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Insider Management Tips for Small Business Owners

From Silicon Valley to New York City, the startup culture is alive and well. Every day, there are success (and failure) stories of companies that began as small, obscure businesses only to practically become household names in their respective industries.

Besides the talented employees who work at these organizations, leadership is by far one of the most crucial components to building a thriving corporate legacy. Luckily, many chief executives who have founded thriving companies are more than willing to share tips on how to expertly manage and grow companies into success stories.

Trust Your Employees

Today’s workforce is highly mobile, relying on telecommuting technologies and other tools that allow workers to work from home and on the road. For some managers, a reliable employee base means having the flexibility to focus on the execution of their corporate vision without the worry of handling lower-level projects or micromanaging.

GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons stated in an Inc.com article, “I can make time anytime I want, and there’s a reason for that: I accomplish everything through other people. That gives me tremendous bandwidth.” In other words, CEOs and other chief executives must trust that their employees will be able to perform at a high level and make the right decisions on their own. This frees up the CEO to take on more high-level goals and visions.

Bob Compton, CEO of former communications startup Vontoo, argues that you should only concentrate on the tasks a CEO can perform. He believes that focusing on high-level tasks will ensure that you are “driving your day, and not letting the day drive you.”

Get Virtual

As companies seek to consolidate physical office space and offer employees the option to work from home, tips abound for how senior executives can keep their workforce productive. For many supervisors, the main ingredient for running a successful virtual workforce goes back to trusting your employees and setting up a system that supports virtual workers no matter where they’re located.

Entrepreneurs and CEOs can now start companies out of their living rooms, thanks to the internet and its many tools for managing virtual employees. Graham Hill, founder of the successful blog Treehugger, was able to launch his company from an apartment in Barcelona with little more than a laptop and an internet connection. He only hired remote contractors during the first two and a half years of growing the site, and paid writers via PayPal. This mobility allowed him to run his website while living in countries such as Argentina, India and Thailand.

Despite advances in telecommunications that allow bosses to supervise employees from virtual offices, these same executives admit that instant messaging and teleconferencing can never quite replace face-to-face communication. According to Inc., online social media entrepreneur and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg uses an internal tweeting and instant messaging system that allows employees to communicate online, but all of his employees get a chance to come together and meet colleagues in person at the company’s annual meeting.

While working remotely can provide employees the solitude they need to work without normal office distractions, meeting in person, even if it’s only once or twice a year, can offer a rich opportunity for building team morale, boosting company loyalty and making personal connections.

Keep Communication Channels Open

One of the world’s most admired companies, Apple Inc., thrives on a company culture that encourages debate and allows workers to challenge each others’ opinions, according to Fortune editor Adam Lashinsky. The same applies to giving kudos to workers who’ve gone above and beyond their job descriptions. For instance, the Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, which runs notable brands including KFC and Pizza Hut, makes it a point to recognize outstanding employees with unique rewards such as rubber chickens and miniature Taj Mahal statues.

Track Accountability and Productivity

Paul English, co-founder of travel-booking website Kayak.com, ensures that both new and existing employees know the company’s metrics regarding customer service performance and website traffic. English achieves this by installing monitors that display critical numbers throughout the office. Employees are even able to view a real-time feed of the latest customer service email sent as well as a photo of the employee who answered it. English makes the point that, as the leader of your company, make sure your employees stay productive and have a frame of reference when measuring success on both individual and team levels. This helps employees stay accountable to themselves and one another.

More importantly, CEOs and other senior management should keep communication channels open with new hires and existing employees at every level. Sometimes the conversations that happen in hallways or by the water cooler are the most insightful.

Rather than assuming employees will read up on your company’s strategic vision in corporate literature, speak with people directly about your business strategy. Soliciting questions from employees across the organization and outside the meeting room keeps your finger on the pulse of the organization and provides a unique chance to share your business strategy as it relates to their position within the organization.