Why small businesses need general managers


As anyone who starts a business will tell you, the time and effort required to move from startup to sustainable small business is intense and as a founder you’re always juggling roles and priorities. In this process. you also usually work out where your time is best spent and the need for delegation in order to avoid burnout.

Overcoming the need for controlling every area of your business is an important step for any founder who wants to see their business scale. From my experience as a co-founder of a business that has successfully made it past the startup phase, I believe finding someone who can fill a senior management role, thus allowing you to focus on the expertise you bring to the business, is key to long-term growth. Here are a few reasons why…

Moving from start-up to sustainable small business

Finding the right person means identifying areas within your business where there are opportunities for growth. An experienced General Manager should bring a different skill set to your organisation and will use this to build the frameworks and support systems that are crucial for a business to flourish and have longevity. Their experience and knowledge will help build a stronger foundation for your business.

Ensure a strong company culture

In the rush of building a business and delivering great results for your clients, trying to also focus on being a team leader can be difficult. Hiring someone in your business whose responsibility includes leading the team and nurturing culture is essential for growth. Our general manager has really embraced this role in our business and provides strong leadership for our team. This frees up my time, and that of my co-founder, to make sure we are always working on new ways to grow the business and stay ahead of our competition without being spread too thin.

Take responsibility for critical functions in the business

When you’re starting a business it is all systems go and finding time to implement structure and clear processes can sometimes take a backseat to make way for securing new business. This is often referred to as working in the business vs working on the business. The latter is really critical for moving the business forward, especially if you want to build a team or take your services global.

A great General Manager will help alleviate the stress of being responsible for the day to day management of the business like keeping staff and clients accountable to project timelines, running internal meetings and ensuring increased productivity across all facets of the business. Their financial acumen will also be an asset to ensure you’re not only focused on annual turnover but also net profit.

Fresh eyes and a winning attitude

The fear many founders have is around investing time and effort into new people who don’t work out. This is unfortunately part of being a business owner and while the risk of this happening is always there, the benefits are far outweighed with the opportunity to bring in high-quality people who have total commitment to seeing your business grow. If you’re unsure about managing the interview process then it could be worthwhile finding a recruitment firm to assist or bring in a colleague who enjoys this part of business and is happy to assist. When hiring our current General Manager we obviously looked at experience but what was also really important was finding someone who was prepared for the fast-paced, hands-on environment of a startup/small business. A great GM will also bring new ideas and perspective that is sometimes needed when you’re a business owner wanting to get everything done yesterday!

If you are committed to the long-term success of your business, as well as your own health and wellbeing, then I highly recommend a General Manager for your small business.

Finding the right person is not just a commitment to a large investment on your payroll, but an investment in maximising the potential of your business.


About the author

Kiel Van Daal is the co-founder and Managing Director of Sydney-based creative agency Digilante and incoming President of the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) Sydney for 2018.