Running a small business? Read our advice on managing the day-to-day and the big picture.

Be a great judge of character…

Do you get “gut feelings” about people and know right away if they’ll be easy (or difficult) to work with? Do you have a history of being able to tell if someone is trustworthy from a short conversation? Then lucky for you, you’re a good judge of character and shouldn’t have a hard time hiring reliable, honest people for your business. If, on the other hand, you have a history of trusting the wrong people, all is not lost; you just need to work at it a bit. Background checks are a start, but you should also thoroughly check references and get second, third and even fourth opinions if you don’t have a natural knack for choosing good workers.

…And an even better manager 

Regardless of your skills at picking out the good apples, becoming a good manager is crucial to keeping your employees and your business running smoothly. There are a lot of books on the subject of becoming a good manager, but here are the basics:

  • You have to be yourself. Employees who like and respect the real you will be more loyal than they would be to a boss who has a carefully crafted, inauthentic “work personality.”
  • Give credit where credit is due. Make sure your top performers know how much you value them.
  • You have to own up to your mistakes. You won’t be perfect, but you have two options when you falter—you can either admit it like a grown-up, apologize and move on, or you can blame someone else and pretend you’re not at fault. It’s not hard to guess which person is a better manager.
  • You may have to learn lessons the hard way. Most good managers aren’t born. It can take some effort, but if you can become the kind of manager that inspires loyalty and hard work in the people who work for you, it’s worth it.

Know when and where to ask for help

Sometimes do-it-yourself is the way to go when running your own business, but the smartest business owners know their strengths and weaknesses and when to call in experts to fill in the gaps. The same things that are important for hiring internally hold true for third-party hires. Do your homework, get background checks and references before you hire a contractor or vendor. It’s easy to get rid of a third-party if they’re not doing a good job, but if their work is bad enough, it can seriously damage your company. Hire right the first time and you won’t have to worry about damage control.

Remember that slow and steady wins the race

Being an overnight success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s better to build your business on a solid foundation and grow at a sustainable rate than burn bright and fizzle out. Make sure your business plan is designed for incremental growth, not betting on a big splash with no substance.

Work hard, but don’t burn out

As the owner of your business, there’s no question that you’ll work hard if you want to succeed, but you also have to find balance. Working your hands to the bone and burning the candle at both ends might get you through for a while, but once you have other people to manage, you’ll make yourself and the rest of your team miserable if you don’t take a break once in a while. Go to the gym. Do yoga. Take a vacation. Whatever it is that will get you back to your company energized and ready to take on the next big challenge with your team.