Many small business owners start out with a good business idea but little concept of what it takes to manage and grow a business.

The good news is that you can definitely learn and improve your management skills as your business grows.

And while there isn’t a definitive list of skills, the ones we’ve listed below could help you to build your initial vision and develop your business to its full potential.

Passion and forward planning

The key ingredients to managing and growing a successful business are a passion for what you do, a belief in why your business exists, and a vision of how you’d like to grow and improve your business.


It’s important to be passionate about what you do; your enthusiasm can drive your business and motivate your staff to make the most of your business.

It’s natural for your motivation to cycle through high and low periods, but most business advisers will tell you that if your passion has been completely extinguished, it’s time to get out.

This is not to say you should give up if your enthusiasm wanes a little. You might just need to take time out, look at your business and how it’s performing, and make some strategic decisions.

Talking things over with your business advisers, mentors or peers might also give your business a new direction and rekindle the passion that got you into business in the first place.

Vision and goals

Establish a clear vision for your business to help give it direction. A clear vision also helps your employees make the right decisions and tells your customers about your business.

Setting and communicating clear goals for your business is equally important. While your vision sets the direction of your business in broad brushstrokes, your goals help to fill in the finer detail, providing direction for you and your staff. If people know what’s expected of them, they’re more likely to achieve it.

Long-term direction and planning

It’s very easy for small business owners to become consumed with the day-to-day running of the business, leaving no time to think about the long-term direction and goals of the business.

Book time into your calendar to look at your business strategically and map directions and goals for the next five years.


Leadership is all about building effective teams, encouraging people to achieve long-term objectives, and creating an environment to ensure this can happen.

As a business owner, it’s important to lead by example; your actions set the work culture. You can’t expect staff to have a ‘can do’ attitude if you reject all ideas other than your own.

Encourage the culture you’re aiming to achieve by being encouraging and supportive.

Motivate your employees

One way to fuel your staff is by communicating your personal passion. Your enthusiasm and drive will encourage more enthusiastic support – but you do need to make the time to communicate this.

Positive reinforcement and encouragement are other key ways to motivate your staff. You might want to consider establishing a system for recognising and rewarding good performance to encourage this in your business.

Good communication and listening skills

Good, clear communication makes managing your business much easier. You can’t expect staff to complete tasks well if your expectations and requirements, or the processes themselves, are not communicated clearly.

If you’re asking someone to take on a new function, it’s important to consider who you’re communicating with, and their level of comfort with and knowledge of the task and systems they’ll be dealing with.

Try to give as much detail as possible, and tell them who they should ask for input if they’re stuck or something goes wrong.

Additionally, your staff will feel valued and be more likely to contribute and try harder if they feel you listen to them as well – so be sure to give the person talking to you your full attention.


As a manager of your own small business, it’s important to become multi-skilled.

If, for example, you’re an ace at crunching numbers but not very good around people, you’ll need to start developing people skills to manage your business more effectively.

Similarly, if you’re good with people but not that comfortable with numbers, you should make the effort to learn some accounting fundamentals so you can follow these conversations in a business meeting and not have to rely solely on your accountant.