The Many Hats of Small Business Ownership

Small Business Owners Wear Many Hats… One at a Time.

As you launch your own business, you inevitably will “wear many hats.” Of course, day-to-day operations will require frequent changes of hat and headgear, but you always must remember, when you don more than one hat at a time, you just look and act silly. More importantly, you absolutely cannot change your mind each time you change your hat. Change-up the millinery as circumstances demand, but make sure each new brim contributes to building the business by commanding customers’ loyalty.

Pat on his Mac (next to another Mac)
Image by Kevin Galens / Flickr

Maintain Your Priorities and Solve Urgent Problems

Before you celebrate your grand opening, take time to examine your entire hat collection, assessing the relative importance of each. The collection surely will include marketing, public relations, advertising, accounting, finance, IT, forecasting and planning; as the business grows, you will add personnel management and training. Day by day, your profit-and-loss, your market share and the quality of your competition may influence your hat selection, but do not allow exigency or expedience to prevail over your genuine priorities. Baseball caps and hard-hats come and go, but your dedication to building the business persists. Therefore, go to the hat tree with a realistic sense of what to wear in the moment and throughout the day.

Customer service always comes first

Inventory management and marketing always seem urgent, but they never become so urgent you cannot set them aside and devote your undivided attention to a customer’s needs. You always have known this cardinal principle of good business, but the pace, distraction and stress of running a one-man-show may cause temporary lapses of memory. A well-chosen customer service cap will keep you safe.

Become exceptionally skilled at problem-solving

Skilled problem-solvers develop their powers of discernment, and they use those powers to determine which problems they can solve with their own resources and which require professional intervention. In order to remain focused on building your business, call-in qualified people to fix urgent problems outside your areas of expertise. If you cannot fix a toilet, call a plumber. If you cannot do taxes, call a CPA. In general, if you cannot see cause and solution in a problem’s symptoms, call an expert.

Dedicate your best efforts to building your business

Choose your hat with consummate respect for your own time, talent and temperament. If you have exceptional marketing and public relations skills, devote lots of time and energy to using them in service of boosting revenues. Conversely, if you have little accounting skill, devote even more effort to marketing so that you generate enough revenue to hire a bookkeeper. Even as you wear your PR hat, though, keep scanning the horizon for customers in need of your special attention.

Take time for reflection

No need to hire a small business consultant. Your conscience and intuition will tell you exactly where you went wrong, and they will outline the best ways to fix your mistakes. Take time each day for serious reflection, asking three essential questions: First, find courage to ask, “Where did I go wrong?” Then summon insight and imagination as you ask, “What can I do better?” Third, reward yourself as you consider, “What did I do well, and how can I do more of it?” Record your thoughts in a journal. Make journal-writing the last item on each day’s to-do list, using it to complete the day’s business and anticipate what comes next.

Add a mortarboard to your hat collection

When your journal routinely calls your attention to a big vacancy in your hat collection, fill the empty spot by going back to school. Several reputable online universities offer advanced business degrees in entrepreneurship. Because you take just one class at a time and you complete the work online, you can focus and study according to your schedule. Andrew Shigeru, an MBA student at Ashford University, exults, “I immediately can apply the benefits of each class session and every discussion in the next day’s work. I feel myself becoming more skilled and professional literally every day.” (interview. 2012. July 7)

Recruit dedicated staff

As your business grows, promote staffing to second place on your list of priorities. When you recruit devoted employees to wear hats that do not fit you well or complement your complexion, you relieve much of your stress and gain time for wearing your own favorite hat, the one that always has held a little magic and inspired your best work.

About the Author: Kelly Smith is a full-time writer for higher ed blogs and journals nationwide with a focus on online education opportunities. Several schools offer online degrees in strategic management, including New England College and Quinnipiac University.

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