By Paul Burri
In a prior column I mentioned the four “hats” you will need to wear to be successful in any small business. (See The E-Myth by Michael Gerber) I also briefly touched on being your own boss, setting your own hours, reaping all the profits, etc.
The realities are a bit harsher. In one way you will be your own boss but in many other ways you won’t. You will just change bosses because now your customers will become your boss - and now you’ll have a lot of bosses. Your customers’ demands will determine many aspects of your new business. The hours you spend, the prices you charge, how much money you make (at least initially) and your profits (if any) will all be set by the demands of your customers, your competition and sometimes by your own employees. (If one of your employees doesn’t show up one day, guess who has to do his work that day?)
It is important to realize that the first few years of your new business will be the hardest and all the responsibilities will be yours. But hang in there because the rewards can be great.
Now back to the four “hats” - the Technician, the Manager the Entrepreneur and the Salesman, and having all four of those qualities in order to assure your success. I assumed that you were already the Technician, the one with all the expertise and skills needed to do the job or produce the products. But what do you do about the other areas where you are weak?
There are several things you can do. Hire the experts in the other fields. Don’t have bookkeeping skills? Hire a bookkeeper to come in on a monthly basis. Need advertising and marketing skills? Hire someone to do that. Please do not think I am suggesting that you immediately hire a huge staff of people to do all those other tasks. You probably can’t afford it yet anyhow. Be creative - find a third or fourth year accounting student who needs the experience and who is willing to work for a lot less than an established bookkeeper. That can be a win/win situation for both of you.
Another approach is to partner with someone who has the skills that you lack. Many successful businesses were started by two people who had complementary skills.
In the meantime, start learning some of those skills you lack by reading, taking classes and talking to friends and associates who have those skills. Keep in mind that you do not have to be an expert in them - only smart enough to ask the right questions. Always keep in mind that your time is best spent doing what you do best. It is far better to hire out the other important tasks to people who are expert in their field than to do a poor job yourself. You will end up trading a Toyota repair technician who is very fast for a bookkeeper who is half-fast - you.
Another thing that you should seriously consider is to form an Advisory Board of mentors to help guide you - especially in the early days of your business. These will be friends or associates who are experts in their own fields who can advise you on matters where you are weak. You will probably need someone who is strong on legal issues or accounting or insurance or real estate or personnel or marketing or just plain running a small business. Forming this kind of advisory board will be one of the most important actions you take to assure your future success. More on this in a future article.