There’s no denying that your ability to be an effective leader can determine whether your small business swims or sinks. But when you’re operating outside tried-and-tested corporate structures, understanding the art of good leadership can be somewhat elusive.
Julia Keady is the CEO of XFactor Consulting, a small business specialising in marketing and philanthropy professional services. She believes that good leaders should be tenacious, positive and willing to embrace change. Here she offers four tips for leading your small business like a pro.
Fill your inspiration tank regularly
When you’re doing everything from managing your company’s cash flow to making smart hiring decisions, it’s difficult to invest in yourself. But Keady says that filling your ‘Inspiration Tank’ can seriously bolster your leadership skills.
“It might involve reading a book or following a blog and might only be ten minutes each week,” she tells ShortPress. “Secondly, put that inspiration into practice. Before you know it, your leadership skills will dramatically improve.”
To lead a small business effectively, you need to cultivate an environment that allows your staff to thrive.
Create clear systems and processes
To lead a small business effectively, you need to cultivate an environment that allows your staff to thrive. For Keady, creating strong processes and principles and committing to them can help your team do their best work. However, it’s pointless to invent systems without following through. “You need [to] motivate, train, inspire and encourage, and often that means practicing what you preach,” she says.
Prioritise your customer
The best leaders pull out every stop to understand their customer and give them what they want. Keady says that her local bakery operator is a classic example of the ways in which exemplary customer service can set your business apart.
“He takes the time to listen to customers, and he constantly surprises and delights,” she says. “He’s a reminder that small businesses should put the customer at the heart of the experience you are creating.”
The best leaders pull out every stop to understand their customer and give them what they want.
Draw clear boundaries
Although it’s tempting to take on every client, Keady believes that good leaders understand the power of saying “no”. “Drawing a line when it comes to the type of client you bring into your business can really test your leadership,” she says.
She also adds that establishing clear boundaries can prove that you’re willing to embody your values and send a strong message to your industry, existing clients and team. “I was able to do this for my own business recently because I had seen it modelled by a boss years ago.”
From creating strong processes to focusing on the customer, the best small business leaders have strong professional values and invest in their staff as well as themselves.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor who covers business, technology, arts and culture for publications in Australia and overseas.