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The Many Hats of A Small Business Owner


Large companies and corporations have structures and hierarchies in place to keep a business running and organized. Each department has it’s own roles and responsibilities. Within those departments, there are folks with training and education to back up their titles. They rarely step outside of their roles, and they don’t cross over department lines (that would be called overstepping boundaries). However, when you are a small business owner, whether it is a new business or you are well established, you will wear many hats. You will constantly cross over department lines, and you will overstep every boundary there is.


You are the boss, the CEO, and the CFO. You can call it what you want, President, Ceo, Owner, Owner Operator, Manager, Supervisor and the list goes on. When you are a small business it is really up to you to decide your title, when it comes down to it, the simple fact is that you are it…You are everything. You have to know a lot of skills and be ready to learn and acquire new skills constantly.

You are the HR department. You have to handle incoming applications, interviews, hiring, and paperwork. You develop and deploy your employee manual, policies, and benefits. You will have to stay organized and diligent as well as keep up on all the latest policies to ensure that you are complying with the every changing policies in your state.

You are the bookkeeper. You have to keep track of every penny coming and going out.

You are the payroll department. Making sure that everyone gets paid for work done in a timely and consistent fashion.

You are your own accountant. Granted maybe some of you have outsourced this one, most start-ups will do the majority of this work solo, or with some help from a friend.

You are the trainer. Every new employee will be taught by you, and ongoing training will ensure that employees stay on top of the most important practices.

You are the sales person. Generating new business and nurturing existing clients.

You are the marketing department. Without you where would sales be..oh that’s you too.

You are the employee. There will be times when you have to step into any job that you have outsourced, or hired employees for, so you are responsible for knowing every aspect of every job.

You are customer service. You must build those everlasting relationships, and put out the fires when you have an upset customer.

You are billing. You are in charge of collecting on invoices both current and past due. You have to stay on top of this one, otherwise you won’t be able to play your own bills.


So it’s really no wonder that according to Bloomberg, 80% of entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months. That’s 8 out of 10 of all businesses failing before the 2-year point. The article points out that in the end the failure is generally blamed on lack of money, but it is what you do before you run out of money that really matters. So working smart, and savvy will help to keep you in the 10% of those that succeed.

With everything that you have on your plate, I think that it is obvious that you need to stay organized and focused. It’s a no-brainer right…So why does it sometimes still feel like you’re living in chaos, and one hair away from falling off the edge of a cliff? Well to put it simply it is just the nature of the running a small business.

One day you will be humming along and everything is in a state of harmony. The next day half of your staff all get sick all at once and it seems like the end of the world. For a moment, you are not sure that you will make it through the day. But, you take a deep breath and know that there is always a solution. At the end of the day, you can and will still get everything done. You will shift roles and schedules so that everything is covered, and you pick up the slack. You might even call on family and friend. It means that whatever you had planned for the day will likely not happen, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t get through it. You have a great team that you can count on, and you are great under pressure.

On days when everything goes haywire, it is especially important to be able to prioritize your tasks. You have to know which hats are the most important to wear given the circumstances of the day. There will be days when you just barely get everything is done. There will be and others where you are ahead of the game, and get everything done ahead of schedule.

Either way it is imperative to have a routine that manages to work in accomplishing your daily goals as well as leaving a little leeway for putting out fires (hopefully before they happen). One way I like to do this is to simply write out a basic daily, weekly, monthly routine all on one calendar. Let’s say you have payroll due at 2pm on Tuesdays for a weekly pay schedule. So the goal isn’t to have it done by 2pm on Tuesday, but to get it taken care of as soon you are able to. So if you the work week ends on a Sunday, you would then prioritize this task for say Monday afternoon. This way if something comes up and you are not in a bind to make sure this happens. You have planned with an adequate amount of time to complete the task well before the deadline.

I know it seems simple, but take it from me….I was once finished payroll (late) with a crayon and had a vomiting child next to me…I had not planned for the fire. I was stressed, about to lose my mind, and had to incur additional fees in order to process payroll in time for payday. In the end I survived, and everyone got paid on time.

So once you have figured out your routine with you schedule to include, daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Take a moment to look at your least favorite activities, or perhaps tasks that are redundant. See if there are any of these that you can completely eliminate, automate, outsource, or just simply spend less time on.

One way that I constantly waste my time. In fact, I had to pull myself away from it just this morning. Let me talk about A/B tests for landing pages for a moment. Basically, you have landing page A and landing page B and they are in competition with each other to get the highest conversion rate. I LOVE to look at those numbers change on a regular basis, but the truth is the best use of my time would be to set it up…let them run and check on the results after about 30 days so that the numbers are giving real results. Showing an increase from 8% to 20% conversion with only 10 page visits is not a true measure, but like I said I love to see the numbers change so if I have a spare moment, I will often check on my A/B tests well before it is necessary or worth it.

Similar things can be said about time spent on Social Media. It is necessary, but you can also get sucked into time wasters when working on it. So what are your time wasters?

The bottom line is that you are it, or at the very least the majority of the jobs within your company are up to you. In order to get them all done in a timely fashion you need to prioritize and know when and where to spend your time.