Leadership skills grow out of experience and being able to work well with others. So says Anne Saita, co-founder of Twirling Tiger Media, a creative agency providing customized content and content marketing for organizations focused on science, health care and technology.
Founded in 2013, Twirling Tiger Media is certified as a Women's Business Enterprise by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council and is a federally designated Women-Owned Small Business. Below, Saita offers her take on the types of leadership skills she believes are crucial for every business owner to master. Here are her top four:
1. Experience Counts — Especially the Experience of Others
"We've greatly benefited from having had mentors to learn from," Saita says, adding that Twirling Tiger is now engaged in a formal mentorship program with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, where they have access to legal, human resources and marketing experts. "When your business is as lean as ours is, where we spend as much time in the business as on the business, it's important to step back from time to time and have someone else appraise your work and offer suggestions on where to go next."
Recently, for example, Twirling Tiger was struggling with whom to hire next to best meet its growth objectives. Saita and others met with the Blue Cross HR and sales teams. That helped them focus on a position entirely different from what they were contemplating, which actually made more sense for the longevity of the company.
2. Be Proactive and Prepared
"Our company was launched in the midst of a David and Goliath situation," Saita recalls. "For a big contract, we went up against established and better-known publishing companies." Twirling Tiger secured the contract based on the quality of its presentation. "We understood the client's audience. We'd learned what the organization needed, and we were prepared to make them a high priority. Our guarantee to them (and all our clients) is, 'You'll forget we're not staff. We work with you, not just for you.'"
What's the moral? Leaders are proactive. They don't go into situations (or make sales presentations) without being fully prepared and able to present themselves well. When your business is just getting started, this approach can build immediate trust and confidence.
3. Work Well With Others (Past, Present and Future)
"When you're on your own as an entrepreneur, all you have to go on are your existing and prior relationships," Saita says. "So your past work, as well as your performance and interactions with people, are what will make or break you. Starting a company is not the clean slate you might think it is. Wherever you're in the entrepreneurial cycle, make sure you focus on forging strong relationships and delivering a quality product."
It's this track record of strong achievements that you can use to leverage future business opportunities.
4. Hire Well and Regularly Re-Evaluate Your Needs
There comes a time when you need to expand your staff, either through adding full-time positions or hiring freelancers.
"Make sure every employee gets what you're trying to do, wants to do it as well, and has the capacity to do the work," Saita says. Even with the best employees, she adds, "Your company's needs should be re-evaluated regularly, to ensure employees gain new skills to match changes in the business." She learned this from one of her organization's best hires: a leadership coach.
There's no concrete path for how to be a successful leader, but these tips can help put you on the path to glory. Remember these leadership tactics as you continue to grow and run your business.