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By Chris McQueen
It is a privilege to work with entrepreneurs who own small businesses. I am consistently amazed by the determination, positive attitude, respect of failure, admiration of success and tolerance of the pain that owning a business can cause them. If you are not an owner, multiply the joy, admiration, pain and heartache you think is possible by five and you are likely close to their daily portion of these emotions.
As an employee, trusted advisor or vendor, it is your responsibility to think about how you can complement the owner of your small business to help them grow and succeed in the endeavor they started. Along the way, you will also find your own success in building something meaningful.
Here are six traits commonly observed in small business owners, along with how you can specifically support them with each one.
Entrepreneurs know they need a mission to follow — a short summary of the business’s purpose and focus. While the owner may not have a strong mission in the early years of the business, outside of generating income for their family, with growth and success the need for a strong mission or purpose becomes greater. Once in place, any action that is not in line with the mission should be questioned appropriately to ensure the business is moving closer to the intended purpose. The growth, success or failures of other businesses should have no meaning to the owner at this point; only that the mission of their business is being fulfilled.
As a supporter of the business, you should strive to keep the mission front and center as a reminder about why you complete the work you do. Following this tenet will help your team function together and know that what you are doing is meaningful. Assure success of the mission in your portion of the company and remind others to perform admirably in this pursuit.
Business is full of challenges — weekly, daily and sometimes minute-by-minute. Owners find a way to approach each challenge, looking for solutions that may not be readily apparent. They very often do this without fail, even when they are out of energy for other tasks outside of the business. They continue to perform in the business, doing whatever it takes for however long it takes for the business to succeed.
You can show your support by creating solutions to problems prior to approaching them for advice. Take a moment to think about the last problem you presented to the owner of a company. Did the problem also come with two potential solutions? If the answer is no, look for ways to solve issues when approaching an owner. They will be grateful and, in return, will have more energy they can provide to your growth and development.
Along with being a challenge, small business is meant to be fun for the owner and for those who choose to participate with them, whether this is in the form of professional accomplishments or personal goals. A professional accomplishment is something you would see on the business plan and can support by following through with your accountabilities. Think of the business as an evolving puzzle that the owner is working to solve. Many owners find extreme satisfaction in the business operating well. Understand how you can help and perform to the best of your abilities. A personal goal could be, and most often is, to spend more time with their family. Often this results in visits from children to the shop or office, early days leaving the office only to pick up work again after dinner, or a late start to spend more quality time at home.
Be understanding when the owner navigates life around work, as they’ll likely pay back that time tenfold after they spend it with their family.
Perfect execution of tasks is desired, but done and satisfactory will often do. Many of the practical tasks performed in the beginning of the business were easy to understand and execute by the owner, which led to success. As a support to the business, your efforts may not match the level of expectation that the owner has. Look for opportunities to improve your performance on individual tasks, reaching for perfection in your performance and improvement over time.
Work to execute your craft well. This task is not complete until your execution in estimating, sales, operations or administration exceeds the abilities of the owner. As a result, there will be a satisfaction from the owner and continued investment in your future as you reach this goal.
Strong, positive owner management of a business should result in employees, vendors and friendly competitors moving on from their working careers with the company through advancement or retirement. Many people work because they enjoy the activity and will do so until it is no longer an option. Some people find opportunities that they believe are good for them or their family. And some people tied to the business find that they are replaced by a different provider or employee.
Set personal goals for each new year that go along with the company’s business plan. Make sure that your position is growing at the same pace as the business and if there is no other growth for your position, look for the next challenge within the company. Eventually the company will help you achieve your personal goals. Move forward toward your goals and have a conversation with the owner once you achieve them to determine the next steps in your career.
The success of a business may hinge on this last trait — gratitude. Small businesses require a significant number of moving pieces. It is simply not possible for one person to run a company on their own. The only option is to take care of those who work with you and be sure to express your gratitude.
This trait can be lost sometimes, so make sure to practice this with those around you. Setting an example for others, specifically the owner, can serve as a reminder that sometimes a thank you is all you really need. Help make your company a place you enjoy by practicing this daily.
In conclusion, running a small business is a personal extension of the owner. The daily experience that they have affects both their work and home life. While these six traits are not an exhaustive list, they are a good start for you as an employee, trusted advisor or vendor to use to compliment the skills the owner of your company has developed. As a support to the owner, you will find success by building something meaningful in your own work life.
Chris McQueen is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is a veteran of the restoration industry, having worked as an independent claims adjuster, estimate reviewer and district manager for the world’s largest independent claims management company. Through Violand, McQueen works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit Violand.com or call (800) 360-3513.