If you’re like most small business owners, your business card might bear the title CEO or principal, but you know that on any given day it could just as easily read customer service, sales associate, marketing manager, technology director, accountant…
Small business owners don’t have the luxury of passing duties off to department managers. The success of your business depends on your ability to wear all the multiple hats needed to keep the wheels of your business turning. At times, the dizzying pace needed can turn even the most capable person into an overwhelmed entrepreneur wearing too many hats.
Whether you see the diversity of responsibility as a blessing or a curse, you’ve got to set a plan for success.
1. Identify your separate responsibilities.
The first step is simply distinguishing all the varied aspects of your business that you’re currently managing. This includes both income-generating tasks (sales, business development, or whatever service you provide) as well as operational ones (accounting, customer service, etc.). Effective goal setting is key to success in any business, and you should set individual goals for each aspect of your business.
2. Make time to work on your business (not just in your business).
When you’re a small business owner, it’s all too easy to get lost in the daily grind of your business (working “in” your business) and put off strategic, long-term planning (working “on” your business). If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to dedicate time in your calendar each week to consider your business and market trends, think about potential opportunities and do some long-term positioning. Stay disciplined: You’d never put off a meeting with an important client, so don’t flake on this critical strategizing time, either.
3. Bring on help.
When resources are tight, small business owners usually try to fill the gaps themselves. Each business has its own economic reality that’s got to be factored into any hiring decision; however, by and large, many business owners end up wearing multiple hats because they wait too long to hire additional staff. Yes, labor is usually one of the higher costs in the budget, but skimping on staff can have a detrimental effect on your business’ ability to grow, support customers and take advantage of new opportunities.
Before looking to bring on help, you should sit down and objectively assess your own strengths and weakness. What areas of your business do you love? Where do you need more discipline and development? By identifying your areas of weakness, you can see where you could best get assistance from another (whether that’s a full-time employee, part-time employee, contractor or temporary agency). When hiring as a small business owner, it’s always best to try to maximize your own strengths and fill in gaps for your weaknesses, rather than just hire for what you’d consider “lower wage” work.
4. Empower those around you to do more.
When you’ve been used to running your business on your own, it can be difficult to relinquish control of day-to-day details. But it’s critical to let go. Successful business leaders don’t micromanage what everyone else is doing. Rather, they empower people around them to do their jobs.
Make sure you’re giving your contractors and employees the freedom to make decisions (even make mistakes and correct the mistakes themselves). In the long run, you’ll have a wiser, more confident, more effective and more capable workforce. And you’ll be able to focus on the strategic aspects of your business.
5. Always stay close to the customer!
No matter how big your business gets and how much staff you bring on, I always advise business owners to stay as close to their customers as possible. This means two key areas: sales and customer service. Talking to customers one-on-one is the best way to truly take the pulse of the market, customer needs and how your company is doing. And helping customers is probably why you started your business in the first place, right?
Most importantly, don’t forget to embrace all the many hats you wear in your business. Because one thing is for sure; you’ll never get bored!