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Small Business Success Tips - Management

Whether a small business owner is a one-man show or has a staff of twenty, his business success depends as much on how he manages the business as on any other factor. Management is defined as coordinating the actions of the people in a business to achieve the desired results: high sales, loyal customers, and profits sufficient for personal comfort and business expansion.

The following discussion is about small businesses with more than one person involved, but a one-man business can apply them by realizing he has to fulfill all the different functions until he can hire people to turn them over to.

Running a business is easy if everyone in the business knows exactly what his role is, how his role relates to the other people's roles, and how to fulfill his role. Management, therefore, consists solely and only of making sure these conditions occur.

Defining Roles

Most roles consist of handling a number of functions in a business. While management training can be very helpful to a manager in determining what functions are necessary to business success, even a brand new small business owner can list the major ones: marketing, production, accounting, customer service, and legal requirements, for example. Only one person can be responsible for any one function: if more than one is, then no one is. The small business owner can have veto power and directive power, but must leave the doing of the function to the person in charge of it.

Example: The owner hires a salesman to be in charge of finding and handling new customers. If the owner then goes out and finds a new customer, he has to turn that customer over to the sales manager to handle. Otherwise, he is not managing, he is being a salesman, and that is not the owner's function once he has turned the function over to someone else.

When something doesn't get done that should have, the responsible party is clearly evident, or the action gets added to someone's role if it wasn't previously defined.

Relating Roles to Each Other

Accountants tear their hair out over missing receipts and unauthorized purchases. Salesmen scream at receptionists who do not relay messages clearly and promptly. Maintenance men mutter about people who don't alert them to a group coming in so the room can be prepared ahead of time. Understanding role relations is critical to the smooth operation of any business.

The rule is that every function of a business affects every other function of that business, directly or indirectly.

Outlining every single role relationship by means of written policies and procedures is impossible, and even trying to is fruitless: since there are so many, they would never be learned. What can be done is to distribute all the individual role descriptions to everyone, so each person can see for himself how they all relate. For instance, the maintenance role description includes "Sets up rooms for meetings." The creative director then knows who to go to when he needs a room set up for a meeting. If he doesn't give the maintenance people enough warning, the maintenance people tell him, so he will know next time. Thus improvement of role relationship occurs.

Certain universal actions can and should be written up as policies, so they are clear and known: Pick up after yourself, and Turn in receipts promptly, and Tell your boss if you will be absent. These belong in a company handbook, which can start out small and grow as the company grows. For a small company, one or two pages might be sufficient to start.

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