People are complicated. You can know the ins and outs of your profession so well that you could write a book that improves upon everything else that’s on store shelves and your employees and customers will still throw a wrench into the operation. Knowledge is still important, but when you’re in charge, people skills are infinitely more valuable, and while you’ll need professional expertise to properly manage your team, you’ll need to understand basic human psychology in order to succeed.
Don’t Think of Your Employees as Friends
Whether you hire friends to work for you or you become friendly with your employees, this generally leads to compromises that destroy what would otherwise be successful businesses. Sometimes bosses have to be tough, and it’s ridiculously difficult to do that with someone that you know in a more casual context. A lot of times they’ll fail to take you seriously, or they’ll think they get special privileges because they know you. In other situations you may find it difficult to put your foot down or act with authority when you need to take charge, and the unfortunate truth is that sometimes conflict needs to be favored over getting along with everyone when it comes time to get things done.
Be Someone That Your Employees Can Respect
The other side of the coin is that you can’t be too tough. If everyone hates you, they’ll either leave at the first chance they get or they’ll sabotage the business from within. When you’re tough, they need to know there’s a reason for it. You’ll need to encourage them when they’re legitimately doing a good job. Don’t let anyone feel like they’re doing thankless work; if they’re there, they’re important. This is something that precious few work environments provide these days, and it’s vital for your business to do whatever it can to differentiate themselves from the average workplace.
Formulate a Strategy and Stick to It
You need to remember that you’re not perfect, and you will occasionally be tempted to do something that sounds good but ultimately harms your business. Let’s say you get into an argument with your best worker and you tell him that he’s fired. If this was the first time an issue came up with him, then you just let someone go who has a great work record and knows your operation inside and out. You can’t just hire someone to replace that person; training takes time, and you might not be able to find someone with the same amount of experience to take over his role. It probably won’t be enough to cripple your whole operation, but it could make for some rocky times, and depending on how things turn out, you might remember it as the first domino that cascaded into a collapse.
Likewise, it’s important to make sure you don’t hire too many people. If there’s a sudden influx of business and you hire a lot of people to compensate, you’re just going to have to fire them again when business slows down to normal. Worse still, you might lose some of your key employees if they’re not getting as many hours as they were before the new hires were brought in.
Figure Out How to Identify Smart Risks
Being an entrepreneur isn’t nearly as risky as people think. In general, safe, proven strategies are what you should stick with. You should add personal twists where appropriate, but running a successful business is more of a science than an art. That doesn’t mean that playing it safe will always pay off; in fact, your competition might force you into a position where you need to take risks or your business will fail.
The general rule of thumb in this situation is to ask yourself, “how can I appeal to what people want?” That’s what it comes down to; give people more of what they want, convince them that your business provides the best deal, and they’ll come to you. It’s more complicated than that in practice, and it’s the one area where intuition will generally work better than strict adherence to established methods, but that’s what it requires at the most basic level: Appeal to your customers. Decide who they are, learn what they want, and show them that you can provide. If you can do that, you’ll always have enough to keep your head above water and steer your business into the future.
Sheri Bivons is a full-time writer for higher ed blogs and journals nationwide with a focus on online education opportunities. Several schools offer online education degrees in public administration, including University of Southern California and San Francisco State University.