How to be a great business owner

What makes a great business owner? How can you improve your management skills and engage your workforce? Julia Payne and David Bowler, co-founders and directors of business consultancy Incisive Edge, believe they have the answer. Here are the key skills you need to go from good to great.

We meet and work with many businesses owners, and - as a result - we are frequently asked: 'what makes a good business owner?'

Leading from the front

For many, a good business owner is someone who leads from the front. Someone who puts in as much effort as the rest of the team, who's not scared to roll up his or her sleeves and 'get their hands dirty'. Indeed, leading from the front is essential, but this alone does not constitute a good business leader.

Surround yourself with knowledge and experience

People recognised as good business leaders surround themselves with others who are more experienced and better trained in core business functions, for example: marketing or sales. A good business owner is someone that recognises their strengths and their weaknesses, and who appreciates the need to complement both themselves and the company, and to source others who excel in the areas where they are weak.

A good business owner is created as much by the people they surround themselves with as the people they are.

Don't try to do it all yourself

Business owners who constantly feel the need to prove themselves by doing all the operational tasks themselves will not achieve their potential growth objectives. Having started the company, they continue in the same role - trying to save money by doing everything themselves and believing - wrongly - that nobody can do the job better than them. In fact it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If employees cannot do their job properly because they are being second-guessed or undermined by their employer, then what incentive do they have to try? As a consequence, they stop performing to the point where the business owner steps in and justifies their own beliefs that nobody can do the job as well as them. And so the cycle continues.

Get your hands dirty

Then there are those business owners who believe their job has already been done. By starting the company, they have fulfilled their role and now it's down to everyone else to make the company a success. They reside in an 'ivory tower of their own making', away from the melee of less important staff whose banter and day-to-day tasks might cloud their judgement.

Their idea being that this peaceful, separatist, zen-like existence will give them the purity and clarity of thought to consider the bigger picture - to view the true nature of the business and see its path to greatness. This is a view usually endorsed by business owners who don't want to get their hands dirty.

The bigger picture, the strategy, the route map to growth - whatever you choose to call it, will not be created by hiding away. Nor will it be created by picking and choosing when you want to be in the office. No loyalty will be created by you, if after a day on the golf course, or at the spa, you arrive and start telling everyone what they are doing wrong.

Staff need to buy into the vision

As the business owner you need to command the respect of those who work for you. Your staff need to buy into your original vision of the company together with the strategy to achieve that vision, and this can only be done if you are visible and present. A company will not run itself; it needs strong leadership. Your role is to provide that direction and create the strategic alliances and partnerships that are going to drive it forward, be the figurehead, the spokesperson, the leader.

Focus on driving the business forward

We frequently find that many business owners fill their day doing 'stuff'. As long as the day has been filled, then they can justify that it has been a good day. They equate activity with success. As the business owner though, it is necessary to focus on what is going to drive the business forward, what is really going to make a difference to the bottom line and create shareholder value. Most often, this will centre around strategic activities, creating new products or services, opening up channels to market, ensuring the company is systemised and not simply recreating the wheel every day.

There's a real skill involved in viewing the past, present and future of a business and determining how to steer your company to more profitable fishing grounds.

Be the master of numerous talents

A good business owner has to be the master of numerous talents - a people person, a visionary, an inspired leader, an innovator, and so many more things besides.

Is there an answer to the question of what makes a good business owner? We believe there is and what's more, we create them.

Find out more about Incisive Edge

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