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Organizing Your Small Business
Copyright 2005 Mark Meshulam
A fundamental challenge of small business can be summarized as "too many tasks, too few people."
Unlike large enterprises which can have whole teams devoted to limited tasks 'think "Task force for the unification of stapler specifications and procedures" 'small businesses can have one person covering anything and everything.
The time to address "who does what" in an organization is the time when the organization contemplates adding its very first employee. If you are a "one man (or woman) show" and you want to grow, now is the time to start.
Organizing small business starts with an organizational chart. This chart is a thinking tool which evolves over time, so it is a good idea to use a medium which allows change, such as a spreadsheet program.
To start, think about the main function areas in your company. I will make this easy for you because, guess what? Companies all need basically the same things: infrastructure, selling and performing.
Some companies may have additional main function areas such as R&D, marketing, legal, purchasing, etc. however in smaller businesses, these would probably be tasks or subsets of main areas such as selling or infrastructure.
When building your chart, list the main function areas. Under each, list the tasks which need to be performed.
Example: Infrastructure tasks might incude: manage office space, manage budget, pay bills, invoicing, collections, insurance, payroll, office supplies, computer equipment, network administration, etc.
The first time you start listing tasks, be prepared to feel overwhelmed. You may be shocked at the sheer number of tasks which need to be done in order to keep a business afloat. Fear not, your chart will be your friend. As you continue to look at your organization and its tasks, you will begin to germinate ideas about how to do them better.
Organize and group tasks in ways which make sense to you. You might, for instance, order tasks chronologically, or by similarity, or by shared resources. This brings me to the next step: listing resources.
A resource helps get the task done. Your outside accountant might be a resource for a list of tasks. Someone within the company might be a resource for certain tasks. If you like thinking this way, you might even list non-people resources such as links to websites, paths to files, phone and account numbers of vendors, etc.
If you go this far, you are moving in the direction of creating a resource guide, which is but a stepping stone away from a procedure manual. These tools also promote orderly growth, but are topics in their own right.
The last step in creating your organizational chart is to assign responsible parties to each main area and each task.
Now stand back and look. Does it make sense? Is it orderly? Are people positioned for efficiency and for the best use of their skills? Would outsourcing certain tasks be beneficial?
Use the chart to explore such questions, both with your employees as well as your outside resources. Every six months update your chart and reissue it to your team. This will raise good questions, clarify others, and convey to all the correct impression that your company is positioned to grow.
About the author:
Mark Meshulam offers information, rumination and illumination about people, processes and productivity at work. See his software productivity tools at http://www.poingo.com