It’s a well-accepted fact that small business owners wear many hats, especially in the early stages of their venture. But if they want to grow faster, they should play to their strengths and wear one hat more than others, writes Phoebe Netto.
There’s a pervasive belief that it is the lot of small business owners to be accounts, the marketer, the receptionist, HR, the researcher, the salesperson, the IT expert, and more – plus whatever skill led you to starting your own business in the first place.
Frankly, that’s absurd. If doing all that other stuff is taking you away from your core business – the thing you’re good at and that you care for – then you’re doing yourself and your business a great disservice. You started your business because you were good at X, so why do you spend most of your time doing something else?
Only 17 percent of the workforce believes they use all of their strengths on the job, according to Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work. That’s more than four in five people with underused skills, knowledge and/or experience, which means a great chunk of the workforce is underperforming. Imagine how your business would advance if you could optimise your skills and your team’s.
Show your best…
If you want to grow your business and you want to grow it fast, you need to focus on what you’re good at and play to your strengths. Otherwise, it’s like the winning captain of a sports team carrying the drinks rather than leading from the front. Don’t waste your expertise, energy and passion on low-value tasks.
Often, the strength of the business corresponds with your strengths as they form part of your unique selling proposition. If you’re only performing in your core role part of the time because you’re tied up with ancillary tasks, then you also weaken the reason people come to you to do business.
In my business, the bulk of my time is spent on what I am best at, and the same goes for my team. Even if a team member has a particular qualification that indicates they can do certain jobs, if it is not their strength and someone else can do it better, then it is in everyone’s best interests that they don’t do that job.
For example, the senior PR consultants on my team have versatile skills that mean they could run media campaigns for any industry sector and do it well. But some of them are better at campaigns in certain industries than others. And while all of my team are excellent writers, they all suit different styles and content lengths. If I said, “All hands on deck”, instead of strategically assigning functions or projects to those it is best suited to, it wouldn’t be a good use of anyone’s time or skill.
The key is to diversify the strengths and passion across your team. I love that my team members are better than me at some tasks. While I am ‘the boss’, it would be arrogant and a missed opportunity for me to assume that I am the best in every area. My team complement me, and I complement them. When everyone has different strengths and everyone is playing to theirs, the combination is exciting, and the results are impressive.
…delegate the rest
It’s easy to see how small business owners get stuck doing everything. In the early days you don’t have the budget to bring on a specialist so you end up slaving away in an ancillary function at the expense of your core business, the strengths your customers value.
However, you need to think of spending time on support functions as an opportunity cost. Initially, it takes you away from the revenue-generating areas of the business. In many ways it’s a good idea to invest a little in delegating or outsourcing tasks that you loathe, take too much time to do, or are low value. This way you can profit from your core strength, which is likely to bring in more money than you’re spending on outsourcing, as well as being something you like doing.
Do not, however, outsource any function related to your core business, otherwise customers won’t see the difference between what you do and what they can outsource themselves.
Eventually, the opportunity cost is also one of skill-building. Why spend time and effort making your weaknesses stronger, when you can develop your strengths, which will reap better dividends? Each task should be an investment. Ask: how will it advance my skills, knowledge and/or expertise? How will it advance the business?
The key is to learn enough about each area to understand best practice so you can ensure quality and oversee it well, but then give it to people who are strong in those areas. If I didn’t outsource administrative tasks, it would reduce my availability for clients and the time spent growing the business.
Support functions eat up your time because you’re not good at them or don’t like doing them. On the other hand, working to your strengths leads you to be more productive, resilient, creative, innovative, proactive and satisfied. And isn’t that why we went into business for ourselves?
Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, a PR firm for SMEs and not-for-profits, that focuses on outcomes, not output – it’s pure and simple.