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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on October 12, 2021

12 Ways to Hone Your Small Business Management Skills

Your small business management skills can determine your company’s success or failure.

Here are 12 ways to be a better manager:

  1. Pursue continuing education
  2. Ask workers and customers for input
  3. Develop goal-setting skills
  4. Practice smarter time management
  5. Review your business plan
  6. Document your policies and procedures
  7. Upgrade your technology
  8. Improve your bookkeeping procedures
  9. Adopt data-driven decision-making
  10. Become a better communicator
  11. Strengthen your marketing and sales knowledge
  12. Tap into your team’s talent

Keep reading to learn more about what small business management is, why it’s important to improve your managerial skill set and what you can do to become a better manager.

What Do We Mean by Small Business Management?

To develop a plan for sharpening your managerial skills, it can be helpful to consider what small business management is and what skill sets are involved.

A manager is a member of an organization who has responsibility for directing workers and projects to achieve the goals of a department or the company as a whole. In a small business, managerial duties may be handled directly by the owner, or they may be delegated to an employee with specialized skills in this area.

What skills does a good manager need? A Harvard course on professional development focuses on these essential management skills:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Negotiation

These skills complement each other by working together to serve departmental and company goals:

  • As a leader, a manager takes responsibility for choosing the goals a business or department will pursue.
  • The manager leads other team members in developing to develop a strategy to achieve these goals.
  • One of the most important strategic goals for any company is marketing, because this directly impacts revenue.
  • To guide other team members in pursuing strategic goals, a manager must be a good communicator and negotiator.

You can use this general framework to develop a checklist of skills you need to work on to be a better manager.

A small businesswoman with an “SMB” logo on her chest hoists her shop above her head.

Why Are Small Business Management Skills Important?

Knowing how to manage a business puts you and your company or department in a stronger position to succeed.

A manager with good leadership skills will have more success at harnessing a team’s resources towards achieving desired ends. A manager who is a good strategist can develop a more efficient plan for running a company’s internal operations and achieving marketing and sales goals. A manager skilled at communication and negotiation can persuade a team to work together to get things done.

On the other hand, a company or department lacking the leadership of a good manager will lack a clear sense of direction for team members to rally around. Without a strategic thinker at the helm, a team may pursue goals without a clear plan for achieving them. Without guidance from a manager with good communication and negotiation skills, teamwork may break down over misunderstandings and disagreements. This can cause a company to fall short of its marketing and sales goals.

To avoid this scenario and achieve success, you need skilled management. A skilled manager can mean the difference between a profitable company and a failed business.

How Can I Manage a Small Business? 12 Tips

Each of the skill set areas outlined above can be subdivided into many subcategories consisting of more specific skills.

Here are 12 of the most important small business tips to follow in order to succeed as a manager:

1. Pursue Continuing Education

Always be learning, they say.

There’s always room for improvement as a manager. For one thing, management science is constantly advancing, with new theories and techniques being developed. Additionally, technological developments provide managers with better tools to achieve their goals. You can keep up with the latest advances in the management field by committing to continuing education.

You can pursue continuing education on your own through resources such as websites, videos and books. You also can seek professional training through conventional courses, online learning or seminars. Consider whether a business loan to finance your education might be a good investment for your company’s future.

2. Ask Workers and Customers for Input

You can learn from your workers and customers as well as from formal education. Inviting workers to share suggestions or complaints can help you identify areas where management needs to improve. This can be done through means such as performance reviews, meetings and suggested boxes. With customers, you can elicit input through tools such as online surveys or analysis of customer service issues.

3. Develop Goal-Setting Skills

Knowing how to select and prioritize objectives is a key component of effective leadership and strategizing. This skill can be developed by getting in the habit of brainstorming a list of goals, ranking them in order of priority and using your list to develop an action plan. You can apply this to set goals for your own development as a manager as well as for the development of your business.

As a manager, you might set goals in any of the skill set areas outlined earlier. For instance, you might set a goal of improving your communication skills and then develop a plan for how you intend to pursue that objective.

For your company, you can set goals for business functions, departments, teams or team members. For example, you might set a revenue goal, a departmental expense-cutting goal, a sales team quota or a quota for an individual sales representative.

4. Practice Smarter Time Management

Knowing how to manage your time helps you achieve your goals. On the individual level, scheduling your own daily activity enables you to pursue your goals as a manager. For your business, scheduling tasks for team members empowers you to get projects done efficiently and on time.

You can improve your time management by budgeting your time the same way you would budget money. Tally up how many hours are available to you and your team, analyze how they’re being spent and consider whether they could be spent more productively.

Allocate time based on your priorities, and seek to minimize nonproductive activities. For instance, you can reduce time spent on email by setting aside a limited block of time to check email once or twice a day instead of throughout the day.

5. Review Your Business Plan

Your business plan is the heart of your company strategy. Reviewing and improving your business plan can help you improve the strategic side of your management. Many businesses create a plan during the start-up phase but rarely apply it as the company grows. Periodically reviewing your plan once a quarter or once a year can help you make sure that your business activity remains aligned with your goals.

If you aren’t sure how to write a small business plan, you can find many resources online to help you. For example, SCORE, a national network of volunteer business experts, can provide you with an experienced mentor as well as other means of assistance.

6. Document Your Policies and Procedures

Putting your business plan into effect is easier when there are documented references you and your team can consult. A common managerial mistake is relying on memory alone to guide workplace routines. This runs the risk of important information getting forgotten and misunderstood.

Create standardized references which you and your team members can consult when needed. These should be stored in a place where all relevant personnel can access them, such as an online portal. Incorporate your documentation into your training procedures. For instance, the onboarding process for new hires can include reviewing your procedural manual.

7. Upgrade Your Technology

The right technology can help you run your business more efficiently. If you notice any areas where you or your team are underperforming, or where your competition is outperforming you, consider whether a technology upgrade might help.

Technology updates can help you in areas such as:

  • Personal time management
  • Bookkeeping
  • Communications
  • Project management
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer service

Talk to your information technology (IT) team about where you or your company might benefit from technology upgrades.

An image of a stopwatch, paper and a calculator.

8. Improve Your Bookkeeping Procedures

Financial planning and tracking are critical for implementing your business plan. However, bookkeeping can be a tedious, time-consuming chore, and many business owners and managers don’t know how to do it efficiently. Improving your bookkeeping procedures can save you time and labor as well as putting your business on a firmer financial footing.

Steps you can take to improve your bookkeeping include:

  • Consulting a professional accountant
  • Keeping your personal and business accounts separate
  • Switching to a better accounting tool, such as a cloud-based app
  • Automating entry of financial data from other apps into your accounting app
  • Using smartphone technology to scan in expense reports

Talking to an experienced accountant familiar with the latest technology is the best place to start when overhauling your bookkeeping.

9. Adopt Data-Driven Decision-Making

Smart managers rely on solid information and numbers to make decisions, not just gut feelings, even though intuition can also play a valuable role.

Artificial intelligence has provided managers with powerful business intelligence tools that can help you make better decisions based on hard numbers. Also known as analytics software, these tools can help you identify historic trends in your company data or your market, extrapolate to future trends and adjust your current action in alignment with your goals.

Analytics tools are available for most business functions, including financial planning, project management, marketing, sales and customer service. Talk to your IT professional about where you might benefit from adopting business intelligence apps.

10. Become a Better Communicator

Strengthening your communication skills will improve your leadership, teamwork and ability to elicit agreement and cooperation.

You can use a number of methods to improve your communication skills, including:

  • Taking a business communications class
  • Reading books about business speaking and writing
  • Practicing public speaking
  • Learning how to make better use of communications technology

Review how you communicate with your team members and customers, and identify where you might benefit most from improvement.

11. Strengthen Your Marketing and Sales Knowledge

Marketing and sales are the drivers of revenue. The stronger your skills in these areas, the better your company will perform.

You can strengthen this area of your management skill set by taking steps such as:

  • Hiring a marketing consultant or agency
  • Researching the latest marketing trends
  • Taking a sales course
  • Studying your competition’s marketing and sales tactics
  • Adopting more efficient marketing and sales software
  • Using analytics tools to track and improve your marketing and sales performance

For best results, talk to a marketing or sales professional for advice in this area.

12. Tap Into Your Team’s Talent

Good managers harness the talent of their team members to achieve their goals.

Your team may have untapped skills that aren’t being put to their highest and best use. Do an audit of your team’s skill set to determine whether you have talent that could be put to better use. In some cases, grooming talent might call for an investment in skills training, which can be covered out of company profits or through a financing resource such as a business credit card.

Invest in Your Managerial Skills to Build Your Business

Sharpening your management skills can pay off in better teamwork, increased productivity and higher sales revenue. It’s worth your while to invest the time and resources needed to improve your managerial skill set.

If you need cash to invest in continuing education, technology upgrades or other moves that could improve your management capability, consider tapping into small business financing resources such as a short-term loan or business line of credit.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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