Mills: Entrepreneurs also need leadership skills

Embarking on a career as an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, being successful as a business owner is often more complex than people realize.

Embarking on a career as an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, being successful as a business owner is often more complex than people realize.

In addition to having a “great idea” for a business, an entrepreneur needs to know about how to produce or provide something people will spend their money on.

In some cases, businesses are started by someone who has some unique talent or skill that is considered marketable or they may be experts in a particular field.

Let’s assume a brand new business is created around the specialized skills or knowledge of one individual (the business owner).

Often, this individual also needs to be all things and fulfill all roles in that business during the start-up phase.

That means they need at least a little bit of knowledge about a lot of specialized functions—like finances, the physical resources, the marketing and all the sales.

It’s a huge challenge, but when businesses are small, that is the reality that owners face.

Entrepreneurs aiming to grow their businesses may eventually hire people with some expertise in these functional areas so that they can off-load some of the work and refocus on other parts of the business where they excel.

Obviously each entrepreneur has a unique blend of strengths, talents and passions that will feed their business venture.

What they all have in common though, once employees are hired, is the added responsibility of managing people.

Applying oneself seriously to that leadership role can create a real competitive edge for the business.

In the workshops I have delivered to entrepreneurs on the basic elements of human resource management, new, inexperienced business owners have consistently expressed one main concern—how to fire someone.

I don’t teach people how to fire employees. What I do offer instead is a thorough framework for hiring well in the first place and tools to support the process.

Using this approach with due diligence can minimize the need to replace someone who isn’t working out.

If one doesn’t learn how to attract and keep good employees, then the business will be in a constant state of hiring and firing. We all know that is a costly pattern to maintain.

Having a process and the right tools in place is just one piece; they need to be backed up by good leadership skills.

For long-term success, business owners need to also understand the basics of how to motivate and develop people so that they can keep good employees once they find them. How does one build a business where talented people want to work? Part of the answer is linked to another question I encourage every business owner to ask him/herself—“Why would someone want to work for you?”

For entrepreneurs who are new to managing people, my recommendation is to pause before hiring anyone and learn about best practices in HR management.  Include an honest assessment of one’s own personal leadership style—both its strengths and its potential flaws—and work towards constant improvement.

Laurie Mills is a certified coach and human resource professional. Her company is Lighthouse Professional Development Consulting Services.  The subject matter in this column is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional advice.



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