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5 Must-Have Employee Traits From The Small Business Owner Perspective

5 Must-Have Employee Traits from the Small Business Owner Perspective

For many small businesses, the impact of each employee is significant – more significant than the impact a single employee can make in a larger company.  I have personally worked in and led teams in corporate and small business and I can attest to the fact that a key difference in working in a small business is the opportunity to make an impact every day.

For the small business owner, building a team is a real challenge.  Most businesses under 25 employees lack an HR department to assist in hiring, leading, and retaining employees.  What makes things more difficult is that owners are wearing many hats and may not be able to dedicate enough time to employee engagement, development and management.   These realities are really hard to change.   But that doesn’t mean building a great team is impossible.

For a small business owner to be effective in talent acquisition, they need to identify employees who fit well with the desired culture and carry the right traits to be successful.  After hiring and managing a number of employees, I’ve identified five traits that I’ve seen firsthand in those that have been successful in my business.

For people looking to work in a small business, these five traits should give you some insight into what it takes to thrive and become a valuable member of the team:


Be Resourceful.  Do you have the ability to “figure it out”?  Small businesses are constantly being presented with new problems, new situations and new opportunities.  The ability for an employee to self-learn and come up with solutions without management is an invaluable trait.

Be Flexible. Just as owners wear many hats, so do employees of small businesses.  Having the ability to take on multiple roles in a business can not only make you more valuable to the business, but also allow you to make a bigger impact.  Being flexible also means having a can-do attitude.  Things can shift quickly or you can be asked to help in an area that is not your “domain”.  Be open and flexible enough to contribute and help others.

Be Friendly. A smaller team means that one employee can make a strong positive or negative impact on culture and the overall team dynamic.  In addition, in a small business, many employees are likely to interface with customers and partners.  It is important for employees to establish positive relationships, communications and interactions with others.

Be Dependable.  Small business leaders need to be able to delegate and have faith that things will get done.  For me, I’m delegating many times a day and sometimes I don’t remember what I’ve delegated.   So having an employee that can keep organized and take care of business is so important. An employee who can take direction, take responsibility and deliver on their promises will build a high level of trust with managers.

Be Results-oriented.  Small business owners are in the business of getting things done.  These “things” can include securing new clients, building capabilities or executing projects.  In order to get things done, we need employees who aren’t just “busy”, but are focused on finishing projects and producing results.  Employees that focus on results are more likely to show their value to the business.


Employees are one of the most critical factors to a business’s success or failure.  Having employees that either come in with these traits or are coachable and willing to develop these traits is so important.   So my extra lesson for the prospective employee is to be open to feedback and continue to grow these soft skills.

Finally for the small business owner – identify ways to evaluate these qualities in your interview process and take an active role in development of these traits within your team.

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