Be Careful Loving These 7 Roles in SMEs


There is only one role a small business owner should commit to full-time – Chief Business Owner.

When business owners nurture their business through the initial start-up phase, they commonly take on many, if not all, roles.

But as the business grows, the most significant risk is that you continue to own seven roles in the business. 

While the work of these roles is essential for ongoing success, it is not work you should entirely own because it prevents you from playing your most crucial part, working on growing the business. 

This risk is high for businesses that need more cash flow and can’t fund resources that could assist with the seven roles. 

But when the business’s cash flow strengthens, saving money on employees, contractors, consultants, off-shore assistants, coaches, advisors and mentors by continuing in these seven roles may be financially responsible but will not future-proof the business. It would be best if you had oversight of these seven roles but not be the only “responsible officer” for their output. 

As your business grows, its complexity increases, so your ability to lead your business also needs to grow. 

So be wary of these seven roles. Consider your precious time and refrain from overinvesting in these roles to the detriment of your business growth. 

1. Chief Decision Officer: the essential function is decision-making.

Being an effective decision-maker is essential, but as the business grows, decisions become more complex, and so should your thinking. It’s best to reach out to others and be the final decision-maker, but engage others to contribute to the thoughts that lead to the decision.

2. Chief Planning Officer: the essential function is planning.

Plans are good, and implemented plans are better. As the business grows, so do your goals, and if you’re the CPO of your business, like the CDO above, your singular perspective risks limiting the effectiveness and implementation of plans. By including other people in your planning, you’ll increase the successful implementation of strategies and get other people’s buy-in sooner than later.

3. Chief Independence Officer: the essential function is work ethic. 

Independence, despite its usefulness, is not a flawless characteristic because, in business, you’ll rarely have the capacity or capability to get the job done by yourself.

Also, consider the culture you want to create in your business. Do you want all of your staff to act independently of each other? Sure, you want them to be capable, but team members need to work effectively together rather than focus on doing everything for and by themselves. 

4. Chief Funding Officer: the essential function is funding your business.

As your business grows, it ideally becomes self-funded instead of ‘yourself funded’. That is, the cash flow generated by a profitable operation replaces your reliance on you to fund the day-to-day operations. 

Once there are significant acquisitions to enhance operations and delivery of the product and service, funding should be externally sourced. This externally sourced funding should be affordable by the future positive cash flow of the business. There are many funding options for small businesses, and you should resign from the role of ‘Chief Financing Officer’ as soon as possible to relinquish that personal burden.

5. Chief Administration Officer: the critical function is getting the work done.

There’s a belief trap for business owners about work: to believe you need to work harder and more productively to get all the work done. 

Now there may be some truth to this. But it’s not the whole truth. Again, it’s not surprising that as the business grows, so does the To-Do List for the business owner. But there’s another solution to improving time management skills, and it’s to avoid taking on the role of Chief Administration Officer, and outsource administrative tasks, affordably. 

The resistance to taking this step is knowing that outsourcing costs money and you can do the work yourself. So you might be comparing: No Cost and Get It Done Myself vs Cost. This, of course, is a false comparison, and here’s why. How much is an hour of your time? What value would you create if you had all the time you could work on administration dedicated to the other critical functions of decisions, planning, and funding?

6. Chief Measurement Officer: the critical function is measuring your business performance.

For some business owners, but not all, measurement is a joyous task. There’s nothing more exciting than coming to the end of a reporting period and preparing the results to compare and contrast against a budget or target. 

Having done so, you can reward yourself or, even more excitingly, learn from the performance to implement changes to improve the next performance period.

But this is a significant role that should be shared with others. An enormous opportunity is to engage professionals to prepare the numbers, provide the analysis and draft recommendations for future performance. This will ensure the process is objective and the outcomes provide valuable feedback to the business. 

7. Chief Everything Officer: the essential function is maintaining the business momentum.

Businesses grow in many ways: the number of clients, the volume of sales, the range of products and services, processes to fulfil sales, and policies and procedures to remain compliant, to name a few. 

As your business grows, you naturally have more to do. I often meet business owners who joke that they are the “Chief Everything Officer”. But there’s also a significant anxiousness to that joke. It’s the realisation that it’s not a particularly desirable job and certainly not sustainable in the long term. But sometimes, a business’s momentum and growth drag the owner along for a ride. This is a difficult time for the owner as it can create unrealistic expectations for their work and results.

So there are the seven roles you could find yourself in as your business grows. And while it may be a reality that you will have to fill these roles at some time, they are not roles to get stuck in as they’ll limit your capacity (your time) and your capability (your acumen) to grow with your business.

If you need help to relinquish these roles, you should start with advice about prioritising where your effort and resources should be directed. This is best done with an external party who can bring fresh perspectives that put you and your business’s future front of mind. 

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