Having a business for which you are the owner, sole decision-maker and worker bee can sometimes seem unwieldy. Often it seems to be too many things to do and not enough time to do them. How can anyone be successful in a solo venture? I believe the key is to know the importance of the role of leadership. Every organization – whether a one-person business or a mega-global conglomerate – shares common structure and I believe that one pitfall the solo business falls into is that of only managing and not leading.
What does leadership bring to an organization?
- Vision – the leader in the organization holds the dream, protects the dream, polishes the dream and keeps it alive. Most single person businesses began with someone who had a dream “of” something: a dream of making a difference; of providing a service or product where a need existed; of giving of their expertise and experience that both would benefit themselves financially but also give to clients and customers. Without vision, there cannot be direction. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t have a destination in mind.
- Direction – the leader sets the direction. This is especially true in a one-person business. You can get so locked up in the details of day-to-day tasks that you can get sidelined in minutia. The leadership role of the organization sets the direction by establishing long-range and short-term goals and objectives that will lead to fulfilling the vision. The leader sets up milestone markers to be celebrated along the way.
- Thought Leader – the leader is always on a track of continuous improvement, eyes wide open to opportunity. Businesses go stale because they don’t change when necessary…markets change, customer habits change, technology changes…the leader in the business has to be open to what’s new, willing to make improvements and alter the direction when warranted…always keeping the business in alignment with the Vision.
What is the difference between leadership and management? Doesn’t a manager do what is described above? Simply put: no. Management is the role that puts into motion the direction set by the leader. Once the vision has been identified, the direction set, goals calendared, then the baton is handed to the manager role for fulfillment. It’s the job of the manager to see to it that all the work of the business gets done. For the solo business owner, this can seem a strange juxtaposition of roles: wearing both the leadership and manager hats at the same time. However, this is where the skills of management can shine.
To make this work in a one-person business, management skills help by:
- staying organized – leadership set the “big” things, but it is up to the manager to set the day-to-day tasks with feedback to the leader. For instance, you have a single-person business consultancy. You have set your vision and direction that in one year’s time you will have 10 clients on retainer. Still wearing your leadership hat, you make sure that you have coming into your office learning materials, trade journals and news feeds that will keep you informed regarding changes in your industry. Once this is done, you don the manager hat. Looking at the goal of having 10 clients on retainer at the end of one year, you back up and parse it out over the year. You determine what the tasks are going to have to be to make this happen. This will involve marketing [promoting your business both in your local area and online], customer service [making sure your current clients are satisfied customers and asking them for referrals] and the details of running a business [everything from scheduling to accounting].
- getting the work done – your management skills will help you to set your daily schedules and keep your tasks from conflicting when you have to don the hat of worker bee and actually get the work done. As example: you meet with the client and achieve the objectives set for the meeting. The manager role will review this work to make sure it meets with the parameters set by the leadership role – is this the type of client that will bring you closer to your vision?
Having a business in which you are the owner, the leader, the manager and the worker can be challenging. However, if you have an understanding of the roles of each aspect of your organization and let each role fulfill its intended function, your business will have a sound structure and flow. It’s rather like a professional juggler, keeping five balls up in the air: the leader saw the vision, saw it would be possible to juggle five balls and set the goal of doing so. The manager purchased the balls and took the lessons that would teach him the methodology. The worker practiced and practiced until the juggler was able to keep all five balls airborne – thus fulfilling the vision.