Becoming “the boss” can be challenging. After all, there’s more to running a business than producing or providing a good or service. Business owners must adapt and grow alongside their business, and in doing so, hone the skills necessary for success — leadership, communication, industry expertise, etc.
The demands of simply running a new business don’t always make growth an easy feat.
Improving your business skills is an ongoing process, though in some cases, growth will be inevitable. New challenges and the occasional setback are par for the course, and the lessons you’ll learn from each experience will force you to grow and take shape as an entrepreneur.
However, there are a few things you can do to give yourself an advantage and prepare for what’s to come.
Stay up-to-date on industry news
What’s going on in your industry at any given time will impact your business. In some cases, the impact may be negligible and not worthy of any further investigation or planning. In other cases, industry activity can have a substantial impact on your business.
Industry-specific regulations or guidance, new products or services, upgrades in machinery or equipment, and newly released reports, case studies, etc. can be pivotal in everything from the inventory you choose to the way you engage with customers.
Further, the more you understand and become familiar with your specific industry, the easier it is to make informed decisions and continue to grow your business.
Engage with employees
If you rely on employees to get the job done, then you should be engaging with them on a regular basis. In many cases, it’s your employees who become intimately familiar with processing, customer, etc.. This means they are often the most adept at identifying gaps, oversights, and potential problems.
Engaging with employees also gives you the opportunity to build relationships with them and allow them to feel values. This can help establish a positive workplace culture.
Networking may be good for establishing brand awareness, attracting talent, and making valuable connections, but that’s not the end of it. Networking gives you the opportunity to talk to other business owners, whether it be in your community, region, or industry.
These encounters help you build valuable relationships with other professionals and entrepreneurs who can provide indispensable wisdom or simply the opportunity to share like stories of success and struggle
Networking can also result in long-standing relationships with individuals who can offer your mentorship and guidance for years to come.
Learn to delegate
When you step into the driver’s seat, it’s hard to give up control. But as your business continues to grow, relinquishing some level of control is unavoidable. Failure to do so will prevent you from focusing on the big picture and making strategic decisions about the future of your business.
Delegating tasks to employees also shows a level of trust in their skill level and competency, thus further establishing their value and building a positive work culture. Of course, delegation is easier when you trust those around you. That reiterates the importance of engaging with employees. It also represents the importance of finding the right candidate for open positions and offering a comprehensive onboarding for new employees.
Read (or listen) a lot
Behind many of the best entrepreneurs is a library, or at least a few good books. Bill Gates reads about fifty books every year, and Warren Buffet suggests that the key to success is reading 500 pages a day.
Though many of us would find it difficult to chisel out enough time to read 500 pages each day, reading is a habit worth making. A few good books can help you unlock new ideas, identify alternative solutions to common problems, and make stronger decisions about the future of your business. Reading can also help you improve your communication skills, which are arguably another key to success.
If the thought of sitting down with a book is enough to put you to sleep, you’re in luck. TAudio books are just as accessible as their paperbound brethren. Plus, today’s business owners are on the receiving end of a podcast boom. There is a wealth of podcasts out there designed specifically for business professionals and entrepreneurs. That means you can pick up valuable insight on your commute, at the gym, on your lunch, or even in the shower — no paper required.
Strike a work-life balance
It seems that the phrase “practicing self-care” has reached buzz-worthy notoriety, but not without good reason. Being the boss comes with many perks, but it also can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. And when you fail to strike a healthy balance between your work and personal life, both sides can start to crumble.
During the day, make it a point to chisel out time for yourself, whether that be to hit the gym, read a book, or take a moment to pause and breath. It’s also helpful to designate time to “home” life, whatever it is that looks like for you. Stop reading work email, put down your phone, avoid the computer screen, and take a deliberate break from all things “business.”
The tips above can certainly help you improve you grow, but even the best intentions can fall short without goals.
Goals serve as concrete destinations that provide direction. However, they can also serve as stepping stones. Fifty books a year may seem daunting to many people, but can you perhaps strive to read 3 a quarter? Then maybe 5?
Similarly, blocking out all evening hours to strike a work-life balance can be anxiety-inducing if not impossible for the new business owner. Instead, can you commit to getting through dinner? A few evening (or mornings) a week?
Setting both long and short-term goals can help you stay the course even when it seems like you’re well within the weeds.
Can you run a business without striving to achieve any of the aforementioned? Sure. But your business may suffer. Ongoing growth prevents stagnation, but it can also arm you with the tools and resources to implement better solutions, engage in new ideas, and become a well-rounded entrepreneurial force.
This article was originally written on May 30, 2019.