Small Business Responsibilities

Your Small Business Ain’t Growing Without Delegating These Responsibilities

Huzzah! Your startup is off the ground, your small business is poised to enjoy healthy growth, and your office is filled with positive vibes. 

When suddenly, from out of nowhere, the phone rings…

…And everybody just looks at you.

“This isn’t my responsibility! It’s yours, Daniel! Or yours, Melody! You told us you knew how to answer one of these…these phones!”

“Pick it up!”

“Yell at it!”

“Your dog is like, looking at me all weird, Maurice!”


And in a flash, your once tranquil, quirky office space with the exposed brick walls and original hardwood is a horrorscape of epic proportions; a whirlwind of blinding fax paper and primal human instinct – it’s every man/woman/child/macbook to him/her/itself!

“Oh, merciful Office God – why hast thou foresaken us with such phone-related plagues?”

Well, That Escalated Quickly

*adjusts collar* Sorry about that folks. Sometimes the old imagination gets the best of us writers.

The point I’m over-dramatizing here is that without defining a few basic responsibilities, your startup or small business is doomed to experience the wrath of the dreaded ‘not knowing who’s responsible for what’ – otherwise known as the void where nothing gets done at all.

Guess what? Yep – it’s completely avoidable.

I was inspired to write this part in the Impact Writing for Growing Business series a few months ago while helping a startup understand their roles within their own company. Here’s three roles every growing company needs to define.

1. Contact Info (Communication)

As we saw above, the day the phone rings to signal interest from an external client or customer is a day worthy of celebration rather than full-fledged DEFCON 5-level panic.

Who’s responsible for:

  • Answering the phone?
  • Replying to emails?
  • Providing a friendly first point-of-contact in the office?

If people feel like they’re constantly being sold to instead of talked to whenever they phone your office then you can kiss the majority of your clients goodbye. Appropriate communication is the life-blood of every growing business.

Filling the roles listed above depends largely on the communication skills and/or the personality of the person you choose for this important responsibility.

Take stock of your office – who talks real good?

2. Counting (Accounting?) Naw, counting.

What’s the point of starting a business? How do you know your business ideas are gaining traction? Who’s to say your business plan is having a positive effect on the growth of your company?

These questions can all be answered by counting…

  • Money (Did your company earn more money in 2012 than 2011?)
  • Time (Are you accomplishing more in less time?)
  • Energy (Do you have the steam to pour into an actual social life more often these days?)
  • Attention (Has your website received more unique visitors in January? Are you attracting more blog subscribers?)

Answering yes to one or more of these questions means your business plan is probably on track. The key here is to ensure that all of this information is accounted for consistently. Which member of your team is the best with numbers? (I’m out – I’m a writer, after all.)

Sidenote: for the love of the holy Office God, keep track of all this data! You’ll regret it at a later date if you don’t! Spreadsheets are your friends!

3. Social Media

Here’s where the fun begins.

Social media is an integral component of any small business plan, but want to know what’s even more important than being good at social media? Not sucking at social media.

Your contribution to social media is kinda the same as a caveman scratching pictures of grazing wildlife on the wall of a cave a million years ago: it’ll be there forever, and people will either think it’s the greatest thing ever or they’ll wonder if a dumb caveman did it.

Diving into Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or any social media outlet takes a personality that meshes appropriately with your group’s goals and objectives while being interesting enough to attract new attention. Think of your go-to social media guy or gal as an extension of your phone-answerin’ dude or lady – only with a handle on how to handle the internet.

Because unless you subscribe to the ‘any press is good press’ mentality, then chances are you’d like to avoid controversy.

Subject Matter Experts

In the online business world there exists plenty of chatter as it relates to subject matter experts.

When it comes to graphic design, I’m about as handy as our aforementioned caveman in a smart car. That’s why Paper Leaf designed my website for me. It’s why growing companies hire Function to write for them.

The behind-the-scenes operation of your business plan is no different.

  • Slot people into suitable roles
  • Take advantage of expertise
  • Promote personality

Delegating responsibility gives co-workers and business partners a chance to contribute and feel good about their work while avoiding useless overlap of tasks.

Take a look at the bigger, company-wide picture here and you can see that delegating responsibilities places your entire company in a position to succeed.

Expand Your Skill-Set

Keep in mind, however, that the responsibilities we’ve talked about here exist outside of the skills and ideas that led to the creation of your company in the first place. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in Phone Answering to become comfortable talking to clients; but you do need to assign the task to someone who suits it or at least someone willing to get better at it.

I’d love to hear some success (or failure) stories about setting roles inside a new or growing company. Anybody start out in one position and end up moving to another? Has anyone experienced any office (or home office) drama when it came time to decide who cleans the microwave every Tuesday?

Share some dirt in the comments below!

photo credit: macinate via photopin cc

Comments (12)

  1. With any new company you’ll find that people are better suited for some tasks than others. It’s not uncommon that a person may change roles as the company evolves. You might find out that your graphic designer is really great at social media promotion. Use whatever resources you have available to their fullest potential.
    Ken Pedersen recently posted..5 Ugly Truths about Internet MarketingMy Profile

  2. As part of our career documentary interview series with up and coming leaders, including many an entrepreneur and small business owner, we have scene the “delegating responsibility call to arms” come-a-knocking as our interviewee narratives have unfolded. So much, in fact, that I’ve been asking “How are you learning to more effectively delegate responsibility?” as a cornerstone question in many of our Year 3 Capture Your Flag interviews.

    Here are a couple perspectives on what we have learned by asking that question:

    Mike Germano (CEO Carrot Creative Social Media Advertising Agency) in his Year 3 Capture Your Flag:

    Idan Cohen (co-founder technology company Boxee) in his Year 1 Capture Your Flag

    James McCormick, lawyer turned executive recruiting small business partner, on delegating responsibility as small business grows…

    Social entrepreneur Courtney Spence on growing her non-profit and handing off responsibility:

    Lastly, to take a small business perspective of a band, here is one from Takka Takka drummer Conrad Doucette on how band member roles change as an album gets made:

    Hope these are helpful to encourage more conversation on the ever-so-important topic of how to more effectively delegate responsibility as your startup or small business grows.

    Erik Michielsen
    Capture Your Flag

  3. This is so true! And fun read, too. One of hardest thing for business owners to do as their team grows is to delegate responsibilities. You’re used to doing everything yourself — and trusting someone else to do a good job at a certain task is hard. But it boils down to the best use of your time. Is it *really* the best use of your time to do the marketing emails, or would that be better to delegate it to someone else so you can focus on sales? … I think the latter 😉

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  6. Yep. If you don’t have policies and responsibilities in place designated to the right person, the lights go off. To grow, there has to be a plan and the plan has to be worked.

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