14 Essential Skills Small-Business Leaders Should Master





Running a small business is similar to a juggling act, where entrepreneurs wear numerous hats to keep the show running smoothly. While adaptability and multitasking are key, there are specific skills that stand out for small-business leaders striving for success. These skills go beyond the basics of entrepreneurship and delve into the intricacies of leadership and management.

To discuss these skills, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) members responded to the following question:

“When you run a small business, you often have to wear a lot of hats to ensure everything gets done. But what’s the top skill you think all small-business leaders should have if they’re going to succeed, and why?”



Here’s what these YEC business leaders recommend.

essential skills for small-business leaders

1. Delegating

“To avoid burnout and create long-term sustainability, all small business leaders need to learn how to delegate. We often fall into the trap of thinking we are the ‘only one’ who can get something done, but this is a total myth. When you are spread too thin, it’s easy to feel like you’re failing all the time and eventually succumb to overwhelm. Learning to delegate is the key to survival.” ~ Rachel Beider, PRESS Modern Massage

2. Effective Decision-Making

“One of the top skills that all small-business leaders should possess for success is effective decision-making. This helps them respond to challenges in a timely manner, adapt to different scenarios, assess risks, make informed choices and manage uncertainties effectively.” ~ Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite


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3. Adaptability

“The top skill for small-business leaders is adaptability. It enables them to navigate unexpected challenges, embrace change and pivot strategies effectively, ensuring resilience and long-term success in a dynamic business environment.” ~ Nic DeAngelo, Saint Investment – Real Estate Funds

4. Leading by Example

“I’ve learned that the most impactful skill is leading by example. It’s crucial to show your team that there’s no task too small or challenge too big that you wouldn’t tackle yourself. This builds immense trust. By demonstrating that every role and task is vital, and none beneath you, you foster a culture of mutual respect. It’s a powerful way to say, ‘We’re in this together.’” ~ Brandon Ginsberg, ApparelMagic

5. Strategic Thinking

“I feel that the ability to think strategically is among the most crucial for small-business leaders. Big-picture, strategic thinking guides decision-making, drives growth and helps you navigate challenges by focusing on long-term goals and ensuring the business stays on a path to success.” ~ Jack Perkins, CFO Hub

6. Effective Communication

“The top skill all small-business leaders should have if they’re going to succeed is effective communication, as it helps build transparency throughout the business and provides clear-cut goals for all departments and team members. Leaders should also help build and maintain clear lines of communication between employees and management.” ~ Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC



7. Time Management

“Running a company requires tremendous focus, and it’s important not to get caught up chasing the wrong thing. Track your time down to the minute, and always know what your highest ROI tasks are. I follow the advice from Gary Keller’s ‘The One Thing’ and ask myself, ‘What can I do now that will make everything else easier?’” ~ Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences

8. Planning

“Planning and pushing deadlines back are two critical areas that great founders master early on. Rushing toward shiny new objects is a rabbit hole one should avoid at all costs. Delivering outstanding customer service is one thing, but lack of prioritization and long-term planning is impossible to scale.” ~ Mario Peshev, DevriX

9. Accounting

“Many traits are needed to be successful, but all entrepreneurs (and managers) could benefit from basic accounting knowledge and learning how to read financial statements. The ability to read and ask questions about financials will significantly affect your decision-making ability and your understanding of profitability.” ~ Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

10. Learning

“I think all small-business owners or leaders should always be open to learning. Getting started, you may have to do a lot of things yourself, whether they fall under your area of expertise or not. Therefore, you shouldn’t mind learning new things and implementing them. This would help you keep the needle moving and make it possible for you to achieve the set goals with limited funds or resources.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms



11. Coaching

“Cultivating this skill empowers leaders to guide, enable and hold their teams accountable. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement, aligning individual and collective efforts with business goals. Coaching ensures a high-performance team where everyone understands their role, feels supported and contributes meaningfully to the company’s success.” ~ Devesh Dwivedi, Higher Valuation

12. Empathetic Innovation

“The most critical skill for small-business leaders is empathetic innovation. This involves deeply understanding the unique needs and emotions of both your customers and employees, and then creatively addressing these needs in your business model and operations. It’s not just about following trends now; it’s about foreseeing and shaping them through a human-centric approach.” ~ Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

13. Marketing

“Small-business leaders need to know how to market on top of leading their company. In a way, everything you do involves marketing — from recruiting, talking to investors and, of course, engaging with customers. Understanding how to market will make it easier for you to communicate benefits and relevant information to everyone you speak with.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

14. Sales

“There’s no better, more effective and more motivated salesperson in a company than the owner. It’s especially true for small businesses that do not necessarily have the budget and time to train their sales teams. By being in close contact with their buyers, business leaders get a better understanding of their ideal customer profile and get instant feedback about their offer.” ~ Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS



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The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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