With 30.7 million small businesses in the United States, there’s never been a greater need for effective small business management in our workforce.
Whether you’re looking to work in an established small business as a manager or you’re a first-time entrepreneur wearing many hats, you’ll need to understand the best practices behind small business management.
Small business management helps keep track of everything a company needs to remain functional and profitable.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into what small business management entails, what a small business manager does, and the top small business management tips you can use for entrepreneurial success.
What is small business management?
Small business management is the techniques and strategies you use to oversee or coordinate the activities needed to create and maintain a business.
These techniques cover multiple business areas, such as:
- Practical planning, like creating a business plan
- Human resources, such as hiring, training, and onboarding new employees
- Financial tasks, such as fundraising, billing, and budgeting
- Legal issues, like business incorporation, taxes, and compliance
- Marketing strategy, including setting goals and influencing the brand voice
- Technical tasks such as website development, maintenance, support
According to the Small Business Administration, a small business has less than 500 employees. That covers 99.9% of US businesses, including everything from a local family business to a multimillion-dollar company.
Understanding key small business management skills will boost your success, no matter what kind of small business you’re thinking about starting or working in. Be it a ghost kitchen or a small coffee shop, management strategies are key to success.
What does a small business manager do?
A small business manager may be the business owner/entrepreneur or an employee tasked with managing a team.
When you’re starting your own business, you’ll want to carefully consider whether you should serve as the sole business manager or hire someone with management experience. Or, perhaps get guidance from a business mentor.
Here are a few tasks you’d be responsible for as a small business manager.
- Set company goals according to market research
- Develop job descriptions, a hiring strategy, and an onboarding plan
- Lead your team in developing strategic business plans
- Create a company-wide budget and other financial management tasks
- Ensure legal compliance with local, state, and federal laws
- Analyze competitors’ price, data, behaviors to develop counter-strategies for long term success
Think about whether you have the know-how for this kind of work or whether you’ll need to gain new skills or outsource some tasks.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll likely need to develop most or all of these skills yourself. You can do that through experience, education, or a combination of the two.
In the next section, we’ll discuss cost-effective ways to get the small business management skills you need.
Should you take small business management courses?
If you don’t have any prior management experience, it’s smart to invest some time and resources into developing business administration skills.
But tuition can be costly for a certificate program or master’s degree in business administration. Instead, you might find online small business management courses more affordable and flexible while still enhancing your skills.
Here at Pareto Labs, you can take courses in broad management principles or specific topics like understanding financial statements and people management.
Small business management courses aren’t your only option for low-cost learning.
You can find plenty of free online resources about small business management, from blog posts and free traffic sources to ebooks to video series. Decide exactly what it is you want to learn and look for experts who share their knowledge online.
Platforms like Masterclass offer excellent learning material curated by experts in their fields. They have courses by well-known entrepreneurs like Bob Iger, Howard Schultz, and Sarah Blakely.
You can also explore what networks there are available for small business owners in your local area. These can be a great place to share skills, brainstorm any challenges you’re facing, and make friends with people who know what you’re going through.
Even if you’re more advanced in your entrepreneurial studies, a learning mindset is an invaluable professional work habit to build and makes sure you’re always on top of the latest information in your field. Taking refresher classes on subjects like effective business communication will make you a better manager and leader.
7 small business management tips
Ready to start developing your small business management skills right away? Check out these seven ways to run a better business on any budget.
Regularly update your business plan and strategy
Any small business owner will tell you to have a business plan in place by day one. But you can’t just leave it as-is forever.
Every quarter, review your business plan and update your business strategy according to past performance, changing market forces, or whatever else you need to consider.
For instance, 76% of businesses plan to spend more on IT in the future due to circumstances presented by COVID-19.
You don’t need any special tools or resources to start your business plan review habit. You’ll just need to set aside some time each quarter to get it done, making sure to invite any key employees or business partners to provide their input too.
Use data to make decisions
54% of managers don’t have access to real-time data about their projects and businesses, making it hard for them to make the best choices for their company.
Easy access to accurate business data helps you set goals and make strategic decisions. It’s also an objective way for everyone involved to understand why decisions are made.
Data and analytics tools might sound expensive, but there are plenty of affordable options designed for small businesses. For example, Databox is free for up to three users, and Matamo offers a free, open-source solution.
While most tools will require a subscription fee for advanced features, many have relatively affordable licenses designed for small businesses.
Another budget-friendly option for small business data management is downloading raw data files and building custom analytics views in Excel or Google Sheets.
Leverage small business management tools
If you’re managing a small business with a small staff, you and your team will likely need to take on many responsibilities beyond your primary area of expertise.
When that’s the case, small business management tools for accounting and financial management, expense management, project management, hiring and onboarding, collaboration, guest posting, and almost anything else you can think of can help you save time and money.
For instance, 47% of people say they find it difficult to get an exact overview of where projects are up to, causing them to waste time figuring it out. But just 29% of people who use an online project management system have the same problem.
Here are a few low-cost small business management solutions you can adopt for your team.
- Accounting: Try QuickBooks for the best value for the low subscription fee, or check out Wave for a totally free solution.
- Project management: Project and task management tools like Asana, Trello (with Trello hours tracking plugin), Hive, and other tools like Clickup offer robust free plans with plenty of small business features.
- Human resources: Platforms like Zoho offer HR features for small teams, or you can look for a customizable option like Odoo, where you only pay for the features you need.
- Client Billing: Find a software solution that allows you to bill clients and offer a variety of payment methods, which will improve your cash flow and save you time with automation tools
- Lead Management Software: Before implementing complex CRMs, start with pre-crm such as noCRM.io that helps you to turn your leads into customers”.
Looking for an all-in-one small business management software can also save you some cash. While the monthly subscription fee may be higher, you’ll only pay one price rather than cobbling together features from several tools.
Plus, platforms like Hubspot offer free plans with lots of features to get small businesses started.
Outsource to experts
One of the first lessons every entrepreneur needs to learn is delegation.
Delegating tasks to the most qualified person is key to good small business management. As the business owner, you’ll need to pay attention to when it’s time to pay for an expert rather than trying to do everything yourself.
For critical business management tasks like accounting or legal issues, an untrained approach can lead to costly mistakes for your organization.
Other non-critical but time consuming business activities like content production, video creation, social media management, and even law firm SEO campaigns can also be outsourced to allow you to better utilize your time.
But just because you need to pay for some expert insight doesn’t mean you need to pay a full-time salary. Consider hiring a marketing consultant or assistant on an hourly basis, or look for freelancers or contractors who can work as you need them.
Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are a great way to find freelance experts in tons of business areas. You can search for freelancers within your budget who have the exact knowledge you need.
Develop a strong recruiting and onboarding program
Your team can make or break your small business, so consider what you want in employee resumes and how you will find and train them.
If your business is growing rapidly and you need help fast, it can be tempting to cut corners just to get people working soon. But making sure candidates are acquainted with information such as what happens if you fail a pre employment drug test or any other requirements you need for your business will help you hire the stronger candidates.
But a strong employee training program is essential to your success, Companies with highly-rated training programs experienced 53% lower attrition than their counterparts with weaker training options.
Plus, 26% of small businesses said their biggest problem was finding high-quality workers. Which might mean you need to hire less-experienced employees and train them up to do what you’re looking for.
When you’re building a team from the ground up, take time to consider the kind of workplace culture you’d like to build. Then make sure your recruiting model looks for the traits you feel will work best within that culture.
Taking the time to hire effectively keeps your employees in your business for longer, leading to better outcomes across the board.
Take care of your employees
As you hire your first employees, make sure you’re paying them fairly and offering good benefits. It’s also important to provide clear expectations, thorough training, and good feedback throughout their time with your company.
Curating a high-quality employee experience is increasingly important for small businesses, with 77% of companies focusing on improving it in order to increase retention. 71% of companies looked to improve their employee experience to increase productivity as well.
Material benefits aren’t everything in a job, but they certainly help motivate employees.
Companies rated highly on their compensation and benefits package saw 56% lower attrition than their counterparts, but 48% of talent professionals still say compensation and benefits need improving in their company.
Stay on top of your finances
Small business finance management can be intimidating, but it’s essential to running a business smoothly. From salaries to taxes to ordering supplies, you’ll need to track your cash flow accurately to avoid expensive problems down the line.
Make sure to stay on top of your business loans and credit to avoid needing the help of credit repair companies later down the line. Your personal and business credit will influence your ability to get approved for loans should you need them.
Low-cost accounting software like Wave can be a great asset if you take on your accounting yourself. But don’t be afraid to outsource to an independent accountant.
You can get specialized help for more complicated financial needs or have someone help you navigate the tricky world of small business taxes.
Improve your small business management now
Small business management is a critical skill for any entrepreneur. But completing a small business management program can be costly and time-consuming.
By following our small business management tips you can build your business administration skills without breaking the bank.