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Small Business Leadership Styles: How to keep Entrepreneurial Leadership alive

During start-up phase the business is very much the brainchild of the founder. The founder breathes life into it. It’s their baby. If you are the founder one of the hardest things you’re going to have to learn during the next phase of business growth is to shift the way you relate to the business. The type of relationship you have with your business is encapsulated in your leadership style.

Typically at start-up there is one person who is the entrepreneurial leader in the business. There may be other business partners working on aspects such as operations but there will be one person carrying the mantle for creating forward momentum in the business. This person typically takes on the Managing Director or Sales Director role. Is that you in your business? That person keeps the flame alive and takes on the challenges of growth. They are perceived as the risk taker and creative thinker.

Entrepreneurial leadership is a critical element in the success of the business. From our practical experience consulting to SME businesses in Australia, we have consistently seen that small businesses will stagnate or fail to achieve growth goals when the level of entrepreneurial leadership fades. This happens in a number of ways.

1. Leadership fatigue

After years of pushing the leader gets tired of the constant pressure

2. Leadership dilution

One entrepreneurial leader in a team of 3 people can have an enormous impact. Expand that team to 10 or 15 and that impact is diluted.

3. Increasing challenges

As the business expands so does the number of challenges it faces. It becomes too much for one person to be across all the issues and provide the entrepreneurial drive toward improvement. Furthermore by trying to deal with it yourself you slow down the rate of progress in the business.

For a small business to continue to grow and thrive the entrepreneurial leader must hand the leadership baton onto others in the business. The more people engaged in driving the business forward, the higher the level of entrepreneurial energy and the better the result. The quickest route to achieving this outcome is to build more effective internal communication.

Internal Communication

1. Discuss business goals and how they will be achieved

One of the simplest activities you can do to profoundly impact the growth of your business is to start weekly meetings to discuss business goals and how they will be achieved. It only needs to be a short meeting. Perhaps first thing on a Monday morning to get everyone’s minds on the job of growing the business.

In these short sessions (say 20 minutes in length) share with the team the history of the business, why you started  and the vision and goals for the business. Share some data on how the business is tracking toward those goals. Then ask the team questions about how to get there. Some examples of potential questions are:

  • Why do you think our clients buy from us?
  • What do we do that is really valuable and helpful to our clients?
  • What type of clients do you enjoy serving the most? Why?
  • What additional products / services could we provide that would be helpful to our clients?
  • What is it about the way we do business here that helps or hinders your ability to be productive?
  • How can we make this business a more fulfilling place to work?
  • To what extent do you think we operate as a team and support each other to do our jobs well? What do we need to do to improve?

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