Wearing multiple hats is nothing new in the life of an entrepreneur. However, this column is going to focus on the hats you throw upon others. Too often hats are being tossed onto the wrong person or for the wrong reasons, which have a negative impact versus the positive relief you envisioned. Have you or are you placing hats on the wrong heads, causing more confusion or chaos than collaborative gusto?
1. Just for a While Hat: I witness this all the time. An employee is asked by the business owner to do a job unrelated to what he or she was hired to do "for a while," until a replacement can be found or the business can ramp up to make it a full-time position. If the job is not in an area the employee is passionate about or feels is using his or her strengths, disengagement quickly occurs resulting in filling two positions, not one. If you really need that employee to help bridge the void, make sure it really is short-term. Have a clear start and end date with action being visibly taken on your part.
2. Friends & Family Favor Hat: Leveraging all potential resources, including connections and competencies available from family and friends, can give a business valuable loyal support and capability. However, I am always perplexed by business owners who are using family and friends for special projects or within positions in the company more from a cost–savings standpoint than in moving a supposedly important initiative forward through capable support. First, it actually devalues the family member or friend who is expected to perform. Second, what inevitably happens is a disappointing domino effect: 1) lack of initiative; 2) misunderstood expectations; 3) continuous delays and issues; and 4) dissatisfaction and frustration on both sides. So, if you "have a friend whose daughter does this" or "an old colleague who owes you a favor because of that," consider the price you ultimately pay in tension and frustration when neither of you feel appreciated or get what you expected.
3. Volunteer Hat: In an effort to ramp up sales an exposure, business owners will get employees involved in various business and charitable groups with the expectation of generating leads and opportunities. The pressure to come back with leads, even from non-sales people, overrides the good that is being done through volunteerism and charitable service. When generating leads is the focus versus it being a genuine values-driven initiative of giving back, employees are not as engaged and it will show in their demeanor. Then, the business is viewed as opportunistic versus a caring corporate citizen.
4. Grunt Work Hat: This seems to occur most with businesses using college interns, which is such a shame. An intern earning college credits for working at the enterprise is relinquished to doing all the administrative support and menial tasks that need to be done, but are viewed as grunt work. Interns are innately curious, and highly motivated to learn, grow and show that they can have an impact. They should be used to help you take a specific aspect of your business to its next level. Leverage their enthusiasm by engaging them in research, process improvements, or other due diligence within or for your company.
5. Income Diminishing Hat: This is where business owners consistently blunder. Managing and understanding everyone in your company's time as income-based activity is critical to realizing a profit in your business. Every position inside and outside of the company is directly tied to income in one of these areas: Income generating; Income producing; Income sustaining, Income supporting; and Income enhancing. If you have anyone in the wrong role, or view anyone as overhead, then the amount of income and profits you are not realizing would astound you.
Take off all of your hats for just a moment and consider the hats you are placing on others. Then adjust accordingly so your business can realize optimal success from a truly collaborative, passionate, and purposeful team utilizing their core strengths and competencies to your business' advantage.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.