Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 07/01/17, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive
Source: During most of their entrepreneurial journey, a small business owner will wear many hats when managing and taking to tasks the numerous duties required to operate their small local business enterprise. How does the small business owner become profitable, while freeing themselves from tasks that are necessary in the day to day running of their business, all while not neglecting areas of their business? They must focus on hiring their weaknesses.
As a new business owner, it may seem that you will be wearing many hats. Before you have a workforce to rely on, you are an army of one; in charge of every task and duty involved in operating your small business enterprise. You must go to work to get the work so you can go to work to make a profit.
In between all those things, you are the one who takes to task putting together the marketing and advertising, are the one in charge of networking with potential clients in your community, and are the one with the duties of stocking the shelves and maintaining a positive and clean appearing store front. At first it will seem very overwhelming to handle all these job responsibilities as they have many moving parts. A new business owner must come to terms with how many duties they can effectively handle, so that each task is done correctly, turning out positive results for their business.
Each business owner must come to terms with themselves, and be completely honest about what their strongest skills are that they have to contribute to their business and what their weaknesses are, which pose a determent to their own enterprise. It is only in this very humbling experience, can a business owner set aside ego and become teachable and open to delegating tasks to other people.
So how does a business owner know what their best skill sets are? There are methods that will help come to this conclusion. Start with a clean sheet of white paper, and make a list of all the reasons why you started your business. Then make another list of all the tasks and responsibilities you enjoy about operating your business. On another sheet of paper list all the tasks that you don’t enjoy or find rewarding within the day to day operations of the business, but yet are critical functions that must be addressed. Then think about this for a moment…the tasks that you do not enjoy doing, is it because you are not as well trained in these areas?
Take a moment to rank each task according to a scale of one through ten – one being the score given to a task that you are least confident in doing yourself, and are least educated or trained in, including tasks that you are not willing to become educated or trained in. This will help you in defining both your strongest skills and weaknesses, giving you a baseline of which jobs you can expect yourself to source out to an independent contractor or delegate to an employee.
So, what is the best use of the business owner’s time? Usually it is the business owner who is the leading sales representative for their business. Potential customers want to know the story and the message behind the scenes that makes the business stand out from others like it in the surrounding area. It’s the business owner, who is the founder that tells this story the best, including why the business owner decided to go down the self-employment track. The business owner needs to dedicate time to building relationships with multiple audiences. They will need to have positive relationships with other business owners, which sometimes become customers, with vendors and suppliers, with professionals (such as accountants or attorneys), with local community leaders, and with potential customers. This will require the business owner to set aside time to network with these different groups of people. The business owner needs to spend time researching new product or service offerings. This may require the business owner to take time out from the day to day operations of the business and travel to trade shows or attend events that showcase the latest innovations. The business owner also is at the lead in providing customer service.
A business owner must look at financial metrics of the best use of their time. There are several methods for calculating where the business and business owner’s time must be focused in order for the business to realize a profit. My approach is looking at the business and the vision in the bigger picture; then reverse engineering this model to put a plan in motion that will get the business owner to focus their best use of time on activities and goals that will help them arrive at their determined benchmarks. All other tasks that don’t directly help the business and business owner achieve these goals can be delegated.
Tasks such as office or property maintenance, cleaning and stocking of store front shelves, or cleaning of tools, are all examples of minimum wage activities that take away the business owner from their core duties in making the business profitable. This is where a business owner can hire someone part-time to handle these jobs. This is considered a weakness for the business owner, because these tasks do not generate an income.
There are two methods on how a business owner can hire their weaknesses. The first method is hiring third parties to handle functions of their business, on a project by project basis, where these tasks do not require a full-time employee on site. A business owner may opt to hire a bookkeeper, accountant, and/or payroll service that are given the responsibilities for maintaining records of the financial transactions of the business, filing of taxes, and dealings with all the HR management aspects of the business’s workforce. A business owner might decide to farm out their marketing and advertising to a branding and marketing company, to handle the creation and development of the business’s marketing collateral, ad placement, social media and digital marketing campaigns, as well as develop a website and other public awareness campaigns. A business owner may also choose to hire a landscaper or janitorial service to maintain the business’s location or storefront.
The other method for hiring your weaknesses is to hire direct employees to work for your business. You may have a hair salon and you, yourself may be an expert hair stylist, but find it difficult to answer the phone, and book appointments for clients, while trying to provide service to the client right in front of you. If so, you can hire a receptionist that can handle and manage customer service over the phone. You might be experiencing growth and need additional people to help service your already successful flow of customers. Then you would be in search of employees that have similar skill sets to offer so they can assist in servicing your customers. Maybe your business is a retail business, and you need a stock clerk, in which that person can also be trained to be a cashier.
If you are not sure about hiring the person long term, however the potential employee has the skills you feel will help your business, you can offer to hire the person on a trial period. A trial period gives both the employer and the employee a way out if the relationship is not what each party expected without any hard animosity. If the potential employee performs to the standards and expectations set forth in the initial interview, then you can offer the option of full time long term employment to the new candidate. The potential employee also has the ability to hold open the doors of opportunity with other potential employers if the current employment situation is not a good fit.
Most small business operations do not have the capital to compete against corporate giants. Some perks a small business can offer is a flexible work schedule that is accommodating to both the business’s hours of operation and the schedule of the potential employee. Small businesses can provide performance bonuses or incentives for employees when they assist in the growth of the business. A small business can allow for an employee to telecommute when applicable; saving the employee commuting costs.
A small business can offer to pay for additional education or training, while on company time for their employees. Learn to earn programs have become very popular for small businesses. A business can promise to pay all or part of a tuition fee to higher learning or job training. The employee will agree to stay with the business for a term agreed upon by the business owner and the employee. Once the term has been fulfilled, the tuition is paid for or reimbursed to the employee by the business owner. If the employee leaves prematurely to the end of the agreed term, then the business owner would only have to cover a portion of the tuition, and the employee would be responsible for the rest. This helps the employee advance their career and the business to retain talent.
A small business can offer to help compensate the employee with commute cost reimbursement. Some employees must travel up to two hours away to stay employed at their current situation. The small business can offer to assist with tolls and parking expenses, and offer the employee a fuel card with a pre-determined allowance. These are also valid tax deductions for a small business. A small business may allow for a small expense account for the employee that is predetermined to cover cost of office supplies used at home when the employee is telecommuting. Other perks a small business may opt to offer are employee discounts on the business’s products/services. Some small businesses do contribute to a retirement fund that the employee may take with them when the employee moves to another place of employment, if the employee met the term of their employment with the business.
So, where do you go to hire your weaknesses? Today there are a plethora of options. Websites and social media sites like Linked-In, Monstor.com, Craig’s List, and Meet Up, which are prime places to post employment ads and provide the ability for two-way engagement between the potential employee and the business owner. Also, you can utilize the services of an employment agency or head hunting firm. These types of firms already have a data base of potential candidates that may fit the criteria of someone you desire to fulfill a job role. A small business can offer a mentorship or apprenticeship opportunity to business students in high school and/or college. These students are in search of employment experience as part of their coursework. If the student proves to be a success during the term of the apprenticeship, you can offer the student either part time or full time employment. Also, you can ask for referrals from your current employees. Employment One Stop Labor Centers may also offer candidates that are currently receiving unemployment benefits and in search of a job.
No matter the type of employment arrangement, as a small business owner, you must be able to delegate the tasks that occupy your time, taking you away from income producing activities and be willing to let go of a little control. No employee will ever know all the things you know. No employee will ever do things in the exact manner that you would do things. When you are hiring your weaknesses, you must have a level of trust in the professionals you are hiring, so they can be comfortable in helping your business solve problems, and the latitude to do so.
Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.