By Madeleine Niebauer, founder and CEO of vChief, a virtual chief-of-staff service, helping executives stay focused on what matters most.
For many, the position of chief-of-staff is associated with politics. Although the position has started to gain traction in large corporate businesses more recently, there's yet another type of company where a chief-of-staff can have a lasting and meaningful impact: startups.
While it may sound like an overindulgent luxury for an entrepreneur to hire a chief-of-staff right out of the gate, it can actually be a very sound investment. Often, startups are created by solopreneurs without a team to back them up. Those early weeks and months -- and even years -- are often a constant whirlwind of tasks and decisions, large and small. Solopreneurs can quickly find themselves drowning in a sea of busyness, desperate for someone to toss them a life preserver. Though they may consider the idea of hiring a chief-of-staff as a novelty, it may be just the game-changer they need to stay afloat.
In fact, if more entrepreneurs considered what a smart investment hiring a chief-of-staff is, they might find themselves moving through those founding days, weeks and years breathing a little easier because they have a partner to support them. A key component of the chief-of-staff role is doing what needs to be done to help the business grow; they aren't afraid to dig in and get their hands dirty.
When an entrepreneur is first building their business, there are often a variety of expected (and even more unexpected) responsibilities that continue to pile onto their plate. Creating systems, managing financials and building your sales and marketing streams are just a few of the major elements involved in the early days of a startup. Even if you are outsourcing any of these -- which you ideally should be because they don't all likely fall within your zone of genius -- you'll be scheduling meetings galore, which will mean you have less time to develop your business.
A knowledgeable chief-of-staff has a diverse skill set plus the ability to focus on several different areas of the business at once, allowing you to focus on key tasks like business development and strategic planning. Additionally, your chief-of-staff can act as a sounding board and give you meaningful feedback when you face different turning points in your business.
In order to achieve the best fit possible, look for a chief-of-staff who has professional experience in your specific field or business. You'll be even better off if you can find someone who has previously assisted in launching a startup and can bring what they learned and discovered to your business.
Yes, it may feel risky to take on a payroll expense so early in your startup's development, but not really if you think of the chief-of-staff role as a reasonable investment in the future of your business. Plus, you determine how many hours per week you want your chief-of-staff to work and how long-term their commitment will be with your business. But don't be surprised if you find yourself extending your chief-of-staff's contract as you realize what a valuable investment they truly are for your startup.
There's no shame in being a startup owner who is feeling overwhelmed with all the to-dos and responsibilities involved with launching a business. One of the greatest benefits of owning your own business is that you get to ask for support when you need it and design it in a way that works best for you. You'll most likely consider your chief-of-staff investment one of the best secret weapons contributing to the success of your startup.