7 Time-Tested Small Business Management Tips
As a small business owner, making the transition from “good entrepreneur” to “good boss” is essential to the growth and success of your company. That’s not always an easy switch to make, however, especially when you’re used to looking after yourself and doing things your own way.
As anyone who has hired employees for the first time can tell you, supervising them isn’t always as easy as it looks on the outside. No matter how hard you try to be a great boss, they’re going to be issues that confuse and confound you.
The best way to deal with these conundrums, and to keep things running smoothly day-to-day, is to follow a set of time-tested small business management principles. Here are seven you can put to use immediately:
#1: Make Sure Your Employees Have Clear Expectations
A lot of so-called employee “problems” are really just miscommunications. For example, if you think employees should be ready to work from the minute they punch in, but instead they spend 10 minutes drinking coffee and getting acclimated, it’s possible they don’t know that their behavior isn’t matching your expectations. As much as you can, express issues out in the open and let your employees know what it is you expect from them at all times.
#2: Understand First, Get Upset Second
It’s easy to become upset with an employee when they haven’t done something you’ve expected them to do (or vice versa), but don’t get angry until you have them explain their side of things. While excuses aren’t going to help, it’s entirely possible that what you said, and what they heard as a result, aren’t completely in sync. Most management challenges are really opportunities – but only if you can approach them with a calm, patient frame of mind.
#3: Don’t be Afraid to Pitch in
Employees at any level love a manager who is willing to “lead from the front.” You don’t have to get into the trenches every day, but when you’re willing to do the dirty work right alongside your employees, they have more respect for you and your position. Plus, getting involved with day-to-day tasks shows that you know what their jobs are like, and understand the challenges they face on a regular basis.
#4: Review Performance Regularly and Formally
If you have a small company, with just a few employees, it might not seem like regular performance reviews are all that important. Make sure you schedule them anyway, and keep written records. For one thing, they’ll help your team members know how you assess their performance, and if there are any improvements that need to be made in the future. For another thing, they’ll give you a paper trail in the event you ever have to let an employee go and are worried about the legal consequences (which you should be).
#5: Make Training and Development Big Priorities
It can be hard to invest money on employee training when there are so many other things your business needs, but putting time and money into your team members helps you grow in two ways. First, it makes them more skilled and productive, which almost always translates into cost savings for you and your business. Second, it shows your workers that you believe in them, and think they’re worth investing in. In that way, ongoing training and development can be important for employee retention.
#6: Be Friendly, But Not Always a Friend
One issue that a lot of managers struggle with is the desire to be friendly with their staff, but not necessarily good friends with them. Some business owners can get away with being close with team members and treating them like family; for others, there needs to be a fine line if they want to enjoy the respect they deserve. Find the relationship and management style that’s right for you, and then be aware that the closer you are to your staff, the harder it may be to discipline them later.
#7: Remember That Feedback Goes Both Ways
Although a lot of business owners think of management as something that’s done to employees, the reality is that the door swings both ways. Be open to their feedback and suggestions – they may know things about your business and customers that you don’t, and can assess your performance as a manager from an outside perspective. Spend as much time listening as you do leading, and you may learn some things that help you grow your business in the future.
Experience is always the best teacher, and that’s particularly true when it comes to supervising employees. So remember these principles, do your best, and then stay calm as you guide your team forward. Every day you spend as a manager will make you better at the job, and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to motivate your employees and get the most from their efforts.
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