How many small business hats do you wear? Probably a lot. Indeed, when you are the boss, your hats likely include:
- VP of Sales
- Chief Marketing Officer
- Accounts Payable and Receivable
- Customer Support
- Public Relations Specialist
- Social Media Manager
- Shipping and Receiving Clerk
And that’s just for starters.
For some people, it is a fun to get to take on all of these different tasks because it beats being bored and requires that one keep learning new things. Yet the trick is figuring out how to do all of these things effectively.
It is no easy task. In fact, usually it becomes an impossible one.
One of the real advantages bigger businesses have is that there are people within the organization who are hired and trained to handle these different sorts of specialized duties; lawyers are in charge of the legal department, accountants run accounting, and so on. In a big business, it would be unheard of for the Chief Technology Officer to also be in charge of sales for instance, but in a small business, that sort of double duty is the norm, even when the person is neither trained nor qualified to handle those extra duties.
The fact is, while entrepreneurs tend to be a hearty, creative lot, able to handle many tasks and masks, there comes a point where doing results in diminishing returns. As a wise man once said, “If you don’t have an assistant, then you are an assistant.” The point is, it makes little economic or organizational sense for the creative, intelligent entrepreneur to spend his or her time figuratively (or literally) licking stamps.
Here is a better plan:
1. Make a list of your non-essential duties: As a small business owner, there are critical things you must do and other things better left to someone else. Time-management guru Timothy Ferris says that he got so good at delegating the non-essential things that eventually he got down to a 4-hour workweek.
So yes, there are probably a lot of things you do during the day and week that can be handled by someone else. Your valuable time should likely be spent dealing with important customers, getting more business, thinking strategically, and marketing. Of course in your particular business there are other things that only you can handle and you need to handle those. But you and I both know you spend time doing things better left to someone else.
2. Make a list of things you are not particularly good at: Aside from non-essential responsibilities, it is also true that you do undoubtedly do important tasks for which you have little aptitude or training. These usually take a lot of time, require a significant learning curve, and thus are also not the best use of your time.
List these too.
3. Delegate to those around you already: If you have employees or contractors with whom you work, it is probably true that they are more capable than you know. Give them some of these extra duties and let them prove it.
If you don’t have a staff, what about recruiting your spouse or kids to help ease your burden?
4. Bring in help: Of course, one reason that many entrepreneurs wear so many hats is that it seems to be the more affordable option. Why hire someone when you can do it yourself? This is of course shortsighted thinking. No business ever grew until the entrepreneur realized that he or she cannot do it all themselves. Bringing in help (contractors, employees, interns, part-timers, whatever) to ease the burden doesn’t cost, it pays.
And finally, the last thing you can do, related to Number 4, is to
5. Tap technology: When we speak about “bringing in help” these days, it must necessarily mean not being a techno-phobe. Get the tech help you need too.
Whatever route you choose and can afford, when you actually do get some extra help you will have pulled off one of the real entrepreneurial tricks of them all:
Your business will become busier than ever, yet you will, ironically, also have more free time.