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To succeed in business, take off that hat!

Steve Baker //January 31, 2012//

To succeed in business, take off that hat!

Steve Baker //January 31, 2012//

I use the term “hat rack management” to describe what startup and small business managers go through.

As managers, you wear many hats: management, sales & marketing, accounting, production, IT, strategic planner, fireman, custodian, the list goes on and on. So all day long, you are mentally running back and forth to the hat rack to change hats to fit the immediate task at hand. Most days you are attempting to wear multiple hats at once. After all, everything has to be done, and you’re the one who has to do it. You have the skills and drive that started the business, and you know it best.

But guess what? The truth is that you can’t know everything or do everything well, and some of those hats just don’t fit.

I was fortunate to figure this out early in my business life. I was starting my first business while still in college. As a business major I was taking as many courses as possible including an advanced accounting course. As a young business owner, I knew that I had to understand accounting but I also realized that I didn’t like it. My strengths have always been in developing and executing business and marketing plans and the accounting hat is a uncomfortable fit on me.

After a few days in class, I went to the instructor to inform him that I was dropping his class to pick up an additional marketing course because I wanted to strengthen my expertise. I knew that accounting was one hat that would never fit my head. Acknowledging that I could not wear it well directed me to outsource this important function to those who have a passion to do it well. Not trying to squeeze my head into the wrong hat left my brain fresh to do what I do best. Conversely, if you’re a top-notch CPA, chances are very good that marketing hat doesn’t fit you well.

Spend your time and talent wisely. Every hour spent on things that are not your expertise is distracting you from what you do well and will adversely affect your overall performance. Trying to wear a hat that doesn’t fit will give you a headache. It will wear you down, cause frustration and diminish your overall effectiveness. So play to your strengths. There may be an added cost to pass tasks to others but you will gain it back in increased productivity and efficiencies.

Another negative consequence in trying to wear too many hats and do everything yourself is that it can become a bad habit that turns you into a micro-manager (that’s a nice term for control freak) who cannot or will not delegate. Micro-managers tend to run roughshod over others and inhibit growth in their employees.

Yes, in the very beginning, you must and will do it all. But for the sake of your company’s success and your own peace of mind, truthfully analyze your strengths and weaknesses (see my article on SWOT) and decide where you need others’ expertise. Then set and follow a new plan to transition the delegation of these tasks to others.

Hats off to your success!
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Steve Baker is a founder of successful businesses and a business advisor with a passion for every phase of business cycle from startup to exit. He’s also a public speaker and author of “Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake,” as well as an avid poor golfer. He welcomes your comments and e-mails at [email protected] and invites you to visit his website