Communicating in business is important in every job, every industry and every geography. Even small businesses face communication challenges. There are literally no roles in which communication with someone--whether colleagues, customers or community members--doesn't come with the territory. Effective communication is something that most small business owners struggle with. Fortunately, there are some methods that can help businesspeople improve their communications.

Understand Your Audience

It is impossible to communicate effectively with anyone without first understanding their needs, interests, concerns and expectations. This is as true in the business world as it is in our personal lives. The first step is to consider what is important to the individual you will be communicating with and what questions or objections he might have. Then, in deciding how to approach the individual and what key messages to convey, ensure that you are focused on meeting and addressing his needs and concerns.

Be Prepared

Anyone who has embarked on a business communication mission without thorough preparation and failed miserably can understand the importance of preparation. Preparation will vary depending on the situation and the importance of the communication, but certain situations require more preparation than others. Conducting an annual performance review, responding to a customer complaint, making a request for a pay increase and delivering a business presentation all are examples of communications that require preparation. That preparation will include thinking about the messages you wish to convey, possibly writing a script to help you gather your thoughts, and even practicing your communication with a friend, colleague or on your own.

Listen First

Effective business communication first requires taking time to listen to the other person's perspective. Start the conversation by asking questions--and listening thoroughly and attentively--to the responses. As Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," has famously said: "Seek first to understand."