How to gain some organization in the hurricane of small business
When I first got involved with consulting for ethical designers, I had a meeting with a designer who was facing a lot of challenges in her business. The company was relatively young – under three years – and had their designs and manufacturing handled. They were creating beautiful pieces, but a lot of the business and administrative organization was missing from their brand. This designer was facing a lot of stress in both their professional and personal life, and part of it was because she couldn’t solidify the right priorities for the company.
We had workshopped a few things, and one day we had a meeting that went a little like this: I told her that we should create some goals for the future of the business, and put together an organizational chart for what their business would look like in three years. But, the designer got confused and told me they couldn’t understand the value of writing out these pieces. Her business didn’t need a three-year plan – it needed a right-now plan.
A lot of entrepreneurs feel this way, and I understand why. You’re in the middle of a storm, and you think that planning your beach vacation isn’t going to help you escape from the hurricane. I hear you. But… that’s actually not how this works.
Business coach and entrepreneur-whisperer Michael Gerber will back me up on this. In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, he states “…the Organizational development reflected in the Organization Chart can have a more profound impact on a small company than any other single Business Development step.” And he’s right.
There are a few reasons for this:
When you’re driving someplace new, you don’t just guess about how to get there and somehow magically arrive at your destination. You look it up on Google Maps and get directions. The same is true for your company. You can’t get to the destination of your business’s success without a map.
Many entrepreneurs don’t actually know what they want the future of their business to look like. But, how are you supposed to get anywhere if you don’t have an idea of where you’re going? Again, it’s not magic – it’s planning.
Guess what: just because you don’t have the team, or don’t have the money to hire a team, doesn’t mean the job isn’t getting done. If you’re a small business or a solopreneur, you’re the team. By yourself. And you’re exhausted, right? That’s because you’re doing the work of 10 people. Wouldn’t it make sense to organize that a little, so you can prioritize your work appropriately?
When you create an organizational chart, it can help you to understand what work goes into running your business. Creating an org chart for the future of your business is even better because it helps you to understand where your business is going and gives you the start of a plan to grow over time. Creating an org chart for your future business will also help you to better understand your goals for the company, and what you really want to achieve with it.
So, how does this work? You create an org chart for what you want your business to look like in three to five years, then you work backwards. Once you have a working list, you can figure out which jobs can wait, which ones are being done now, and which ones can’t wait but aren’t being done because you don’t have room for them on your plate. You can use your goals to direct this step, because different goals will require different roles and tasks.
From there, you should be able to write out a guide for the jobs you’re already doing yourself. If you’re doing them, you already know the steps – you just have to get them out of your head. Take some time to sit down and think it through. You can do the same thing for tasks that you’re not currently performing by writing out a loose idea of what the job should look like, and what it should accomplish.
Completing the above steps will give you an outline for a job description. With a more detailed description in place for each job, you can now either simplify the tasks and restructure them to save you time and energy, or you might be able to format a job description to hire help.
Want another way to do this? If sitting down and putting energy into all of this seems like too much of a stretch, then start simple. Take the next two weeks, and at the end of each day, write down what you did, kind of like keeping a timesheet for yourself. Get as detailed as you can so that you can track all of your efforts. When you’re running a business, your days can get somewhat smooshed together, so it’s really easy to forget what you’ve done at the end of the week. If setting a reminder or a timer on your phone helps, do it. At the end of two weeks, sort each of your tasks into a “department.” What did you do for business development? Marketing? Customer care? Assigning a department to each task will build a picture of where your time is being spent, and might help you to understand where you need to re-allocate efforts, and what should become a lower priority.
I’d love to hear about your organization chart. Do you have one? Love them, hate them? Tell me all about it! Pop over to Instagram and leave us a comment on our most recent post, @SewEthico. See ya there!
Hi there, I'm Cat Bradley
Founder of SewEthico, systems enthusiast, marketing expert, and nonprofit career alum. I help women founders build their first marketing departments and structure their company around their clients, so they can grow, prove traction, and gain funding for their mission-driven businesses. Get my support to grow your business.