There’s nothing like running a small business. You have limited resources, keeping costs down is crucial, and attracting and retaining the best talent is everything. Small business management is both a science and art. However, just because you’re the small business manager doesn’t mean you need to recreate the wheel. Many small businesses owners have seen success simply by following some best practices. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top small business management tips.
1. Create Unity and Focus
A unified vision and messaging along with a cohesive workforce is vital. Many entrepreneurs are visionaries, but they’re also easily distracted: it’s called shiny object syndrome and it’s the single most common reason most startups fail. Remaining focused on a single vision for your company is the only way to survive.
This means adhering to a set of goals that your workforce can get on board with. Although your goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics will shift in response to market forces (such as competition, developments in technology, and changes in the supply chain), you should only make dramatic changes to direction with the utmost care and sound strategic reasoning.
In addition, consistent branding matters. It creates a sense of safety for consumers and instills loyalty and trust. As a small business, you will grow — and your overall branding and messaging needs to grow with you. One of the most important small business management tips is to let your brand evolve without recreating your image more than once a year. Everyone from your customers to your workforce needs to be able to rely on a unified look and message to rally behind.
2. Be Flexible
One of the business management tips many business owners struggle with is to implement strategic flexibility. It takes a great deal of practice, patience, and business acuity to know when you should stay on the same course and when it’s better to shift direction. You also need to be willing to ask hard questions.
Changing direction, redesigning your website, updating your logo, or shifting your company’s focus away from a product line or pricing strategy — these can all seem like great ideas in the moment, but they could end up dooming your business.
Experienced business professionals assess each change against three core questions:
- Am I doing this because it’s trendy? If you don’t have a good reason for the change, you’re probably following a trend.
- Do the benefits of the change drastically outweigh the pros of staying on course? Is this change something you want to implement because it seems like a good idea or because it’s measurably better than all other options?
- Who am I doing this for? Are you bringing this change to the table because your current target market will significantly benefit?
3. Develop an Insatiable Hunger for Learning
Everyone has room to improve. A common saying in the academic world is, “If you’re not learning and growing, you’re dying.” Even experts and gurus have more to learn. Tim Ferris, the author of the 4-hour workweek, often talks about how arrogant he was when he wrote his bestseller and how the advice he gives now has improved.
Learning looks different to everyone. Some people enjoy online courses from experts they admire. Others prefer to take the academic route, studying for an MBA or professional certificate. Some people respond well to coaches, whereas others enjoy conferences and association memberships — not least for the networking opportunities. Some people read books, journals, and trade magazines voraciously to keep up with the latest news.
We recommend using a combination of all these types of learning models because repetition is one of the best ways to ensure you absorb the information. Whatever you choose, make it part of your daily routine.
4. Make a Plan
Managers often treat business planning like a high school term paper — something you put off for as long as possible, until right before the deadline. The problem is that in business, there’s no hard deadline for a business plan. Plus, if your small business fails, there are no second chances. In fact, the majority of small businesses that fail never had a business plan. Remember the old adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? It’s time to do some planning.
There’s no need for your business plan to be long, nor does it need to be complex. Furthermore, your business plan doesn’t need to detail every single move you’ll make from this day forward. Business plans are guides: they’re living documents that evolve with companies. As well as setting out your goals, they detail how you will reach those goals.
5. Find a Mentor
Before you skip this point and move onto the other small business management tips, know that finding a mentor doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, if you find the right mentor, it won’t involve hardly any financial investment. There are plenty of experienced business managers who are willing offer their best advice for no more the price of a cup of coffee once a week (or once a month). Some places to search for mentors include:
- SCORE is a free mentorship program offered through the small business administration. You can find experienced professionals no matter where you are.
- Your local Rotary and Chamber of Commerce will have mentorship opportunities if you ask.
- Many associations offer mentorship to specific groups. For example, there’s the Association of Women’s Business Centers, the Minority Business Development Agency, and Office of Veterans Business Development.
- Most coworking spaces either have onsite business networking events or are connected with mentorship programs.
Since there are so many places to find mentors, make sure you take the time to find someone who is the right fit for you.
6. Know When to Take a Step Back
Delegation is an art form: it’s an exercise in letting go. For many small business owners, it feel seem like giving up. In fact, delegation is a well-known way to get more done, grow your business, and give the illusion that you are a super-human.
If you’re having a hard time keeping up, you lack a work–life balance, or you’re taking on tasks you aren’t qualified to do, it’s time to delegate. There’s likely someone on your team can help you — but if there’s not, check out the next tip.
Remember that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of great leadership. Make a list of all your tasks and highlight those that don’t require your expertise. These are the tasks you should delegate.
Outsourcing is the future. It’s a way to keep overhead costs low because you don’t need to pay for onsite offices or lengthy onboarding. Outsourcing keeps you focused on the tasks that require your expertise and allows you to delegate everything else. Plus, outsourcing allows you to find the best talent across the entire globe.
You can outsource just about anything. It’s possible to outsource most of tech, marketing, sales, bookkeeping tasks. Plus, you can find a virtual assistant for admin work like creating reports, team communications, database management, scheduling, and much more.
In fact, a great move is to start with a virtual assistant to take the time-consuming tasks off your plate. Next, check if your team members are being weighed down by additional tasks that fall outside their job descriptions. Help them out by outsourcing that work, leaving them free to apply their skills where they’re most needed. Finally, if you need to fill a new need, consider outsourcing instead of hiring. You’ll save on overhead, payroll, and headaches.
8. Learn to Hire, Fire, and Manage a Team
Some of the most tedious tasks for managers are also the most important for your company — and our list of small business management tips would be incomplete if we failed to mention them. Hiring the right people, helping the wrong people move on, and handling people-management tasks like coaching, mentoring, training, and recognition are all crucial. If everything you know about managing people comes from what you think managers are supposed to do, it’s time to get some real training.
- Stop relying on books, articles, and social media memes. Attend some small business management conferences and participate in the skill-building breakout sessions. Show up in person to role play, ask questions, and actively gain experience.
- Be relentless about the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule. Recognize the 20 percent of your team members who are doing the bulk of the work and put the other 80 percent on track to evolve, grow, and improve — or be left behind.
- If you have superiors, ask them for feedback. In particular, always make a point to receive a yearly review. This will show you where areas for improvement lie.
9. Schedule Time for Yourself
Having constant meetings can be a frustrating drain on your time. One of the best ways to be more productive is to schedule time for yourself. That means occasionally closing your door, saying no to meetings, and doing whatever is necessary to protect that time for yourself. Being able to set aside time to focus, finish pressing tasks, and do some deep thinking about looming challenges is vital. This type of time management will help ensure you don’t get caught up in the day-to-day business as usual.
10. Develop Productivity As a Skill
With so much to stay on top of, productivity isn’t something great managers leave to chance. Productivity is a skill that you must develop. To help you out, we have a few small business management tips for productivity, all backed by science.
- Set aside time to finish work. It’s easy for managers (particularly middle managers) to end up spending more time in meetings than completing urgent tasks.
- Use the Pomodoro technique. Taking short breaks is for more than just clearing your head: breaks are great for your overall health and wellbeing. Work to a rhythm, setting timers to remind you to disengage at regular intervals.
- Ban multitasking for yourself and your team. Multitasking is an outdated idea from the 80s. Remember, the 80s was also a time of big hair, perms, blue eyeshadow, and shoulder pads. If you’re going to hold onto anything from the 80s, make it 80’s music, not bad work advice.
- Leave 20 percent of your workday open and unplanned. Something will always come up. There will be fires to put out, lengthy meetings to attend, and people who need you. Leaving 20 percent of your day open means thinking ahead and planning for the unexpected.
- Bio-hack your day. Your chronotype determines your genetic tendency to stay focused during certain times of the day. This science goes beyond someone simply being a morning or night person. Pay attention to when you’re naturally more alert and when you tend to feel sleepy. This will help you schedule when to work on different types of tasks, according to when your brain and body will be most productive.
Every business has its ups and downs, challenges and strengths. Your job as a small business manager is to overcome obstacles and always push for the best possible solutions, while moving your company toward meeting its goals. However, there’s no need to feel like the success of your company rests on your shoulders alone. In fact, it’s important to take a step back sometimes and allow others to do some of the heavy lifting.
In fact, the most important point on this list of small business management tips is to delegate to a virtual assistant. With a VA, you can hand off any tasks that you’re too busy to do yourself, freeing you up for core business activities. Schedule a consultation and you’ll receive 10 percent off the virtual assistant services from MYVA360 when you sign up.