5 Leadership Tips for First-Time Managers

Whether you have one food truck or a multilocation coffee shop, if you have employees, you need to learn how to manage them. In fact, effective management is one of the most important skills for a small business owner. There are tons of resources out there to help you — from online classes (check places like Coursera for free online courses) to books (there are countless titles to choose from) and articles like this one from the Harvard Business Review. But to get you started, here are our top tips for first-time managers.

Get off to the best start.

Once you’ve hired people, make sure their first day goes smoothly. Will someone be at the shop to greet them and show them the first-day ropes? Will they have all the supplies they need to get going? Make sure you have everything in place so they can feel comfortable and hit the ground running.

Make expectations clear.

What’s one of the top reasons people leave their jobs? Unclear expectations. So to prevent turnover (which can cost your business both time and money), it’s important to set crystal-clear guidelines for what you expect from your employees. In a nutshell, your employees should always have a gauge for how well they’re doing (i.e., review results shouldn’t be a surprise). Stay in clear communication with your employees about how they’re performing.

Develop your staff.

People want to feel like they have growth opportunities at their job. Whether it’s offering high performers a management position at a new location, or implementing a bonus program for people who go above and beyond (like putting in extra hours to help set up for an event), investing in your employees builds their confidence and drive. You might also consider offering professional development opportunities for your staff. If you own a coffee shop, for example, send your employees to a workshop on latte art or the latest barista techniques. You might also consider footing the bill for additional certifications for employees who want to advance. It’s an investment, yes, but having valuable employees on board will help you scale your business faster.

Delegate tasks.

When you’re used to running the show, there’s a tendency to want to have your hands on everything. This is a recipe for burnout — not to mention an ineffective way to grow your business. So once you take on employees, make sure to delegate stuff to them. Start by determining which tasks can only be done by you (say, growth forecasting), and then assign others to your staff (say, daily inventory checks). When you delegate, consider your employees’ workloads and skill sets so you don’t overwhelm them. Give these people the support they need to succeed but also the authority to carry out their new responsibilities. You have to strike a balance between regular communication and micromanagement, which can be frustrating for people (and give them the impression that you don’t trust them). With more and more responsibility, your staff will begin to feel more ownership in the company — which will translate into them doing a better job.

Leverage your own experiences.

A great way to approach management is to think about your own experiences. Which previous bosses, teachers, or leaders have you respected, learned from, and enjoyed working with? What did they do to make you feel this way? It’s also helpful to think back to your not-so-great experiences with former managers. What did they do that drove you nuts (or made you quit)? Make sure to avoid the things you hated and do the things you appreciated.

Remove roadblocks.

It’s important to set your staff up to succeed — and that includes removing roadblocks whenever possible. Regularly ask people what they need to do their jobs better or more efficiently. Maybe it’s opening an hour earlier so they have more time to prep food, or putting some padding between appointments so clients don’t complain about long wait times. Removing roadblocks tells your employees that you care about making their work experience the best it can be.

These tips are just the beginning — great management is a skill you hone throughout your career. Make sure to ask your staff for feedback on how you’re doing — there’s always something to learn from and improve on. Managing your employees is one of the most rewarding aspects of running a business. Remember, as you grow your employees, you’re also growing your company.

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