Every business has a common set of functional needs. In a small business, the two functions at the top of the list are: Sales and Service/Product delivery. Chances are most of your employees have one of these as their main job.
But what about all the other tasks that need doing? The business may be small but still has HR, IT, Finance, Legal, Facilities, and Purchasing needs too.
The challenge is that the business isn’t large enough to afford hiring experts to run each of these areas.
That means the business has four basic options to address these needs:
1. Hire for it
Hire a person (full or part-time) with a broad business background who can manage the portfolio of non-core work. The person may have expertise in one area, but is comfortable working across many functions.
If your need is part-time, then consider adding a fractional leadership role. There are plenty of people who want to work part-time or perhaps split their full-time effort between several employers.
2. Outsource it
Outsource to experts. The gig economy is vibrant community of specialists who would be delighted to help you out with a project. They know how to quickly get up to speed and then get down to the business of delivering results.
The one drawback of this option is that you still need someone to manage the contractors. Also, someone needs to be responsible for the guiding plan. Skilled contractors can operate quite independently, but they still need to partner with an insider.
3. Add it to someone’s plate
Look for someone inside your company who has experience and/or an interest in a particular function and ask them to take it on in addition to their regular job duties.
There are three obvious problems with this approach. First the person is already plenty busy and doesn’t have the time, but is afraid to say no. Second, the person doesn’t know what they are doing and have little interest in learning. Third, they might give too much attention to the new function and ignore the core function responsibilities for which you hired them.
4. Ignore the need
You could hobble along and do your best until something becomes a serious problem. You got this far without anyone paying attention to these functions. What’s another year or two?
This approach is more common than you think. Maybe it’s not so much ignoring as it is procrastinating. Owners tend to have all their attention on growing the business and keeping customers happy. It’s not that they don’t recognize the need. They just don’t view it as one of their many priorities.
Prepare the business to grow
If your small business plans to grow, it will need to address these functions. While I’ve spent my career as a contractor, making my living by coming in to tackle a specific project; I’m coming to believe that many of the most important changes can’t be led by an outsider.
This is why I’ve become a fan of using fractional leaders to manage a function for a limited number of hours until the business can sustain a full-time leader.