The Many Hats of Business: Can You Wear Them All?

As a new business owner, it’s important for you to figure out, in advance, exactly how you are going to get everything done in the time available to you. Here is a list of the many different people you may have to be at one time or another.

If you are like most home-business owners, you’ll end up doing all the work for awhile, so you may chuckle a bit when you get to the production plan. Still, it’s important for you to figure out, in advance, exactly how you are going to get everything done in the time available to you.

Stop and think about all the business hats you may have to wear for awhile, and be realistic about your ability to do all the work that may be involved. Following is a list of the many different people you may have to be at one time or another:

General Manager. You get the worrisome jobs simply because you’re the decision maker and risk taker. You also get to write all the business plans and read a wide variety of business publications and electronic newsletters to stay informed.

Marketing Manager. You get the job of figuring out who customers might be, where they are, and how you can sell to them. You, too, must read a variety of business and marketing publications (print and electronic) to stay abreast of what’s happening in your industry and which marketing strategies are likely to work for you.

Advertising Manager. You work closely with the marketing manager to decide when and where to place ads, and what type (classified or display) to place. It’s your job to send for rate cards and sample magazines (and media kits) and explore electronic advertising options on the Web.

Publicity Director. When there is not enough money for paid advertising, your job is to figure out how and where to get free advertising (publicity) for the business and to develop a good media list for mailings.

Copywriter. Since you must write the copy that goes into the company’s sales brochures, flyers, catalogs, advertisements and news releases, you will need to constantly hone your writing skills by studying the finer points of copywriting shared by experts in books, magazines and ezines.

Graphic Artist and Printer Liaison. You must work closely with the copywriter to achieve the right blend of copy and art on all printed materials, and you get the job of putting everything together for the printer, as well as following through to the completion of each job.

Production Manager. You get to make the work schedules and determine the quality control standards of your product line.

Production Worker (maybe the whole line). You must complete the work on schedule while meeting the above-mentioned quality control standards.

Mail List Supervisor.You’re the one who sets up and maintains the company’s mailing lists (customers, prospects, PR list and other important business contacts) adding and deleting names or making address corrections, etc.

Bulk Mail Expert. If your business involves direct mail advertising of any kind, you get the job of figuring out the post office requirements for bulk mailings and redoing the entire mailing when the post office says you’ve sorted everything incorrectly.

Order Fulfillment Clerk. You get to process orders and prepare the necessary order forms and shipping labels.

Shipping Clerk. In addition to receiving shipments of raw materials for the manufacturing of products, you get to pack for shipment all outgoing orders, plus take a physical inventory at the end of the year for tax purposes. (You will be greatly relieved when you can afford to hire an outside fulfillment center to handle all orders.)

Secretary and Customer Relations Service. You get to order office supplies, sign for packages, compose and type the business letters, handle customer complaints, and acquire all information needed by management.

File Clerk. And you get the job of figuring out what to do with the mountain of paperwork everyone else in the company is generating every day!

Bookkeeper. You will keep inventory records and post all income and expense figures to the company’s journals and ledgers–after you have set them up, of course. You will also approve and pay bills, balance the checkbook, and organize and file all receipts for tax purposes.

Accountant. You will analyze the books and handle whatever the bookkeeper can’t do, such as fill out government forms for tax deposits or payments, do paperwork related to employees, and prepare quarterly and annual financial reports and tax returns. You must also stay abreast of changes in tax laws that might affect your business.

Computer Expert. One of you guys is also going to have to become the computer expert if you hope to long survive in business. If your business needs to be on the Web, you’ll have to spend hundreds of hours learning how to navigate the Web, do business electronically, and set up and maintain a Web site. (Let’s give all this work to the general manager, who started this whole thing.)

Whew! Some list, isn’t it? Early in her business, speaker, columnist and consultant Patricia Katz,, took a humorous approach to this topic by creating special cards for her entire family. She came up with some categories I hadn’t thought of, such as manager of the humor department, cheerleader, and captain of the ‘Knock ‘Em Dead’ squad. The awesome list above still isn’t complete because we’ve yet to add family and home responsibilities. Since there is a limit to what one person can do alone, it’s wise to acknowledge your limits and plan early to find outside help, particularly within your own family. Include all possibilities for assistance, and think of creative ways you might pay for it, including bartering of services or products with business acquaintances, sales commission plans for people who might help you market your product or service, and family bribes, if necessary.

You may be thinking it’s impossible for any one person to do all the individual jobs listed above; yet, that’s exactly what you’ll have to do if you are a sole proprietor with no money to hire outside help. Now do you understand why so many new businesses fail? Too many people start with no idea of all the work that must be done, let alone the special skills or experience some jobs require. As you can see, there are many individual and important jobs to be done, even in the smallest business, and your main job now is to decide which ones you are capable of doing–or learning to do–and which ones you’ll have to get help with.

Remember, there are how-to books for everything you can imagine, and your self-education can be reinforced with free information and assistance on the Internet and from government agencies, as well as with seminars and workshops or outside consultants. True, it may take the next five years for you to learn what you need to know, but if self-sufficiency is your ultimate goal, what’s five years in the scheme of things? Keep reminding yourself of what I emphasized in the beginning of this book: Each new thing learned broadens your economic base, and each new skill increases your income potential. Go for it!

An excerpt from HOMEMADE MONEY: Starting Smart! © 2003 by Barbara Brabec. Barbara is the author of several home-business books and publisher of The Brabec Bulletin. Visit her Web site at


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