Small business owners understand the concept of wearing multiple hats more than most people. It’s safe to say that the majority of small business owners get into business without the benefit of 100% working capital, so the first few years of business includes a lot of cost cutting, especially in the area of staffing. If you fall into this category, you might find yourself doing inventory, taking sales calls, marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, managing the business, paying suppliers, training any staff you might have, monitoring quality, and handling complaints, not to mention managing social media.
With a list like that, it’s easy to see how wearing too many hats places demands on your time and thought processes. Far too often, small business owners find themselves having to drop one task and take on another that is more urgent, only to find that something else crops up that must be dealt with immediately. When you’re the one attending to everything, there’s a constant fight for your attention, which leads many people to embrace multitasking in an effort to gain the upper hand. Multitasking, however, is not the ideal solution it initially appears to be.
While multitasking might save money in the short term, it can cause you to miss opportunities.
Here are three reasons you should be thinking about getting help.
Reason #1: Your creativity and memory suffers.
The main problem is the time and energy it takes to refocus. Even though shifting between tasks might seem smooth and effortless on the surface, the energy you’re expending in the process can lead to mental fatigue. Research suggests that humans have a limited capacity for thinking about more than one thing at a time, so shifting back and forth between tasks takes a toll by reducing efficiency. You see, shifting between tasks isn’t just about the task, it’s also about shifting between goals, between desires, between the guidelines we have set for one task or another. And as tasks become more complex, it takes more mental energy to shift between them, and also more time to refocus.
Reason #2: Stress increases and mistakes happen.
The strain on your brain from shifting between tasks increases your stress levels, and when you’re stressed, mistakes are more likely to happen. You’ll be more likely to miss important details and make poor decisions. Then, when mistakes are made, the stress increases even more because now you have to allocate time, effort, and resources to fix problems that could have been avoided. Concentration and focus is further reduced, and pretty soon you’re feeling completely overwhelmed.
Reason #3: You need to care for your greatest asset—YOU!
The main issue with multitasking and wearing too many hats as a small business owner is the impact it has on you, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The one thing you should be fully aware of, is that as a small business owner, you are your business. If you are not at your peak, it will be impossible to develop your business effectively. If you get ill, your business will suffer. In other words, you are your greatest asset. Neglecting or overworking your best asset is not good business sense. While it might seem productive in the short term, it can lead to costly mistakes in the long term. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, no time for relaxation or replenishing your energy are not conducive to leveling up.
Never underestimate how important it is to take time to think, to dream, to envision your goals being accomplished. We are all aware that without action there’s no upward mobility, but most people don’t realize that thinking brings about strategy, and this is what really gets you ahead. Think-time, as some people refer to it, affords you the chance to focus your attention, to think about problems, to find solutions, to notice the gap in a market and then find ways you can fill it. None of this will happen if you’re spending all your time working in your business and none working on your business.
Minimize the impact of wearing multiple hats by observing process and delegating tasks.
So what can you do when you find yourself doing all the day to day activities just to keep your business going?
#1: Recognize that you can’t do everything yourself for long.
If your business isn’t going to survive unless you do everything, then you should re-evaluate your business model because what you’re doing is not sustainable. Get used to the idea that you need support, determine where that support can come from, what it’s going to cost, and begin making plans to establish your business the way it should be.
#2: Take a long hard look at the steps involved in each process in your business.
Determine what’s necessary, what deserves your time, and what can be outsourced to technology or someone else. Many small business owners aren’t completely aware of all the processes involved in engaging a customer and making a sale, or ordering resources. Sometimes, just observing how things are done makes it possible to simplify or reduce steps, thus making the activity more efficient and less time consuming.
#3: Outsource services that require specialized expertise.
Whether you need to hire an accountant, marketing support, or social media manager, there are some aspects of your business that benefit greatly from external, expert guidance. Regardless of how savvy you may be, the advantage you gain from professional input can make a difference in your bottom line.
Success in business does not happen overnight. Most small business owners know this, and stay away from quick fixes or get rich quick schemes. However, multitasking has a special appeal that many succumb to. Use the advice in this article to position yourself for success, and avoid becoming a mad-hatter.
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Shelley-Ann Edwards-Barran is a writer, editor, writing coach, speaker, and advocate for better writing instruction. She is the CEO of WERD Coach Ltd., a company dedicated to helping writers at many levels – children, academics, authors.