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Note: The below article is an excerpt from Zero to One Million: How to Build a Company to $1 Million in Sales. Learn more about the book here.

Nine Leadership Lessons

Over the past ten months as Broadwick and Virante have grown, I’ve learned a lot about managing people. A business is little without the people behind it. As I mentioned in the section on building a team, the two most important things I look for when hiring are initiative and work ethic. I cannot overestimate the importance of bringing on good people to the eventual success of your business. But once you have these good people, how do you manage them?

I would certainly submit that I have much left to learn about leadership and management, but here are a few tips I’ve learned that may be of some use.

  1. Have a Vision and Communicate It. Make sure you clearly communicate your vision for the company. No one follows a leader who cannot communicate the way in which the company will succeed. Each employee’s future is tied closely to the success of your company. Make sure they believe in your company, what it stands for, and its products and services and make sure they know that the hard work they are putting in now will pay off.

  2. Show Respect. Treat people, including your customers, suppliers, partners, and employees, with respect at all times.

  3. Share Your Success. Make sure your employees share in the success of your company. As the company is able, provide additional benefits such as healthcare and dental coverage, a stock options plan, and a 401(k) plan. As an employee’s skills and abilities grow, reward them with fair compensation. Finally, consider incentivise your top employees and managers with ownership in the company. Few things can make a person work harder than a piece of the action.

  4. Don’t Be Too Serious. Make the business environment fun at times. While being professional and taking things seriously is important, nothing can beat the effects of company-wide midnight round of bowling after it reaches an important milestone, a lunchtime pizza party once per month, or a spontaneous Nerf-dart duel.

  5. Work With Your Employees. Make sure the employees see you there and working with them. No one likes to work hard for someone who doesn’t work hard themselves. Especially early on, be the first to arrive and the last to leave whenever possible.

  6. Have Your Door Open. Whether or not you have your own office yet, have your ‘door’ open. Make sure your employees and managers know that you are approachable at any time about any problem they are having.

  7. Listen. You have built a great team and are paying top dollar for it. Hold meetings with your management team least every other week, if not more often. Also have informal ad hoc discussions with your partners, managers, and employees often. Get their feedback, discuss the business and its strategy, and inquire every so often if there is anything that you can help with that is frustrating them. A few weeks ago I had a quick spur-of-the-moment meeting with my lead developer for Broadwick. After inquiring if anything was frustrating him, it came out that he felt he was working in an environment in which he became distracted too often. We quickly devised a solution in which he would work at home four hours per day until we could move into a larger office in which the development team could work in a separate room away from the distraction of the sales and support team. This small change has doubled our developer’s productivity.

  8. Build Relationships. Without understanding at least the basics of what is occurring in an employee’s out-of-office life it can be hard to connect with him or her on a professional level. One tactic I’ve used successfully to get to know each employee personally is to take them and his or her significant other to dinner the first evening of their employment. It serves as a way to celebrate the occasion as well as learn a little bit about the employee that would not come out in interviews or through reading a resume.

  9. Commend More Than You Criticize. Too many business owners (and I have been guilty of this as well) will only say something to an employee when he or she has done something wrong or something that has negatively affected the company. While constructive criticism and appropriate guidance has its place, if you seem to only condemn and never praise, your employees will quickly either dislike you or show apathy in their jobs. Continued properly placed praises can be as powerful to getting quality results out of an employee as a large raise. Many people thrive on peer and superior recognition just as much as money. Instituting both an employee of the month award as well as a quarterly performance review can be extremely valuable to your company.

As a manager and business owner, you gain an immense responsibility. You control the activity and purpose that your employees dedicated half of their waking hours to. Make it a meaningful purpose, communicate your vision, respect and praise your employees, and share your success. If you can succeed in building a team of highly motivated and happy employees that take initiative, have a bias toward action, respect you, and truly care for the business, you will have done much of the work in building a strong and quickly growing organization.

Ryan Allis’ Nine Leadership Lessons In Review

1. Have a Vision and Communicate It.

2. Show Respect.

3. Share Your Success.

4. Don’t Be Too Serious.

5. Work With Your Employees.

6. Have Your Door Open.

7. Listen.

8. Build Relationships.

9. Commend More Than You Criticize.

Note: This article is an excerpt from Zero to One Million: How to Build a Company to $1 Million in Sales. Learn more about the book here.

This Business article was written by Ryan P Allis on 2/9/2005

Ryan P. Allis, 20, is the author of Zero to One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales, and the founder of Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based email marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar. [learn more.