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How to Develop Leaders in a Small Business

June 10, 2016
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How do you build a team of leaders in a small business? Excellent question.  Building a successful team is no small feat, and we’ve managed to make it happen by keeping these five things at the top of our management priority list.  Are you ready for it? Here’s our secret sauce to developing leaders within a small company.

Our Secret Sauce:

  • Set Goals
  • Empower
  • Reward
  • Teach
  • Support

These five things, when put in practice, allow you to grow a team of LEADERS. Once, we realized that we can be much more successful as a company when our employees are satisfied – we rose as a team rather than standing on top of each other. Because of this, our primary focus is to develop all of our employees into leaders using these five techniques.

Set Goals

Do you know what you want to accomplish today? How about by the end of the week? Let me ask you this – what do you plan to achieve five years from now? If you haven’t thought about what success looks like to you, then how can you measure it?

Goals are designed to give you direction, measure accomplishment, and propel you forward. Work with your employees to set goals so they can measure their own success.


In our office, we set 3 SMART goals at the start of each week. Each employee writes their goals on a whiteboard displayed in the office (keeping it top of mind & visual), and we celebrate as a team when goals are completed one by one.

On Fridays at 4 pm, we have our ceremonial Goals Review (complete with a noisy rally & NFL game time jingle) where we give each team 45 seconds to say what they did & why they should win the weekly title. If there’s a tie (two or more teams that hit 100% of their goals), we put it to a vote – and at a final standstill, we take it to a bean bag toss (or other ridiculous game) to determine the winner. This activity has been a huge success for us in motivating our teams – our morale and productivity are at an all-time high.

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Empower Your Team

This is management 101. How can you expect your team members to show you what they’re capable of if they are never given the opportunity?

Here’s how we do it:

  • Hire people who will be better than you – Think about it. If you think you’re the best at your job, how is there room to grow? Hire people who have all the qualities necessary to do your job, and train them to do it better than you would. Investing in your team is at the core of growing a healthy, profitable, well-liked company.
  • Throw them into the fire & see what happens – This is how I developed my leadership skills early on in my career, and I am so grateful that my managers did this to me. Giving your employees a lot of responsibility early on shows them you trust them – so they will likely do everything they can to knock it out of the park. For employees at the beginning of their career, things like leading client calls, running team meetings or creating a strategy give them an opportunity to shine and get recognized, not to mention, give them confidence and a sense of importance.
  • Let them run their book of business – Give them control over their workflow & processes, so they don’t feel like micromanaged (millennials hate that by the way). You can work with them to establish some guidelines. That way it works for both of you.
  • Ask them for help – I love it when my boss knows I can do something he can’t. It makes me feel needed, capable and unique. Empower your employees by delegating and don’t be afraid to admit when you need help with something.


Ahh, yes. Ye olde reward tactic… we love this one. Simple, straightforward and easy. When your employees do something impressive – such as shine in a client meeting, add critical input to a team discussion, produce an incredible piece of work – TELL THEM! Life’s too short not to celebrate the little AND big things.

What’s the best way to reward your team? We’ve found that genuine praise motivates our team. Some examples:


  • One of our founders or managers sending an email to the team highlighting something a team member did that impressed them
  • Dedicating a “props” wall in our office where the team posts sticky notes calling out their team members for a job well done
  • $100 credit to the department that hit 100^% of their weekly goals to be spent on a team event, software or anything they’d like – they earned it, they get to spend it
  • Celebrating yearly work anniversaries of team members with a personalized note and token of appreciation
  • Company events & vacations (we took our team to Costa Rica this year for hitting their yearly goals!)

Rewards vary from small gestures like a text from your boss saying “you crushed it today” to giant gestures like an all expenses paid trip to a tropical paradise. Find out what kinds of rewards motivate your team, and put them into action.


Small businesses are great in that everyone has a chance to work closely and learn from each other. We’ve found over the years that the more we invest in teaching our employees how to think – rather than how to do – they grow into better leaders faster.

We have created a Leadership Program in which 6-8 individuals are selected by our company’s founding partners every quarter and urged to participate in leadership classes. The class meets once a week with our co-founder, Grayson, who helps guide them in developing stronger leadership and management skills. During the program, each leadership group reads “The New One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and tracks daily use of his tactics to set goals, praise, and redirect. This time is also used for collaborative problem-solving to get new perspectives on how to approach and overcome issues they are facing. Having gone through this program myself, I can attest to the value that it had in sculpting and refining my leadership skills.


Give your team the support they need to be successful. If you see them struggling, jump in and help them out. If they get off track, point them back to the correct path. There is no better feeling in a work environment than knowing that your team has your back.

Lead The Way

We’re doing it. Now it’s your turn. There is immense value in training leaders in a small business, including having a more efficient team, happier employees, better retention, and a healthier bottom line. That’s our two cents, but what do you have to say? Any other ideas on how to grow your employees into leaders? Let us know! You can email me at emily@powerdigitalmarketing.com with any tips of your own. I’d love to hear from you. If you enjoyed this article, check out an awesome post by one of our founders, Grayson, about tips for managing your marketing team.




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