As a business owner of 22+ years, we wore many hats in those early years; designer, fabricator, delivery person, accounting, manager, payroll, healthcare, secretary, networker, deliver, packaging, etc. The list goes on! How many departments does a business have? You name them; we did each job in the beginning, sometimes for many years before we could hire others to help.
We had two departments when we started, called Chris and Michelle! Since we both had the desire to start this business but came from different backgrounds and training, it was a great asset for us to work together on each task and pull out the collective strengths of our knowledge and then apply them to our new business. (Did I mention we’re married? That kept the fun, excitement, and commitment to our business.)
The roles that required a ‘hat’ are in parenthesis. Take a look at how our business evolved over the years.
In the early 90’s, it was commonplace to build your own equipment from the furnaces to the benches (builder, welder, electricians’ assistant, carpenter). Then there were the products to produce (artist, glassblower, designer, cold worker). Once I quit my job full time, (unemployed) I began to sell and market our finished goods (networking, delivery, invoicing, sales). I also now had the time to plan the shows, events, and wholesale trade shows we’d attend in the upcoming years (event planner, travel agent, admin assistant).
It was at this time we developed our marketing materials (graphic designer, printer, silkscreener, shipper, gopher for supplies). Business cards, order forms, shipping procedures, tee shirts, mailing labels, etc. I can still remember the smell of drying silk-screened tee shirts drying in our kitchen on those hot muggy summer days!
Then came the website and the need to photograph our work for documentation, show entries, and the website (web-designer, photographer, lighting assistant, student-(you need to take classes to figure out how to manage the website right?!))
Fast forward a few years, Chris quits his job, we have some kids and begin to sub contract a few fellow artists to get certain projects done and now we’ve out grown our space so it’s time to shop for our own building (child care, management, CEO, building owner). Payroll is pretty important now that we are entirely self-employed so the hustle for new jobs is critical (commissioned sales, accounting, accounts receivables, healthcare).
By now we’ve settled into a bit of rhythm with our business. Chris handles the money side of things so he can quote new jobs and collect payment, I handle the marketing, which give me the flexibility I need while raising (and homeschooling!) our two kids.
It only occurred to me today, as our business continues to grow that I’ve grown accustom to wearing all these hats and delegating them to others is quite difficult. If I pass on all the hats, where does that leave me? What is MY job? A bit of personal coaching helped me get a grip on my strengths and values so I could really get a hold off my new role in the company as we grew. (Clue, your roles may, can, and possibly should, change as your business grows.)
The last few years we’ve delegated most of these hats, but I can’t say that it’s always been easy or fun. It’s like handing off your child to let someone else raise it. You assume you know the best way to do everything and that no one else could possibly to it better!! Not true, but in the thick of things you think you do know best, after all, it is YOUR business, you grew it from scratch.
In the end, I have to say, this is a GREAT time to own a business. There are so many people willing and able to help you be the best you can be. It’s rather exciting! The trick is to nurture and grow the perfect combination for your needs and to be honest, you might not know your needs if you haven’t worn all the hats.I had to ask myself what my greatest asset to the company was, what could I do that on one else could do and then to honor that asset, to give it my all. Being self employed, and the owner of the business, I need to constantly lay down the vision for the company and keep it on track.
So I’ve named this new position: Creative Visionary. I really want to embrace this next challenge and live my life to it’s fullest. It sounds exciting!! So, I’ve just promoted myself, wearing a new hat, because I gave all the others away!!
Wishing you all the creativity you need to see your vision thru!