Starting a New Business? Practice These 5 Leadership Skills

Apr 29, 2015 - Joe Matar
Becoming a business leader is exciting, but challenging. After all, there’s so much to consider, from managing disputes with employees to developing the right culture and leading a dynamic and motivated team. It isn’t a role for everyone, but the leadership skills you need to succeed can be learned and developed. That’s a relief for those who are chosen for leadership roles and reassuring for those who choose them in the first place. But when you’re heading up a new business — either your own, or one you’ve been tasked to run — it’s the fundamentals that have to be considered along with hard and soft leadership skills. How is the business actually going to be run? What are the parameters it should operate within? How will invoicing and customer service work? What are the long- and short-term goals? It’s not enough to have an idea – you need a fully fleshed-out business plan (or something really close) before any actual work begins. With this in mind, here’s the definitive list of things that anyone who has taken a leadership role within a new business should consider. (Click here to tweet this list.) Get them right and you’ll be well on your way to building and sustaining a strong reputation and reaching your company objectives.

1. Develop a company culture

As the leader, it might be your responsibility to hire the right staff for the job. Your choice of employees can make or break your reputation, so investing in them is an obvious step to take if you want to reduce staff turnover and maintain a motivated and confident workforce. The role of a leader commands respect, but this can only be earned by maintaining a consistent standard across the organization. A respected leader will take risks but is not afraid to admit if they make a mistake. They will develop a supportive culture and will be happy to arrange coaching for those members of staff who need it or request it. Coaching is a clever way for leaders to get staff members to think for themselves. It allows you to forge a closer working relationship by fostering open discussion about challenges your business faces. You don’t need to have any kind of specific coaching qualification to coach your employees. Sir John Whitmore’s book, Coaching for Performance, is a good place to start and covers the fundamentals of coaching. You could also network with other business leaders in your local area and create a support group to share ideas for creating a positive work culture.

2. Get your invoicing right

In order for the business to thrive, your books must be kept up to date. If you can’t manage this, because you lack the skills or simply don’t have the time, then enlist the additional support of a bookkeeper or accountant. A confident leader knows his strengths and weaknesses and will delegate work accordingly. A shocking 50 percent of businesses fail in the first year. Many of these failures occur due to incorrect management of accounts. At the very least, you should keep three sets of records: a cashbook, a sales invoice file and a purchase invoice file. This will prevent you from having to chase down late payments, or enlist the costly support of a debt collection agency. When it comes to money matters, never bury your head in the sand. Make sure the business you’re leading isn’t one of the many that fail in the first year. Get your invoicing right from the beginning.

3. Be flexible about the goals you set

Many leaders have a clear, but rigid idea of where they want to be in three, five and 10 years’ time. Although it’s good to have a clear vision of where you would like the company to be — and your role within it — it’s also good to be flexible. The business will evolve and change over time, depending on what the customers want and how the market changes. When you set goals, make sure you include short-term goals as well as long-term ones so that your team can celebrate successes together along the journey. Set achievable targets and don’t forget to reward hard-working staff as well. It’s great to have a vision, but make sure there is flexibility for the business to adjust according to customer need and market trends.

4. Invest in customer service

It’s hard for new businesses to attract customers, but the real battle is maintaining that customer base once you have attracted it. One way to do this is to think about how you and your staff communicate with customers.  Face-to-face communication is made up of three elements: body language, tone of voice and actual words used. The message portrayed is mainly understood through non-verbal communication means, rather than the actual words said. Remind staff to make eye contact with customers, face the customer and demonstrate active listening. Leaders should set the organization’s standards for consistent excellent customer service. A great strategy is to under-promise and over-deliver. If you say you can get an order out to a customer by Friday, make sure they have it by Wednesday. Or, when you ship an order, include a free sample of another product, or include a voucher. These little things matter and will keep your customers coming back time and time again.

5. Don’t neglect your marketing strategy

Leaders need to manage their time and resources to make sure their marketing strategy isn’t neglected. Even if you’ve got orders flooding out of your ears, or you’re booked up until the summer, you should still continue to market your business. Harnessing the power of social media, e-marketing campaigns and blogs is a cost-effective way of implementing marketing. B2B companies with blogs generate 67 percent more leads than those without blogs, so it’s worth connecting with your audience and sharing a weekly post. Keep current and potential customers warm with news about your products and industry, or post about developments in your own business. Just remember: always make it relevant to your reader. Running competitions on your social media account is another good way to maintain a buzz around your business and encourage followers to share your images among their own friends. Don’t forget that the most potent method of marketing is word of mouth, so getting your customers to like and share your posts is vital to aid your marketing strategy. Taking the role of a leader in a business will always pose challenges. As long as you anticipate these challenges and have a strong support team behind you, you are much more likely to succeed. Alex Sebuliba is a digital marketing executive at RocketMill, where he is passionate about anything to do with digital marketing. You can get in touch with Alex via Twitter: @AlexBradnum.