Dun & Bradstreet's Amber Colley: Want a successful small business? It's all about leadership

Creating and running a small business comes with many challenges pertaining to credit, funding and cash flow, but not all challenges can be fixed solely by a sound financing strategy. Small businesses and startups rely on effective leadership to be successful at the onset, which eventually trickles down the ranks to create success in the long term.

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So what’s “trickling down” is paramount, and the person in charge has a responsibility to recognize this and evaluate himself or herself before making executive decisions that permeate the business.

Strong leadership is important in getting a fledgling business off the ground. When a business is first beginning, it takes a dedicated and confident leader to come up with the business idea and the vision, make the first sales, and manage the logistics of building a business from scratch.

As time passes, the leadership of a company also plays a role in garnering a positive financial reputation for your business, inspiring customers to support your business, and attracting and retaining valuable employees.

It’s also important to prevent the negative impacts of poor leadership, such as mismanagement of finances, poor or no standing in the community, and loss of talent.

As a business grows, the role of leadership may change, but its impact stays the same.

The importance of strong leadership for small business

Leadership plays a big role in the success of a small business, and here are just a few of the reasons a growing company needs a strong leader at the helm.

Establishing a solid financial reputation for your business. 

In order to grow, a business needs to raise capital, which means building relationships with vendors, suppliers and bankers. It’s up to the leader to identify good potential partners for his or her business and to pursue those relationships.

It is also up to the leader to make sure the business meets its financial obligations responsibly, so that when the opportunity to raise capital comes along, others can see the financial viability of the business.

Inspiring others to support your business. 

It is the role of a good leader to ensure the business’s customers are satisfied, treated well, and impressed with the goods or services they receive. Whether this means effectively directing staff or dealing with customers directly, a true leader can do both with respect and authenticity.

Attracting and retaining top talent. 

Companies lacking strong leadership lack one of the most important tools for growth. Employees will struggle to find direction, customers won’t feel loyalty, and the business won’t make the connections or build the reputation it needs to become a healthy and successful company. 

Generally, people want to know that they are doing well and feel like they are making a difference. A big part of this is the vision the leadership of a company creates to unite employees toward a common goal and give purpose to their work.

This goes a long way toward attracting and retaining top talent, which ultimately saves money and increases productivity for the business.

Companies lacking strong leadership lack one of the most important tools for growth. Employees will struggle to find direction, customers won’t feel loyalty, and the business won’t make the connections or build the reputation it needs to become a healthy and successful company.

A company without strong leadership behind it will likely be unable to reach its full potential.

Tips for leaders for fostering growth and success

True leaders never stop trying to improve. Consistency is a trait of strong leaders and is needed to demonstrate a leader’s strength and commitment to the business. When done consistently over time, these simple activities can establish a strong foundation for a small business.

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Lead by example. In order to effectively manage a staff and attract customers, leaders need to walk the walk. In other words, leaders must believe and behave the way they expect others to. This gives credibility to their business and makes them more effective as leaders.

Have a mission and vision for your business. Develop strong mission and vision statements for the organization and communicate them as often as possible. An organization with a set of values and a belief system behind it will get much stronger buy-in from customers, employees, and partners alike.

Practice self-care. In order to effectively lead others, you must take care of yourself first. A tired, overwhelmed and stressed out leader won’t inspire others, much less manage a company responsibly. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will fall into place.

Strong leadership is the driving force behind business success. Effective leadership, when practiced consistently, can act as a strong foundation for your business, keeping it on track to meet its financial goals, retain loyal customers and motivate employees.

Amber Colley, senior vice president and business credit expert for Dun & Bradstreet, has coached thousands of business owners on how to establish a business credit profile and leverage their credit to help get funding, improve cash flow, win contracts, and more.