I hear too often from business owners and entrepreneurs that they are bombarded by so many requests and problems, that they have trouble sorting out the daily crises from opportunities with a major payback for the business.

In other words, how do you recognize the challenges that really need your leadership, versus the less critical demands that seem to always bubble to the top?

In my experience of many years as a business founder, consultant, and executive, I offer the following list of situations that always imply a real need for people and business leadership, and have the potential for long-term positive impact on your bottom line and business success:

1. Your business image is slipping in the eyes of customers.

Customer feedback, online reviews, and poor customer service are often rationalized as unreasonable expectations or one or two hard-to-please individuals. In fact, you need to carve out time every day for improving customer relationships. More happy customers are a major key to success.

For example, Jeff Bezos of Amazon always finds time for his "divinely discontented" customers as an opportunity, rather than an irritant. As a result, Amazon has ranked highly for customer satisfaction for many years in a row and has grown accordingly.

2. You see more personal people conflicts in your team.

Healthy debates and differences of opinion are good and lead to needed change. But any time you see personal verbal attacks or lack of engagement, you need to drop all else and get to the bottom of the issue. Healthy team culture is another key driver for growth and winning.

Studies show that a positive team culture in an organization can result in 26 percent fewer mistakes, 22 percent higher productivity, 41 percent lower absenteeism, and 30 percent stronger customer satisfaction. That's a payback you can't afford to ignore.

3. Major vendor and partner relationships are suffering.

Businesses succeed or fail on the basis of good people relationships, more than great processes. Your job as a business leader is to get the right people in place early and provide ongoing communication and oversight, rather than trying to run all the relationships yourself of a growing business.

Delays in addressing customer or vendor problems can cost you more in a single day than many companies make in a year. You must never be too busy on daily issues to prepare for and handle these situations.

4. You can't find the time for coaching and mentoring.

Even the busiest leaders find time for management by walking around, and actually listening to their people. Maybe now is the time to bring in outside coaching and motivational speakers, as well as more training. Be sure to take the time yourself to keep up with leadership trends and needs.

5. Meetings with your team seem to be nonproductive.

If your team is not fully engaged, you need to take the lead in incenting participation, through positive motivation, better listening, or proactively asking for feedback. Positive team collaboration is a culture that you must foster to increase productivity and the ability to change with the market.

6. Top employees are leaving for better opportunities.

In my experience, employees usually leave if they are not satisfied with you, rather than a salary level or role definition. Your challenge is to proactively build a caring and positive relationship with key individuals, and show them that you are providing the career development they crave.

7. You see evidence of ethical compromises in the team.

Every business owner and entrepreneur has to be the role model for trust, a good moral compass, and ethics. You need to make sure you are sending the right signals, and you must communicate and act decisively to eliminate transgressions in this regard. Nothing can be a higher priority.

You can't ever be too busy to watch for these opportunities, and prioritize the work on them into your schedule. Now is not too early to look at your own schedule to see if you have the right priorities on your precious time.