This is for the little guys... and I'm not just talking about you as a small business. I'm talking about the little guys within your business as well. This is about the individuals within the business and why everyone is so important.
Most of my work is within the context of intimate relationships, but whatever I write about, I'm about the individual and the notion that change happens from the bottom-upwards and inside-outwards.
You've probably heard of the bottom-up approach before, where change is easier to instantiate from the employees than it is for the leaders to do ("Tribes" by Seth Godin has an amazing book on that). It's true that the greater the numbers, the greater the collective whole is. But the traditional top-down approach of managing the team and then the individual has a counter-productive way to go about it.
By the way, if you're thinking that because you're a sole trader that this doesn't apply to your one-man show, then think again. This definitely does. Every day, you need to make sure that the parts of yourself are all working together and not against each other for your greater good.
If you had a sports team, made up of the best players in the sports, then your collective whole is potentially huge... but only IF the team can actually work together. That is what it takes to create a team whose output is greater than the total sum of its parts.
Working with Individuals
From working with individuals in intimate relationships, the principles required to create a tight camaraderie between people are the exact same: understanding that each person is different but are all seeking to fit into a larger picture. Each individual is constantly trying to get on their own team, solving any issues within (this is especially true if you're a sole owner), and after that they are wanting to be recognized on a larger scale for their own individuality and working amongst others that are just as valuable.
You start off with multiple individuals scattered all over the place and all are thinking about numero uno. As a leader, it's your job to first recognize the value that each of the individual team member brings to the table and connect them all to a larger picture, so they can cohere and work together.
Both relationship and teams are built around the qualities of the individual members and what they each bring that is unique to them (think about any relationship you have). But no matter how "special" each member is, the lasting success of the relationship between them comes down to how well they work together (the ONLY way relationships last).
Begin by initiating bottom-up growth from the top. The most common thing leaders will neglect is to focus on the individual's role and respecting them to not just follow but also lead in their own right. The simple truth is that you will never gain that coalescence between the "players" if they are only focused on themselves and their own value. As a leader, respect that their first right is to focus on themselves, and show them that they have a place at a table of others because of their value.
This idea of inside-outwards is nothing new and it works not just on teams within your business but also with your customers. Focus on the individual's role in the greater picture. Take care of their needs first and show them what they bring fits into that bigger vision. For example, share with a customer how their example in purchasing what they want, leads to them being recognized for their own value.
Here's to the little guy. Bottom's Up!