Managing People in Small Business – 7 Issues the Books and Training Courses Ignore

A small business manager has limited resources, major time pressures and a vast number of “balls to keep in the air”. It’s far more difficult managing a small business with 20 employees than managing the same number in a large business. The principles may be the same. But the practice is quite different.ExposureAs a small business manager, you’re far more exposed than your big business counterpart. Your behaviour is readily observable. If you don’t “do what you say” almost everyone knows. Be composed and positive no matter how worried you feel.Staff RelianceAs a small business manager you depend on your staff entirely. If your staff miss deadlines, upset customers or simply do shoddy work, you’re often left to “sort it out”. Try to anticipate problems before they occur and teach your staff to do the same. Resolve staff differences very quickly. Have plans in place so that unexpected staff absences aren’t too disruptive.Management Co-operationYour management team must co-operate very closely. Small business is no place for “turf wars”. When staff observe friction between small business managers morale plummets quickly. All managers must ultimately agree on business philosophy and systems and be seen to do so by staff.Staff VersatilitySmall business can’t afford many staff who are narrow specialists. Tradespeople must also be salespeople. Accountants must be competent in customer service. Drivers must be schedulers. Look for staff who are willing to help outside their specialist areas and who enjoy variety in their work.Instructions and SystemsManagers have lots of demands on their time merely because the business is small. To get maximum value for effort you must give very clear and accurate instructions. Develop and implement systems that staff can use effectively to enable them to succeed with minimum management help.InformalityYou may be a Vice President or a Director. But you can’t expect much formal recognition of your status as you would in a large business. Flexibility and adaptability are features of successful small business. There’s no time for acknowledging status or “standing on ceremony”.LivelihoodYour employees depend for their livelihood on the success of the business. If the business fails, they’re out of a job. They can’t “transfer to another department” as in big business. And because the business is small, it’s more vulnerable to market forces. Let staff know that you acknowledge these concerns and ensure they understand what you’re doing and why.ConclusionAs a small business manager you already know that good people management is essential. But because your business is small, your staff can “make or break it” more readily than in large business. Keep them well informed, establish good and workable systems, give them genuinely rewarding work and responsibility and they’ll respond positively. But don’t expect to learn about how to do it in the formal courses and books.