Running a business is complicated, I understand! You’ve got orders to fulfill, marketing systems to run, tax issues to resolve, and the list goes on.

But I’ve observed something interesting over the years I’ve spent working with small business owners: Many of them are brilliant businessmen and women, capable of managing incredibly complex operations… yet they still screw up the easy stuff!

And one of the most common examples is communication. Whether it is communicating with employees, with customers, with partners, with vendors, or whoever… clear and effective communication is very important. Yet it’s something that is forgotten all the time, often with disastrous results.

Today, I’d like to share five tips that will help you communicate more effectively. They are simple, but very important to the smooth operation of your business.

1) Slow down. You’re busy… I get it! Sometimes the last thing you want to do is slow down and communicate clearly. But rushing your conversations will ultimately cost you time – because there will inevitably be misunderstandings. Slow down and communicate clearly… it’s worth it.

2) Don’t get defensive. Getting defensive during a conversation can often cause you to stop listening with an open mind. You can’t afford this, especially with a customer or with a supplier/partner. Even if you’re being accused of something unfairly, do your best to remain calm and rational. Getting defensive will almost always make the situation worse.

3) Listen… don’t just wait to speak! This is a major problem in communication everywhere, not just in the workplace. There is a big difference between listening and simply waiting your turn to speak. Make an effort to truly listen to your conversational partners, and seek to understand the points they are making.

4) Ask questions to ensure your audience understands what you’re saying. This is especially important with employees and suppliers. Many people have a tendency to “smile and nod”, whether they understand what you’re saying or not. Make sure that your message has been communicated by asking the individual you’re speaking with to recap the conversation or explain their “next steps” in response to the conversation. If your message doesn’t get through accurately, you’re going to have problems!

5) Stay positive. Running a business can be stressful. We all have bad days. But letting negativity seep into your conversations will ruin the morale in your workplace, leave vendors and partners wanting nothing to do with you, and will make customers think twice before picking up the phone to call you. Stay positive… even when it’s difficult!