Entrepreneurs and small business owners are often taken to task for wearing too many hats. However, the ability to perform multiple functions – and be an effective “Jack of all trades” – is a reality that most business owners deal with as they work to grow their businesses. You might be negotiating with vendors, overseeing your website re-design, and acting as your own accountant – all in the span of a single day. Delegating is simply not an option when you have limited resources or staff.
Building your business while also ensuring that the nitty-gritty tasks are taken care of can be daunting. The fact is, each “hat” represents a profession of its own and juggling responsibilities can be exhausting, especially as the company grows and your workload increases. While you will gradually be able to hire others to wear some of these hats, for now the key to success is finding balance. This means learning to separate every aspect of your job into equally important parts.
In honor of National I Forgot Day, here is a reminder of some of the most important roles small business owners play and a few tips to help you navigate the resulting challenges. The younger your business is, the more likely it is that you will be shouldering all of these responsibilities. Be prepared to learn, grow and make mistakes along the way, and you will find that the experience of watching your business grow makes the hard work worthwhile.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
The desire to be the one in charge is often an important consideration when entrepreneurs are deciding to launch a business. In fact, a recent survey found that 44% of small business owners said being able to control their own destiny and make their own decisions was the number one reason they went out on their own.
While being the boss brings with it tremendous responsibility, it also offers countless advantages and opportunities. You have the ability to get things done quickly without necessarily having to compromise. You also get to determine and direct the culture of your company. Whether your small business has one employee or 100, establishing a supportive organizational culture with buy-in from management is the foundation on which employee satisfaction is based. Creating a culture that is inspiring, challenging, and rewarding for your team also can have a positive impact on your bottom line: culture-conscious companies typically out-earn and outperform their competition.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
As an entrepreneur, the survival of your business depends on your ability to manage your finances. According to Forbes, running out of cash is the second most common reason why businesses fail. Even among successful small business owners, 49% say cash flow worries keep them up at night.
There’s a lot that goes into maintaining your finances, and unfortunately being the CFO is often one of the greatest challenges small business owners face. Until you reach the point where you can bring a CFO on board to help you control costs, improve productivity, and drive profitability, consider hiring an accountant.
The role of an accountant may include reviewing your books to look for discrepancies, analyzing sales trends, completing end-of-year financial statements, and filing taxes. An accountant’s analysis of your financial data can provide information for forecasts, business trends, managing cash flow, and identifying opportunities for potential growth. They can be an invaluable resource when you need to make financial decisions that impact your short and long-term business goals. In fact, many small business owners consider their accountants as outsourced chief financial officers.
Chief Operations Officer (COO)
Before a small business owner is in a position to hire a COO, they must oversee day-to-day operations. This broad role can include everything from managing employees and monitoring quality control to handling client and vendor relationships.
If you have never worked in operations, here are a few tasks that you will need to focus on:
- Selecting and managing vendors: Making decisions about who offers the best quality and most competitive pricing on everything from phone service and software to shipping.
- Inventory tracking: If you sell products, inventory tracking is a task you can’t overlook. Having an efficiently organized inventory is especially important as your business grows or has an influx of sales during periods of large product demand.
- Pricing: Pricing products or services too high or too low is a common pitfall for small business owners. Do your research and test the waters to see what the market will bear.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
Small business owners typically take on the marketing efforts necessary to drive sales. As the CMO of your business, these are some of the most important tasks to keep in mind as your business grows:
- Lead-driving, whether from traditional advertising, social media, email marketing, networking, or content.
- Aligning your message with your efforts to create a cohesive brand that attracts the right audience.
- Strategic partnerships and events, from connecting with other local businesses to managing a booth at a trade show.
If you are not quite ready to hire full-time marketing staff, consider exploring outsourcing as an option for elevating your company’s marketing efforts. Whatever issue you’re struggling with, the right professional or agency can share proven formulas for building a strong business brand that will allow you to capitalize on the latest on- and off-line strategies.
Once you start driving leads, you will need to convert them. Regardless of who you hire to sell your products or services down the road, it’s up to you to develop your company’s sales process. Building sales can be a painstaking process, and many small business owners continue to reach out and make connections long after the launch of their business.
When working on your firm’s sales strategy, it is critical to focus on addressing your customer’s needs. Successful sales people know that prospects aren’t interested in purchasing a product or service – they want companies to solve their problems. Lead with questions and strive to strike a balance between open and closed questions to reach each customer’s “hot button” and make the sale.
Don’t forget to ask for referrals from current customers and continually look for ways to expand your network. Whether it’s through in-person meetings or via social media, networking is the tool most often cited by business owners for building connections with individuals in allied services and industries. It is an essential means of building the relationships and strategic partnerships that can not only generate sales leads, but are critical to long-term business success.
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