- 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 treat to get to take on all of these different tasks because it 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 (i.e. lawyers are in charge of the legal department, accountants run accounting). In a big business, it would be unheard of for the Chief Technology Officer to also be in charge of sales, 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 responsibilities.
The fact is, while entrepreneurs tend to be a hearty, creative lot, able to take on various masks, there comes a point where doing so diminishes returns. As a wise man once said, “If you don’t have an assistant, then you are an assistant.” Overall, 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 getting the word out about your product or service.
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 small business owners 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. Businesses can’t grow until the entrepreneur realizes 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.
Whatever route you choose and can afford, 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.
Which mask are you wearing at work this Halloween? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. ©Steven D. Strauss