says takes into account voice as well as presence: “Communication is the starting point of any business deal or team discussion,” he shares, “ … whether it is about dealing with potential clients, managing your team, sending business emails, extending networks or building public relations … ”
Being able to delegate is another important business skill. As a small business owner, you likely can’t do everything yourself. Even if you have the required skill set, finding the time to manage every aspect of your business can be a difficult undertaking.
A leader who can effectively delegate tasks can assign and reassign work between team members to meet deadlines and improve the company’s productivity.
Perry Zheng, CEO and founder of real estate syndication software company Cash Flow Portal, shares that many small business owners think taking on a task themselves takes less time than delegating. They often don’t feel they have the time to train people.
However, Zheng advises, “ … if a repetitive task that you can delegate takes you 5 hours a week, you will spend 2 to 3 hours training someone to do it (given that it is a qualified person) and another 30 minutes handing it over. Total: 3.5 hours spent to save 5 hours a week that you can dedicate to sales, strategy and growing your business.”
If you’re a leader who motivates and inspires, you can boost productivity and employee morale.
Tia Graham, founder of Arrive at Happy, offers this advice: “Demonstrate how much you believe in your employees. Tell your direct reports how much you see in them. In turn, they will pour their heart into their work.”
Graham goes on to say, “Give consistent, positive feedback and acknowledgment about work success. Your employees will realize you‘re noticing their efforts, and work harder and be more motivated.”
Graham also offers this advice to business leaders: “Be a cheerleader. Rally everyone from different teams or departments around the common vision or mission and company goals. This gets everyone moving in the same direction with energy and conviction.”
5. Inspirational Leadership
We live in an age where we seek mentorship, guidance and leaders who inspire through action.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective business management skills is to lead by example. By inspiring your colleagues through your actions and can-do attitude, you pave the way for them to follow in your footsteps. For example, tackling a problem with empathy and exercising patience to find a solution can inspire your employees to do the same when a situation arises.
Tia Graham shares the importance of being passionate about your work as well as being optimistic and positive, even in the face of challenges or an uncertain future. When leaders demonstrate these traits, they ultimately boost morale within the larger organization.
If you’re radiating positivity, optimism and a strong work ethic, you’re inspiring your workforce to adopt those traits as part of the company’s culture.
6. Relationship Building
As a leader, it’s your duty to nurture the growth of your employees and encourage their contribution to projects. Modern companies with agile business models benefit from a culture that’s built around collaboration.
Akin to communicating successfully with your team, collaboration on ideas, concepts and projects helps solidify a bond of trust between members of your business. The feeling of being incorporated into decision-making and sharing insights allows your employees to sculpt the company culture and assimilate your vision.
Jim Grundy, owner of Sisu Energy, LLC., offers this advice: “Regardless of whether you are in a Fortune 500 company and/or a sole proprietor … , the name of the game is relationships. You can have the greatest systems, infrastructure and processes in place, but without people-passion, it’s irrelevant.”
When it comes to building relationships, Grundy mentions the value of strengthening relationships with employees and thinking of them as a type of customer too.
7. Time Management
Time management ensures you get what you need to get done by a given deadline. It helps leaders prioritize projects and events and remain focused on the task at hand. When you’re able to manage time wisely, in business as well as in life, you’ll open yourself up for potential new growth opportunities too.
Aryn Chapman, Event Producer and Founder of Ax3 Studios, shares this: “Time, time management and time off are of [the] essence. Value your time and make sure people around you do too. Manage your days to stay productive – don’t let them manage you.”
“Burnout is real!” Chapman goes on to say. “Take time off and allow yourself days when you are entirely disconnected.”
8. Financial Savvy
Not only is it critical to be able to read and understand your financial reports, but it’s also important to be financially literate.
Mary Cochran, co-founder of Launching Labs Marketing, suggests: “Whether you pay your bills yourself or have staff do this, you need to know where your money comes from and where it goes.”
She warns, “Scammers test by putting small charges on cards, phone bills and others.”
Cochran goes on to say, “When looking at financial statements, look for irregularities. I especially like a profit and loss comparison – this year versus last year or quarter by quarter.
She also advises, “Review contracts when they come due and carefully negotiate for a win-win outcome.”
Similarly, Tyler Read, CEO of Personal Trainer Pioneer, says business owners need to have a clear view of the business’s financial state to survive and be profitable.
“Now, more than ever, it is crucial to maintain a sharp focus on costs, cash flow and take responsibility for every dollar spent.”
Read goes on to say, “Having financial acumen enables business owners to formulate their overall strategy and stay on top of essential details, like late-paying customers, suppliers who overcharge, overheads that cost too much and more.”
Samuel Sanders, entrepreneur and author of Your Next Big Idea, shares this: “Every good entrepreneur needs to be able to ‘triple listen.’”
Sanders says it’s important to first listen to what the market is saying.
Secondly, he says it’s crucial to listen to what your team is saying. Sanders emphasizes, “ … it is critical to hire a knowledgeable team you trust” and “ … essential to listen to their points … ” Evaluate their feedback and determine what insight you can use to better your organization.
Thirdly, Sanders notes the importance of listening to your instincts. “When looking at a problem, it can feel like there are no correct answers. In those situations, you will have to do the research you can and talk to experts. Ultimately, after you finish, you will need to trust your gut … ”
Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO Chargebacks 911, shares this: “One of the most important skills that business owners need is adaptability, especially considering the previous year.”
“There will always be unforeseen obstacles that you face throughout your career, and it’s important to remember that nothing is guaranteed. Your carefully laid plans can be disrupted in a second.”
Eaton-Cardone shares this business skill example: I learned this crucial lesson early on in my career when my ecommerce business was hit with countless unexplained chargebacks. Instead of closing shop and accepting the loss, I became a self-taught expert in chargeback management.”
This experience led Eaton-Cardone to found Chargebacks 911.
“‘You must be able to adapt to any curveball thrown your way without allowing it to negatively impact the rest of the business. Always be prepared to think on your feet and have a big enough vision that can react quickly to changing circumstances.”
Being adaptable is also an essential business skill when you’re trying to compete with other organizations in your industry. Companies stay in the game longer when they can change with the times and adjust to evolving customer needs and wants.
Along the same lines of adaptability is resilience. The ability to recover when things don’t go right and the capacity to persevere amid seemingly insurmountable challenges is a skill entrepreneurs would be smart to hone.
Jessica Postiglione, founder of supplements brand Bonny, has this to say on the topic: “A lot of things go wrong every day when starting a business. It will make you question if your idea is viable or worthwhile. Successful business owners are able to bounce back from setbacks and test new strategies to find the one that works quickly.”
According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the more workplace changes people experienced due to the pandemic, the greater their level of resilience.
Kevin Miller, co-founder and CEO of GR0, says, “An ethical leader must, above all, have integrity. In the business world and elsewhere, to have integrity means to match your actions to your values.”
Where does your moral compass fall? For many successful business owners, integrity forces that compass dial to point true north.
Olamide Olowe, CEO and co-founder of Topicals, offers this advice: “Be unapologetically you; don’t bend on your beliefs, and don’t let others tell you to feel any less about your objectives.”
“You have to be headstrong, almost to a fault, to succeed in this world,” says Olowe.
“Stay true to not only yourself but your brand. Keep a close watch on all facets of your company, and make sure they are always aligning with your brand’s ideals.”
13. Skills Development
Athena Oanessian, founder of You Squared, shares this advice: “The most fundamental skills every entrepreneur needs is consistent learning. This is without a doubt one of the key skills that separate decent entrepreneurs from outstanding ones.”
“Consistent learning and growing should ideally be something an entrepreneur loves … When you love learning, you’ll always push through the hard times and use that time to grow, learn and implement even more.”
Entrepreneurs can also develop their skills with the help of a mentor, which can be found through networking with like-minded leaders. Take advantage of small business organizations, such as SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center, which offer free 1-on-1 mentorship opportunities.
Using These Business Management Skills to Become a Great Leader
To develop as a strong leader, you’ll need to evaluate your company’s strengths and weaknesses regularly.
Fortunately, management skills can be learned.
Now that you’ve read our list of business skills every leader should have, how will you start learning the management and small business owner skills you need to succeed?