small business

Yet another hat

November 8th 2010
Author -

I recently attended our Chamber of Commerce Awards night. We were nominated in the professional services category (we were beaten by a bank!). We had a great night, it was wonderful to be in a room of some 250 business people keen to build their businesses in regional NSW and recognise others. It got me thinking, how did we get here? Over time people must have developed perceptions about our company. Some of our clients had nominated us and then a panel decided on who got the award. I thought back to the public relations department in my old company. That was their job, to ensure public perception helped the company.

I thought, "another hat I will have to wear". It was nice to think of developing relationships with key people in the community, journalists and other catalysts that could assist in the public perception of our business.

I started this Armidale web design business in April 2008. Since then we have grown to over 50 clients and the business is supporting my family. As the business grows I am finding more and more tasks I need to do. I never expected to resemble a large corporation but I have a hat for Sales, Development, Marketing, Finance, Accounting etc.

My business has been an exercise in bootstrapping.

Stage 1 - My clients and I

At the very start it was me making websites for people. Some sales skills, requirements gathering and then development.

Stage 2 - Portfolio

As my portfolio of clients grew I was able to market my work in nicer ways, tailored to perceived client demographics.

Stage 3 - House in Order

Now with some money coming in I made sure I had my financial and accounting systems set up. This is where I started to move away from my core competency. These were skills I had to pick up to protect my business. Get my tax done, get business insurance, tick all the boxes.

Stage 4 - Try Anything Marketing

Before word of mouth kicked in, we tried a number of approaches to get work. Dropping into businesses cold with a proposal for them, letterbox drop, car signage, etc. Those that worked we continued to use, but there was no planning.

A Growing Understanding

When I started out I wanted to keep it simple, keep focused on my clients and just get the job done without all the rigmarole I had experienced in large organisations. As my business grows I am becoming aware of the need for the departments big business have. These many departments have been built by bueracracy but reflect essential business relationships. I need to market my company, I need skills as a salesmen, I need to consider PR so that my growing business image in the community is protected and encouraged.

So as my business grows I need to make decisions on where I will spend my time and when I run out of time, how to deal with the necessary activities left.

  1. Learn the skills myself.
  2. Write or buy software to assist me.
  3. Employee people to do selected tasks.
  4. Outsource to fellow skilled freelancers.

These tasks may be something you hate doing, or something you weren't even aware needed doing. Talk to seasoned business people, get advice from your Chamber or BEC, read books by business people in your situation or in well respected organisations.

These tasks need to be done for the sake of your business. Hold on to your core competency, manage the rest.