Managing effectively for small business success

Where financial clout and resources are concerned, small and medium-sized  businesses (SMBs) have a tough time competing with their larger rivals. In order  to claim a share of the market, they need to be innovative, agile, and dynamic,  and be able to capitalise on every business opportunity. SMB leaders need to attract skilled and dedicated workers, who are willing to give their all on a  day-by-day basis. And those in charge of running the company need to be highly organised, and able to run operations with maximum levels of  efficiency.

Very often, entrepreneurs are ideas-people, those who have  the ability to transform a vision into reality. They may come from a creative background, or have high skill levels in a particular area. But in many cases,  they will not have a corporate background, and will perhaps not be used to  managing a workforce, let alone an entire company. But if the business is to thrive, effective leadership and management is essential.

Employees need to be equipped, engaged and motivated to deliver on the front line, and growth strategies need to be innovative, insightful and ready to implement. Each company leader may choose to develop their own particular style and approach, but there are certain best practice guidelines SMB leaders should consider taking on board. Employees expect businesses to be organised, professional and well-structured,  and will let their employer know if standards fall short -
typically by being less productive or walking out to find a new job.

Putting a management strategy in place
According to Business Link, one of the most important tasks for business managers is the communication of a clear mission and strategy to employees. If workers understand their role within the company - and how it contributes to overall goals - they are more likely to 'buy in' to organisational aims. Ideally, they will feel as if the job they are doing is worthwhile, and SMB managers can help by reinforcing the importance of their role.

Business Link urges managers to set demanding but realistic targets for individual workers and teams - goals which motivate employees to work hard but do not demoralise them. SMB bosses can assist this process by leading by example - if they are seen to work hard themselves, employees are more likely to emulate this level of performance. An open and communicative management style can also help, Business Link stated, as regular feedback helps shape an employee's experience in the workplace.

But fundamentally, effective business management is about clear and careful strategic planning. Business leaders need to ensure sufficient resources - human, financial or technological- are allocated to each individual process or functions. Achieving a balancing act is never simple given the various competing interests, but this is what business leaders must strive for. Should they fail, the end result for the business is likely to be reduced output and underachievement.

How to manage a company more effectively
SMB leaders need a range of skills to manage the various different functions of their business. They need to be able to dedicate sufficient time to managing the workforce, as well as finances, sales, product development and administrative tasks. If they want their company's activities to reflect their original ideals and goals, there can be little room for compromise in this respect.

But with various pressures competing for their time, SMB leaders need to claw back as much time from menial tasks as they possibly can. While the company owners need to lead by example - and this often means mucking in with workers on the ground - they need to dedicate a significant proportion of each day to overseeing operations. Hiring skilled, dedicated staff can help alleviate the pressure, but so can the use of modern technology solutions.

Integrated software and other technology solutions can help provide SMB leaders with the insight they need to manage each area of the business effectively. The ability to switch between individual functions and processes, using data and knowledge from one area to gain insight in another is a major bonus for SMBs. By investing in IT, managers can avoid duplication of tasks, freeing them up to concentrate on engaging with their workforce and generating revenue.

According to Andrew Zelt, chief executive at Axiom, there is an increasing demand from companies requesting integrated solutions across all of their business functions. Faced with the challenge of running a company, SMB leaders are seemingly recognising the benefits of a single view of management to obtain and apply business insight. Mr Zelt said this is particularly the case where workforce management is concerned, given the importance of employees to any business looking to develop products and services, and sell them to the market.

A lack of IT integration has historically been a constraint for employers, who have not been able to benefit from a full view of their business. But armed with greater knowledge on how areas such as marketing, sales, human resources and finance interact, they are able to form more insightful - and ultimately successful - business strategies. Effective management is no guarantee of increased profits, but it helps put the company in the right position to drive revenue.

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