How to Effectively Lead a Small Business Strategically – Nu Leadership Series

“ Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
Vince Lombardi

How can small business owners continue to compete with the 21st century demands on their organizations? This is a question most small business owners ponder. Recently, I had an opportunity to answer this question. I conducted a study on several small businesses in my area. The purpose of my investigation was to address how small businesses can improve their success in the public sector with a strategic approach.

The case examples of four small companies involved in federal contracting were evaluated in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. These companies had survived the turbulent times in the public sector; they have had a proven success record in securing million-dollar contracts in a government environment.

There is a widely believed myth that 9 out of 10 new businesses fail in the first year. Headd, author of Redefining Business Success: Distinguishing Between Closure and Failure, conducted a study for the Small Business Administration providing that this is not the case. He found that only one-third of new businesses closed under negative circumstances. However, Headd found the leading factors to business survival were good starting capital, an educated owner, adequate resources, and good people.

The study revealed several common threads for successful businesses in regard to government contracting. From the results, the investigation showed four critical tasks necessary to achieve this competitive advantage: (1) inspire vision, (2) define core competencies, (3) apply strategic thinking, and (4) connect with employees. The results also demonstrated that successful small businesses can improve their chances of developing, growing, and maintaining their presence in government contracting with a strategic approach to business thinking.

In spite of a hostile and competitive environment, these small businesses have managed to grow. It was evident that vision played a critical factor. Wacker, Taylor, and Means, authors of The Visionary’s Handbook, maintain that successful organizations and individuals aspire to change with its environment while holding on to its true
vision. Therefore, organizational leaders should conduct strategic thinking and planning in the confines of their vision.


Headd, B. (2003). Redefining Business Success: Distinguishing Between Closure and Failure, Small Business Economics, 21, 51-61.

Wacker, W., Taylor, J., & Means, H. (2000). The Visionary’s Handbook. New York: HarperBusiness.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green