The SBA considers a small business one that has fewer than 500 employees. The latest numbers suggest that there are 28 million small businesses. Small businesses make up the vast majority of all businesses. And that category is dominated by business with no staff at all other than themselves. These micropreneurs often start out working from home, and expand to leasing office space, and picking up a few employees. 69% of startups begin as home businesses.
The number of employees is not the only, or even biggest, difference between small business and big business. Who would really think of a business with 499 people as small? Making the distinction by number is arbitrary at best. What really separates the two categories of business is the executive leadership.
Unless you founded the business, you do not become an executive in a large business just by printing a business card. It most generally takes an advanced degree and a proven track-record of success. Starting a business requires no degree or experience of any kind. It only requires filing the right papers and paying the right fees.
Putting your name on your office door along with a C-level title may stroke your ego. But it does not make you Tim Cook. However, you can always enhance your executive skills and improve your mastery of leadership. SBA.gov lists the top reason for small business failure as lack of experience. Placing one’s self in a leadership role without the requisite experience is a recipe for disaster.
There are practical alternatives to spending the next 8 years in college getting an advanced degree in business. You could look into getting executive coaching from Arden Coaching. Executive coaching programs are designed to help you reach the next level of success. The result of this kind of training leads to:
- far higher employee engagement
- greater productivity and effectiveness
- more innovation
- better communication
- a responsible and proactive culture
- improved employee retention
- fewer sick days and employee complaints
- development of internal leaders, reducing need to search out high level leaders from outside the organization
If you have taken a few shortcuts to the executive wing, or you just want to take your business to the next level, you will want to improve these three skills:
The Internet is full of pages listing the most important executive traits. Leadership is always at or near the top. It is also one of the hardest to define. It is a little like obscenity: we know it when we see it. While it is easy to recognize, it is difficult to predict. You don’t really know if you have it until you demonstrate it.
Are you the person with whom the buck stops? If so, you might be a leader. If people come to you expecting the solution to their problem, you might be a leader. If you determine the course of events for yourself and others, you might be a leader.
The surest sign that you are a leader is if others follow you. You cannot be a leader without followers. At some point in your business endeavors, someone besides yourself has to catch your vision and throw their lot in with you. You need customers, investors, and believers. How you get there is the 64,000 question. Executive coaching can help.
While leadership is at the top of all the lists, communication is the surest sign of executive ability. You can always tell when a company is in trouble by reading through, and listening to corporate communications.
If executives do not communicate well to staff, then no one will know what to do or how to do it. Everyone will offer their own interpretation of what was meant. Supervisors and middle managers will be in conflict, with lower staff caught in the middle.
Equally important is communication with the outside world. There is a whole category of language called CEO-speak. It is characterized by long strings of feckless gibberish masquerading as corporate communication. This is not to be emulated. Executive coaching can help you communicate your message more effectively internally and externally. No matter how good of a communicator you are, there is always room for improvement. Your bottom line with thank you.
Captain Kirk once said that a captain can be right, or a captain can be wrong. But a captain can never be unsure. Picard, on the other hand, seemed to revel in uncertainty as if it were a virtue. But both were the iconic image of decisiveness under pressure. When it counted, the fictional characters could make a decision and live with it.
While the characters were fictional, the trait of decisiveness is very real, and very necessary. It is not just the ability to come to a conclusion, but to do so in a timely manner before the moment of opportunity is lost.
Microsoft’s mobile efforts with Windows Phone serves as a cautionary tale. After Apple revealed the iPhone, Microsoft was slow in recognizing it as competition. Once they recognized it for what it was, they were slow to decide how best to counter it. By the time they made a decision and took action, Android had already captured the anti-iPhone flag. Even Steve Balmer was forced to admit that one of his big mistakes as CEO was missing the moment with regard to mobile.
There is more to being an executive than having an idea and breathing life into a new business. However, that is a very good start. Be sure to complete the job by improving your leadership, communication skills, and decision making under pressure. Your executive wash room awaits.