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Small Business Digest


Seven Deadly Sins of Small Business Leaders

Each small business leader has his or her own way of building their enterprise.

What Karen Schenck has uncovered are the most common “sins” of small business leaders.

They are:

Sin: Leadership: Not realizing how important leadership is, and not developing the skills of an effective leader (i.e. lack of awareness of style and the need for emotional control, not building and coaching other leaders of the org, not realizing the importance of a shared inspiring vision and business plan).

Solution: Recognize that leadership matters and that success is tied to how you lead. Develop the skills, learn, partner with a great executive coach, gather feedback, identify areas for growth and actively pursue improvement.

Sin: Hiring: Not putting rigor to the process so the best people are hired, oriented, trained/developed, coached and empowered. Results of the org are limited by marginal hires that are not coached and developed. 

Solution: Results flourish with terrific, well planned and executed hires whose growth is nourished so they can thrive.

  • Outline Job Descriptions clearly, identify key competencies of proficiency in the role (both technical and behavioral competencies), interview people with open-ended questions about their real experience that tie to the identified competencies, select the best candidates and welcome them with a well-planned orientation.

Sin: Financials: Not having strategic insight into the business from a financial point of view, where profitability comes from, what the key drivers of revenue and costs are, and how to estimate work so it is profitable

Solution: Seek professional council if your business is too small to hire someone with financial acumen.  Hire strategically if your business is large enough to support the role.

Sin: Sales and Marketing: Being so focused on doing the work to the neglect of getting the work (such as being very busy the next 2 months and then having a drought the 3 months after that ...)

Solution: Also, pushing what the organization wants to sell instead of truly understanding customers and developing/selling what customers really want and need.  A riskier but potentially rewarding option is the road Apple has taken - becoming very adept developing and driving desire for something truly unique that meets a desire they may not be aware of.  Most do not do this well ...

Sin: Structure: Not realizing that org structure matters and in a growing org, it needs to be adjusted with strategic intent

Solution: Think about managerial/leadership and support roles that can help your business grow and help to enhance the skills and abilities of the team.  Consider where the organization is headed along with what is and is not working currently.

Seek input from internal and external leaders, mentors and/or coach for experienced guidance.

Sin: Team Engagement: Overlooking the importance of listening to, including, coaching, empowering, and leveraging the talent on the team.  The degree of rapport among a leader and the team, and between team members can make or break employee satisfaction, retention, customer satisfaction, etc.

Solution: Get to know team members as people; demonstrate care about them as individuals. Set up consistent meeting times with individuals and the team as a whole; make these a priority.  Clarify expectations, help them to succeed with training and coaching, know what is important to them and their work, and remove barriers.  Acknowledge and provide recognition for a job well done.

Provide consistent communication methods, such as a weekly operational update, a monthly update on leadership/strategic matters, and holding quarterly "all-hands" meetings.

Sin: Processes: Not recognizing that while lack of clearly outlined processes might be fine in the early going, as the business grows, attention and intentional actions to collaboratively create and communicate effective process is critical to efficiency and effectiveness

Solution: With team input, identify the most critical areas that require more defined processes.  Outline or flowchart how the process is happening now (there may be a variety of ways!), and collaboratively identify how the process should look and work.  Document the process, communicate it to all, train those who will use it.  Review how it is working, revise as needed. Repeat regularly.

 Karen Schenck is a partner at LEI Consulting and co-author of the Ascending Leaders.

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