How we work has changed—which means so has the way we lead. From remote work and the gig economy to online everything, the leadership learning curve can feel steep. Fortunately, most core business leadership principles remain the same.
Adapting timeless management skills with fresh takes is key, something Jon Snyder of Il Laboratorio del Gelato learned while navigating change and growing a successful small business.
6 leadership lessons from Snyder will help you lead, grow, and succeed.
1. Be prepared for both business and professional growth.
There will be times when you’re faced with decisions that have a long-term impact. (Think: choosing the freemium software over the paid tier that has features you don’t need today, but may want tomorrow.)
It’s helpful to ask yourself, “Will this hold up one, five, or ten years down the road?” Whether it’s a back office tool, a lease on a new location, a shipping vendor, or even a brand name, note what may serve you today may not sustain you tomorrow.
It’s optimistic, but it’s also practical. Growth happens. When you’re ready for it, you can grab it.
2. Know when to say “yes”... or “no.
Growth is also in your control, however. Learning to differentiate between opportunities and obligations can help you say yes or no.
When Jon Snyder’s ice cream business faced massive growth, he had to consider if growth would compromise his vision: using only the best ingredients to produce the best ice cream in New York. But with lines already out the door, saying yes to more locations could have threatened quality. “We take a lot of pride in our product. It’s easy to cut corners, but I wanted to stay focused on the product. Saying no can be a good thing when rapid expansion can derail things quicker than you might think.”
When the time was right, Jon said yes. Today, three franchises extend the brand beyond Manhattan, without overextending the team.
3. Hire great people and keep them.
Amidst headlines of “quiet quitting,” record burnout, and massive turnover, it’s easy for leaders today to feel overwhelmed. How do you attract good talent, and how do you keep them?
“I’m proud to have great people, one who has been with me for 20 years, one for 9 years, and another for 8. I attribute it to the environment itself, the culture, and financial incentives.”
When many workers have the choice to work from anywhere, a great environment is more important than ever. “My job is to create an environment so great they won’t want to leave,” he says. It also makes you competitive for new talent. “One employee came from a basement kitchen with low ceilings, no air conditioning, and rough conditions. Our 3500-sf space has big windows, natural light, air conditioning, and a view onto the street,” imparting inspiration and energy.
“Culture is not something you can cross off a list like bookkeeping, but it has to stay top of mind.” He says integrity, a common understanding of the goal, and putting in time yourself can set the tone. “Rolling up your sleeves and being a hands-on boss shows dedication, and it’s infectious.”
4. Learn the art of delegation.
As a small business owner, letting go of the reins can be difficult. But you may be surprised by how much control you actually regain when you do.
“Understanding the importance of help is key,” Snyder says. “It’s been a personal journey, going from one person in the first year, to two in the second, and three the third. Today, I have between 15-25, depending on the time of year.” Jon still may start his day at 2 a.m. some days, but he can focus more on the value he brings to the business: strategic decisions, culture, and growing the brand. “Where I want to take the brand can be very personal,” and he has more time to do that by passing on other tasks.
Bonus: Delegating work can strengthen trust and loyalty, allowing workers to develop professionally.
5. Identify the right time to outsource.
In the same vein, outsourcing expertise you don’t have in-house can be an excellent investment, and it’s more accessible than ever with freelance talent and third-party support. For example, outsourcing PR support to drum up growth can pay dividends.
“In the beginning, I hired a PR company for 3 months. Right out of the gates, we got a story out and the media attention drove a really remarkable start,” he says. After that, media coverage became more organic.
6. You are your business. Avoid burnout.
As a small business leader, you set the tone and bring energy to the business, so be wary of burning yourself out. Instead, stay true to your vision, and give yourself space to grow and rest.
While building his first business, Snyder admits, “I burnt myself out. I had the mindset, ‘I’ll build this for a year, sell it, then move on.’ By the 5th year, it was where I’d hoped, but I’d burnt myself out.” The second time around, he brought a different energy, fueled by travels abroad that inspired the new concept—and ultimately, the secret to its success.
Keep things in perspective, take time for personal development and growth, and prevent burnout.
Utilize Capital One Business Deals for more small business resources and discounts
Learn more about Jon Snyder’s story, and explore Capital One Business Deals for additional resources to help you lead with less stress, effort, and cost. Capital One Business Deals has been a mainstay in Snyder’s small business toolbox, with deals for all your mission-critical tools and services.