If you run a micro-business, you carry a heavy burden and wear a lot of hats. Knowing which hats are the most important for you - as well as how to wear them - will save you a lot of headaches.
Although no official definition exists for a micro-business (often referred to as an mBiz), the one I like best comes from columnist Lloyd Lemmons, who writes
"A microBusiness is the smallest of all businesses, created by a self-reliant person for the purpose of making a living and making a life, and whose goal is not necessarily wealth and worldly goods, but rather a sustainable enterprise that can provide for the comfortable wellbeing of the owner and his family."
From my perspective, mBiz owners are the backbone of the world. In the United States, micro-business owners are the largest block of employers, with approximately 80 percent of all US companies employing fewer than ten people. In many cases, an mBiz consists of only one, two, or three people.
Although some mBiz owners may dream of growing bigger, many are quite content to stay small, simple, and flexible, piloting their own ship. But the downside of that is having to wear many hats.
Larger companies have accounting departments, sales departments, human resources, operations, maintenance, legal, clerical, and marketing, just to name the most common. In an mBiz, it's usually one person doing it all. The problem? Rare is the person who can fulfill all those roles equally well.
Therefore, let's examine the higher priority hats mBiz owners must wear, along with a few ideas for how to make sure the hats are fitting properly.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for mBiz owners is sales and marketing. If you have an introverted personality, this task can be daunting, but it's necessary if you want your business to survive.
One excellent approach is to form a focus group with other mBiz owners. One such group I'm aware of consists of three mBiz owners who meet for an hour or two each week to lay out their marketing strategy action items, get feedback, and keep each other accountable.
Their businesses have little overlap other than the fact that they are micro-businesses, but that's enough to help them appreciate the struggle each endures in their efforts to make new contacts and gain new clients. Main bonus: Their weekly accountability helps them stay focused on achieving their marketing goals.
By the way, I am sometimes asked how much time an mBiz owner should devote to marketing. The best advice I have found is 20 – 25 percent of one's time. That means that on average, about eight or ten hours per week, or roughly about one day each week, should be spent on marketing one's mBiz.
Obviously, more time should be spent in marketing if business is slow, but by no means should an mBiz entrepreneur stop his or her marketing efforts if the business is doing well. An empty pipeline takes a long time to refill after one's current schedule of work is complete.
After marketing, I want to emphasize the need for developing and refining an overall strategy. What I'm talking about is a general business strategy, not just a marketing strategy. I lead a MasterMind group that focuses on this, and we take a lot into consideration. We look at global and local economic trends, global and local political trends, and local trends in the general business community as well as what our competition is doing.
We also consider our own strengths and how we see them meeting upcoming consumer or business needs in light of the trends we perceive. From those observations and subsequent discussions, each mBiz owner develops 90-day action plans to strengthen and fortify his or her businesses.
Similar to marketing focus groups, MasterMind groups help mBiz owners stay in tune with their business environment so they can keep their businesses healthy and fortified to accommodate anticipated changes.
Lastly, let's consider the accounting hat. Some people have a natural knack for accounting, but many mBiz owners don't. If that's you, my best recommendation is to contract a part-time book keeper. One mBiz owner I know throws all her receipts in a box, and once a week she sits down with her book keeper to sort through them all.
Bad book keeping can get an mBiz owner in hot water with the IRS, so this is one area that cannot be overlooked, as the benefits almost always outweigh the cost. One benefit: mBiz owners who contract part-time book keepers free up a lot of their mental energy for doing the other necessary aspects of running their business.
The year is quite young. Now is a good time to take inventory of your various responsibilities and decide which actions are needed to balance your workload for strengthening your position.