Too Many Hats

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

As business people (or as human beings in general) we often wear “many hats”. Sometimes we wear too many hats. It just “is what it is” in our fast-paced Age of Information.

I can remember when my children were little, I thought I’d topple over from the sheer weight of all the hats I wore. I was the cook, the maid, the chauffeur, the scheduler, the shopper, the tutor, the disciplinarian, the nurse, and the organizer. And I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few hats; selective memory at this point, I’m sure.

I willingly wore all those hats because I was sure that I HAD to wear all those hats. No one else would take those responsibilities. No one else was as good at handling those responsibilities. There wasn’t enough money to pay someone to handle any of the responsibilities.

As I formed a small business, I took on the same attitude. There isn’t enough money and no one who can do things quite like I do.

It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t want my eternal business card to read “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer”. I didn’t have enough hours in a day to accomplish all that I wanted my business to do, if I handled every task on my own. I also realized that I’m not the most capable person for certain tasks. (Shocking self-realization!)

As I began planning how my business would grow, and the best methods for guiding it in that direction, several things became clear:

  1. I have BIG plans for my company and I can’t do it alone. No woman is an island, right?
  2. I have a few, very distinct specialties; the areas that aren’t my specialty ARE someone else’s.
  3. If I want people to value and pay me for what I specialize in, I need to return the favor.
  4. In order to grow a business, you have to learn to trust the capability and integrity in others.

I also realized that I never intended to be my own worst boss; working myself 24/7 just wasn’t good for anyone. Me, myself and I considered going on strike for the long, insufferable hours without overtime pay or additional benefits.

I quickly started shedding hats. Paying a graphic artist to design my logo. Hiring a web designer to create my web site. Allowing a social media specialist to handle my growing number of accounts. Contracting a part-time person to help identify new marketing opportunities and more modern apps and platforms the business should be utilizing.

Was I spending more money? Without a doubt, yes. A lot more money. Did it offer me additional benefits? Absolutely! I was no longer working round the clock. I was no longer doing things that weren’t really my forte. In the end I started making more money since my time was being spent strictly servicing my clients and seeking out new ones. And the ultimate benefit: my limited number of hats and I have a lot more time to enjoy ourselves and participate in life –  and THAT’S why I went into business for myself.

Leveling Up

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

Not too long ago I published an article on narrowing your focus, as related to defining your company’s target market. Basically, it was a wakeup call for entrepreneurs who believe everyone can become my customer. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that I was guilty of doing the exact opposite: assuming that certain people couldn’t be my customer. This is just as bad.

It was mentioned to me that what I had done for one nonprofit organization could be duplicated across the state. My response was that there are national and state funded programs that offer the same type of assistance to these particular organizations at no charge. Why would a nonprofit organization pay me for services they could get for free?

The problem: I wasn’t thinking big enough!

As the wheels began turning more quickly in my head I realized that the state programs are typically understaffed and their small departments can only provide a limited amount of time and resources to each of the several organizations they are set up to support.

The solution: instead of approaching each organization individually, approach state programs with a consulting proposal.

As this idea began to cement in my mind, I quickly shifted to the thought that for every potential client my company would like to work with we should be “leveling up”. By leveling up, I mean that we should not only be going after the clients we want, but also targeting the people and entities that support those clients.

Every organization has a hierarchy that reaches beyond that organization. As you begin to plan more strategically for the success of your business, you need to consider your plan for escalating your marketing and communications efforts. Imagine how much more effective you can be by targeting the one entity that’s responsible for supporting 25 organizations that you consider to be potential clients.

Try to think of who your ideal customers are. Then try to imagine who or what is on the next level above them. It’s so much easier to spend a reasonable amount of time and energy going after the few at the higher level than to spend a great deal of time trying to reach the myriad of those occupying the level below. It’s the old trickle-down theory.

For example, if you have a deck building company and you see a new housing development of 300 homes being built in your town you might be thinking it would be great to market to each of those brand new homeowners.

Thinking more strategically, however, imagine how much easier it would be if you only had to talk to the developer. Would that company contract with yours to build the decks on those homes as they’re being finished and sold? Would they refer you to the homeowners so that you can build decks for those who want them later? Once the development is complete, would the homeowners’ association allow you to advertise in their newsletter or on their website?

By this way of thinking, you have two companies to market to, where the previous method means approaching 300 homeowners.

Planning and communicating more strategically can save your company precious time, money and other resources. Additionally, the benefits are potentially limitless, especially as you continue to find the next higher level.