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The Many Hats Entrepreneurs Wear

Tessa-May Marr

September 15, 2016

hats entrepreneurs wear startup

It’s a total balancing act, trying to fit all those hats on your head without one falling off. Entrepreneurs know! As the leader of a start-up, you’re liking filling many roles on the organization structure—not just that of the strategic leader and CEO. Because with new businesses, who has the money to hire a full gamut of staff right off the bat? I know I sure don’t. If you’re anything like me, in the stretch of a single day (or week at least), you are juggling any or many of these eight (hopefully fabulous) hats--sometimes more than one at a time.

The Strategic Leader Hat

You’re the leader of your business, so you have to set the direction for everything. What are you priorities? Who’s your ideal customer? What is your growth plan? What does your org chart look like? Have you set the Mission, Vision and Values? What is your five-year plan? These are the questions that keep CEO’s up at night, regardless of whether your business is big or small.

The Finance Hat

You probably make up your entire C-suite if you’re running a start-up or a small business, so that means you have to manage the money as well. You’re probably invoicing clients, tracking and coding your own expenses and processing deposits at the bank—all by yourself. You have to decide where to invest and how much to invest, and always be keeping an eye on the profit margin to ensure you have enough money in the bank to pay your bills. And the only way to keep money going out on time is to keep money coming in on time. With that, let’s try on another hat.

The Sales Hat

In order for businesses to grow, you need to find ways to bring in new clients. If you’re like me, this can be an uncomfortable part of the job. I am not a salesman! Or I wasn’t until I started my own business and realized I sort of have to be, because no one else is going to do it for me. This doesn’t have to be door-to-door, or cold calling, but you do need to find a way to sell that works for you. Figure out where your target market is and how best to reach them and eventually, convert them to customers. Another great way to get new business, is customers referrals! And with that in mind… time for a new hat.

The Client Relations Hat

The business doesn’t work without customers, of course. They are the bottom line, so you need to keep them happy. Clients need time and attention, and they love to be able to talk to you, the CEO, directly, so you have to make time for them. You probably spend a good portion of your day checking in with clients, finding ways to improve their service or offer them more and from time to time, dealing with complaints or issues (also known as learning opportunities for new businesses!).

The Human Resources Hat

You’re going to max yourself out quite quickly if it’s just you running the whole show. You need days off to recharge! Don’t forget that. So that means, soon enough after starting the business, you’re going to need to hire a team to help with different aspects of the business. This can be great because you can actually hire people who are better than you. (While you look great in all these different hats, it’ll be a much lighter weight on your shoulders if you can take a few off.) Hiring means creating a job posting, finding the right place to circulate it, short-listing applications, interviewing and then salary negotiations. This isn’t everyone’s area of expertise, but if it’s just you thus far, you’ve got to figure it out! (Unless you’re lucky enough to have budget for a recruitment agency right off the bat.)

The Manager Hat

When you’ve hired your dream team, it doesn’t stop there. Teams need someone to manage them! Your need to balance vacation bookings, scheduling and sick time, to make sure your team is supported and your business doesn’t come crashing down once you realize everyone has booked their holidays in the exact same week. And don’t forget about professional development! Your team is going to need challenges, training, constructive feedback and career support as they commit more and more time working within your business. If you want to keep them there (these well-trained, talented, committed individuals you’ve hired), you have to keep them challenged and supported!

The Culture Hat

Now, how are you going to make this dream team work seamlessly together? Do they know each other? Do they work well together? Do they trust each other? Do they trust you? How do they communicate? How do they like to be communicated to? These are things you are going to have to figure out. Creating a culture at your organization is very important and cannot be neglected. You have to invest time and money into this. This could mean check-ins, off-sites, team lunches, milestone recognition or even communication quizzes! Try different things to see what works for your group. You may not get it right the first time, or even the first few, but don’t give up. The good news is, this can be a lot of fun! Just be sure you maintain a level of respect. Your team needs to be able to connect, but also know who’s in charge.

The Man On The Line Hat

I’ve found that nothing builds team rapport like getting out and onto the front line with your team. This helps bring a small team together and ensure everyone feels motivated and like “you’re all in it together”. (Let’s be honest, working at a start-up is hard work and takes a lot of commitment, so you’ve got to keep everyone inspired enough to keep going.) You started this business based around your skillset, more than likely, so whatever it is you’re business is offering, you need to be doing it and leading it everyday.

That’s eight hats—different colors, styles and sizes. Some are going to fit better than others; all are going to add weight to your life. But for all the challenges being an entrepreneur comes with, it really is a pretty freaking awesome job as well.

Tell us, what “hat” do you find yourself wearing most often? And what did we miss?

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