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The Many Hats of an Entrepreneur

From leading the company to executing the day-to-day, every entrepreneur should be a master of switching gears.

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Sometimes, being an entrepreneur means rolling up your sleeves and making the shift from chief cook to bottle washer. In order to make this shift, lower priority pursuits, like blogging, have to be put on hold. In situations like this, it’s important to understand how to prioritize what needs to get done in the immediate term, but equally important to make sure that the immediate term does not extend into the future.

When there are extra demands of your time, the first things to go should be the tasks that are not core to your daily operations. In my case, that’s blogging. While this might seem obvious, it can be hard to let go of some of these things simply because they are enjoyable.

Because it’s more fun, it gets assigned a higher priority than it should. Conversely, tasks that you dislike, like human resources or accounting, may get assigned an arbitrarily lower priority just because they’re not as much fun. In other words, the actual priority of work gets skewed based on the perceived pleasure of the task. When you’re strapped for resources, need must always trump want, and it must be based on objective, not subjective, factors.

When it comes to need, existing business should always be the top priority. As the head of a company that has made the Inc 500|5000 list several years in a row, my typical day-to-day focus is on ways to grow the company. 

Growth, and new business, should always be the focus of the entrepreneur because if the business not growing, it’s slowly dying. However, without cash flow from ongoing operations, the company can never hope to grow. So, in situations where resources are strained, your focus as an entrepreneur must return to the core operation of the business. 

If your attention does get shifted to the day-to-day, it must only be a temporary occurrence. If your focus continues to be diverted to the day-to-day operations, it might mean that you have a systemic or resource problem.  In EasySeat’s case, we had a temporary resource problem due to employee turnover. 

We identified the need, hired and trained additional staff, and now I am able return to my focus to growing the business and the “fun” stuff I get to do like blogging. But, the key is that the diversion was only temporary.  Whenever you are called into the fray, you should be working as much to ensure that you can return to your normal responsibilities as you are to simply complete the required day to day tasks.

Being an entrepreneur always means wearing many hats, from chief cook to bottle washer. However, it’s important to remember that the chief cook hat, that of driving the business forward, is your primary wardrobe. If you’re wearing the bottle washer hat more than just in the case of occasional needs, then it might mean there is a bigger, systemic problem to solve. 

Failing to wear the proper, figurative headwear could leave you wearing a paper hat.

 

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Sep 6, 2012

DAVID EVANS: David started his first business at 19 and has spent the majority of his career running his own companies, including his most recent, EasySeat, which has made the Inc 500|5000 for the last two years. David is a classically-trained software developer and IT generalist. David is a member of the Inc. Business Owners Council.




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