One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make, is trying to do everything themselves, but not knowing what actually needs to be done. While one of the benefits to owning your own business is the freedom to create a culture that suits you, the lack of structure is also a common downfall, and the reason that 20% of businesses fail within a year. (source)
We get it. It feels daunting to be tied down by structure and established roles, and moving away from that is generally the reason you step off the corporate ladder and start your own business in the first place. But what if there are some pieces of corporate success than can lend themselves to entrepreneurial gold?
If you didn't come from a corporate culture, let's take a step back and start with the corporate D.N.A. Most corporations consist of five primary roles, often referred to as the C-Suite. (The Corporate Suite). These are the decision makers and primarily include the CEO (primary decision maker- big picture), COO (decision informant- makes sure the CEO knows all the little details of what's going on), CFO (financial decision maker), CMO (marketing decision maker), and CIO (technology/information decision maker).
When you own a business, you are all of these roles. You are making all of the decisions about where your business is going, you are responsible to know all of the day to day details to get it there, you are deciding how and when to spend and save money, you are telling your people that you exist, and you are deciding what systems and technology to implement to help your business succeed. That's a lot of hats for one person to wear, and often what we see in the small business community, is that even though they are constantly shifting gears between each of these roles, they do not identify with any of them. This lack of ownership can lead to downplaying your success, and missing core responsibilities that are necessary to sustain your business.
Let's look at what each of these roles looks like in entrepreneurship.
CEO Chief Executive Officer (a.k.a. Chief Everything Officer)
When we picture CEOs, we often picture fancy suits, tall buildings, and fortune500 success. But if you own your business, if you are the one whose name is on the LLC, and you are the one making the decisions, YOU ARE THE CEO. This means you get to decide what your business is, and what it will become. You get to translate your vision into a strategic plan, and watch it become a reality. It is important that you see yourself in this role, and carry yourself in a way that emulates the success you want to experience. This is one role that really can't be outsourced- no one can succeed for you.
COO Chief Operations Officer (a.k.a. All the Deets)
It's important that you have a strategic plan (not in your head, an actual strategic plan written out), and that you know the goal you are working towards, but also the steps you need to take each day to get there. Most of us are either big picture or small details oriented. As a business owner, we have to learn to keep tabs on both. However, it can be very helpful to invite some outside help in to manage the COO details. If you are in a position to outsource, consider hiring a VA (virtual assistant) or admin who can help implement some of the smaller day to day tasks. Make sure that you remain in the CEO and COO chair- even with help, you are the one who needs to know what's happening and why.
CFO Chief Financial Officer (a.k.a. number keeper & money spender)
Know your numbers. 82% of business failures are because of cash flow, according to US Bank. Many entrepeneurs are afraid to look at their numbers, which creates an inbalanced power structure where the numbers are telling you how to run your business, rather than the other way around. Get in control of your numbers. Know what you are bringing in, what you are spending, what you would like to spend and bring in, and create a revenue strategy within your strategic plan. Some things to look for are:
*- What should I be setting aside for taxes and/or healthcare?
- What business expenses are necessary right now for my success?
- What business expenses would help me be more successful?
- How much money am I bringing in?
- How much money do I have potential to bring in?
- What is my P&L (profit and loss)? What is my gross and net income? (gross: total money coming in, net: money left for you after you spend on bills and taxes)*
If you are managing this role yourself, consider using a platform like Quickbooks, which is very intuitive and does most of the work for you. If that is too much of an investment, Google Sheets has some great templates you can use. You may also consider hiring an accountant (we recommend a bookeeping/tax accounting combo). Keep in mind, even if you outsource pieces of this role, you will still need to have an understanding of your numbers. And you need to understand them well enough to feel confident in being the ultimate decision maker on how you use your money to sustain and grow your business.
CMO Chief Marketing Officer (a.k.a. the blabbermouth)
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make, is spending way too much time and attention on their role as CMO, while disregarding the others. If you try to market an unhealthy business, you will only fast forward to failure. Make sure you set yourself up for CMO success by being on top of your other roles. Have a solid strategic plan and business structure, have a profitable business model, know what you need to spend in marketing for it to be effective. You can market with any budget, but not all platforms have equal pull. Some will have a minimum spend for you to be truly effective. For example, if you have $1500, that may get you really far with social media ads. But it won't get you anywhere with TV ads.
Once you have a solid understanding of your strategic plan and your finances, you can create a marketing plan. This should be specific to the audience you are trying to reach. Make sure you have a clear enough understanding of who you are (your brand), who you're talking to, why you are talking to them, and how exactly you're going to help them. If you don't know your brand, you won't be able to articulate it, and your marketing will be wasted dollars and hours.
This is one of the easiest roles to outsource assistance, as there are advertising and marketing specialists aplenty. But again, you need to be the CMO. You need to be the one with the strategy so that when you outsource, your partner agencies can help accellerate your vision, not make guesses with their own.
CIO Chief Information Officer (a.k.a. the techy)
The CIO has become more popular in recent years as technology is advancing. For a smaller business, this role may be limited, but you will still need to know what technology is available, and what you want to implement. Do some research to evaluate how much of a cost investment it will be to implement certain technology platforms, and how that may benefit your business. For example, would you be able to take on more clients if you automated your billing? What if you had an intuitive accounting system? Maybe you need a CRM (client relationship management) system, or maybe you need to automate your marketing emails, or your advertising or your payroll. Think about the types of tasks you are spending time on, and evaluate what systems may make your life a little easier, and your business a lot more successful.
For most entrepreneurs, the goal is to master these roles as quickly as possible so that they can outsource the ones they don't want. As a business owner, it's imperative to the success of your business that you understand what is required of you in each of these roles, and that you make smart decisions for how and when you want to offload them.