Many business owners excel at the core activities of their company but can struggle with the supporting functions that come with it. It’s certainly true to say that not every business owner is a natural leader and manager of people, and nor would they consider themselves to be. However, this is something that must be learned, at least until the business is large enough to hire someone who is if the SME is to be a success.
So what are the realities of people management for business owners? We spoke to Vasco de Castro, the co-founder and business development director to find out what he has learned about people management during his time at the helm of the new international workplace fruit provider Fruitful Office.
1. Make your team the focus of the business
It’s the business owner who has grown the company from the ground up, so it can be difficult to let go. However, once you start taking on staff, it’s important to step back and play a supporting role. The tendency is to think the business is all about you, but it’s the people who work for you that play a key part in creating the business’s culture.
Making time for your team on a personal and professional level and listening to any problems or issues they may have is central to the perceptions they form about the business. It’s also important to acknowledge that in their specialist areas, employees may well be more knowledgeable than you. Asking for their input and acting on the insights they provide will help them become a valued part of the business.
2. Let them shine
The reason you’ve hired the workers you have is hope that they have the specialist skills you lack, so it’s essential you give them the support and space they need to put those skills to good use. The tendency to micromanage is something business owners should resist at all costs. Understandably, you will be protective of your business, but once you’ve provided clear direction and made your expectations clear, it’s time to step back and let them shine.
As Vasco de Castro explains: “In my view, it is the role of the leader to provide the vision for the business and communicate it clearly to employees. It’s then down to the employees to make it happen.”
3. Remember the bad bosses you’ve had in the past
When you’re finally in the position to be in charge, remember all those horrible bosses you’ve had along the way and make sure you don’t become them. There are a number of small and simple steps you can take to make your business somewhere your employees actually want to work.
Recognising their achievements, giving them the freedom to make their own decisions, trusting them and actually getting to know them on a personal level all help. However, simply allowing yourself to relax and enjoy what working life has to throw at you has an important part to play in creating a loyal and energized team.
What do you think is the key to successful people management in an SME? Do you agree with Vasco de Castro? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.