Collins dictionary describes management skills as, "skills regarding the technique, practice, or science of managing a company, business, etc". But what management skills do you need to run a small business? And do all small business owners have them?
If I'm honest, questioning whether I had the right management skills wasn't something that occurred to me when I set up my business. While it wouldn't have stopped me, it is definitely something I wish I'd given a bit more thought to in the early days before my business started to expand.
As a business owner, there are so many plates to spin at once that you really do need to be able to do a bit of everything to make your business a success. While you're small, you get to spin those plates pretty much on your own; as you get bigger, it's important to have people you trust to help you spin them. And that's really when I found myself lacking in some areas.
There are so many skills that I think business owners need, but if I had to narrow the list down, I'd choose these ten management skills as a starting point...
1. Time management
So little time and so much to get done. Whether you're an old fashioned list writer or rely on apps, making sure your diary is in order is vital to the smooth running of a small business. As we all know, learning how to prioritize and meet deadlines can be the difference between delivering a successful project and angering a new client. I wrote about my favorite time management tips in this blog post
2. Marketing skills
All the good work you do could be for nothing if no one knows about it. We all know how competitive and crowded the small business world is. But you can stand out from the crowd through good marketing - whether that's through traditional routes, social media or even going guerrilla.
3. Conflict management
Ideally, you'll never have to use these skills but the reality is you probably will. I have, and knowing how to handle a dispute was vital to finding a solution everyone was willing to accept. Whether it's internal conflict between employees or dealing with an unhappy client, knowing the psychology of conflict management has helped me more times than I care to remember.
Ugh, admin. It's no-one's favorite job. But, if you can manage this aspect of your business a lot of the other pieces fall into place. Good admin skills have helped me keep track of everything from time off to payrolls.
5. Decision making
If you're running your own small business the buck stops with you. And this is when decision making skills come into their own. It's not just about making a decision, but making the right one, under pressure and selling that decision to your staff and other parties like banks and funders. No pressure!
6. Future planning
Where should my company be within 5 years? What should my targets be? Every business is different, with unique journeys and goals. But the key is to know what yours are and not to be afraid to change them if you need to.
7. Finance skills
As a small business owner, I always suggest employing an accountant. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't know how to run basic finances in your company. Finance skills mean you can discuss knowledgably with your accountant the issues at hand. They also allow you to manage day-to-day basics like cash flow, payroll and petty cash.
Even if you've managed to become an expert in all the above skills, the reality is that you simply can't do it all. I know from experience! So delegation skills might be the most important one of all. It's not just about giving people work, but giving the right work to the right people at the right time. You have to be able to trust your staff and, likewise, they should trust that you aren't giving them work they can't handle.
As a business owner, of course you're motivated to do whatever it takes to make your business succeed: work long hours, miss family occasions, make hard decisions. But when you start to grow your company, it's important to remember that your new employees may not share quite the same ambition for your company that you do.
That's why motivation is so important - giving them a reason to want your business to succeed other than their monthly pay check. There are many ways we can do this: clear communication, aspirational leadership, autonomy, small rewards, flexible working, a simple thank you; the list is endless but I think it's about working out what really makes your people tick and how you can tap into that.
10. Effective communication
Whether it's internal communication to your employees, creating relationships with new suppliers or chatting with your customers, effective communication is so important. As humans, you'd think it was something we'd be quite good at - after all, we communicate all the time, right?
But I think it's easy to underestimate just how crippling ineffective or unclear communication can be for our businesses. As well as creating unnecessary confusion and frustration, it can even lead a loss of business and staff. If you need some help in this area, I found these tips for stepping up communication in your business useful.
I've undoubtedly missed out some of the management skills business owners need - are there any you think should feature on the list?