The beginning of a new year is always a great time to take a step back and look at your business from 30,000 feet. Since you can’t grow without good staff, I thought it would be an opportune time to write about leadership skills. As Jim Collins talks about in his first blockbuster business book “Built To Last”, it’s really all about “who is on the bus.” As someone who hired dozens of people over my twenty+ years as an entrepreneur in the pet industry, I can’t emphasize enough that when you have the right people on your Team Bus, growing and thriving in business will become that much closer to reality. And strong leadership skills will attract, and retain, the right people.

I believe the following five traits are key to being an effective leader:

  • GRATITUDE for what you have and the good things in your life – especially your staff! Look around you and you will find many other people who are in a much worse place in life. There is no single person whose life is perfect, but understand that what you focus on Expands! Take the time first thing every morning to set the Tone of Your Day by writing a list of what you are grateful for. And by all means, don’t forget to tell your employees just how grateful you are that they are part of your team!
  • OPTIMISM No matter what the outside world does, you must develop the mindset to have an expectation of positive outcomes, even in the face of difficulty. We are Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and what we believe about ourselves tends to come true. If you’ve never read the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, this is the perfect time to read it! Being optimistic is a choice. In challenging times like these, your staff will look towards you more then ever and when you put forth a “glass half full” attitude, it will give them comfort and confidence that will turn into sales.
  • FOCUS on the attitudes, mindset, actions, and behaviors that help you accomplish your goals and priorities. Now would be a good time to have a company retreat with your staff to map out these goals, objectives, and the action steps required by each person to achieve these goals. In October 2011 I wrote about a fabulous management tool I used in my last few businesses called the Management Action Program (MAP). E-mail me if you’d like me to send you a copy of that column.
  • PATIENCE The old saying Rome was not built in a day should be remembered. Almost everything takes more time, costs more money, and has more setbacks than we would like to admit. We are not wired to be patient but it’s one of the most important life skills you can develop. Give yourself permission to be more patient.
  • CONFIDENCE There is no other person exactly like you because you were born with your own unique talents, skills, abilities, and desires. Discover your unique ability and use it wisely. Find ways to capitalize on your own uniqueness – and surround yourself with employees that complement your strengths and weaknesses. Success comes to those who are assured of their own abilities, capabilities, and potential. Do whatever you need to do to boost your confidence since the outside world cannot do that for you.

Carol Frank of Boulder, CO, is the founder of four companies in the pet industry. As a Managing Director at SDR Ventures Investment Bank, she is a registered Investment Banker and leads the team in executing pet industry transactions including M&A, capital formation and strategic advisory services. She is also the owner of BirdsEye Consulting, the consummate source for pet sector consulting expertise in licensing, executive recruiting; market research, and sales channel strategy. She can be reached at carol@carolfrank.com.