Business Owner is a Title, Not a Description

While many business owners consider well-defined job descriptions crucial to their business, how many have actually taken the time to create a job description for themselves? Not many. But, a business owner needs a job description just as much as the rest of the team. In fact, a business owner may need a job description more than anyone on the team.

The purpose of a job description is simple: it describes the job’s duties and responsibilities. This information is essential when hiring and doing performance reviews, but it also helps keep the team member focused on what’s important. For a business to be efficient and successful, team members need to know and understand their function. This prevents duplication of effort and keeps important tasks from falling through the proverbial crack. Job descriptions facilitate accountability; they tell you who to yell at when things go wrong, or who to appreciate when they go well.

Many business owners, despite the fact that they have hired team members, believe it is still their job to do it all. A business owner often feels the buck stops on their desk – it lands on their plate if it falls off someone else’s. Sure, in a small business just starting out, there aren’t always team members to do each job. People, especially the business owner, have to wear multiple hats.

But, when your company experiences growth, there comes a time when it becomes necessary to hire team members and delegate responsibilities and job duties. Yes you can do the job better than they can, but what jobs are you not doing while you are doing their job? A job description doesn’t just tell us what to do, but it tells us what not to do too.

For instance, when a business owner pays the bills even though he has a finance manager, not only is he diminishing the finance manager’s confidence, but he is taking himself away from his own important responsibilities. This creates inefficiency and can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration among team members. Let people do their job and show them you have confidence in their abilities. After all, you created job descriptions that hold them accountable for their work.

When working on a job description for the CEO/president/owner here are some essential elements to include:

  1. The owner must set strategy. An owner’s job is to define the future – cast a vision and communicate that vision to the team. Also, determine how you will get there and establish a plan. That’s what strategy is – we are going to climb that hill, and this is how and why.When a company starts to lose relevance (i.e., buggy-whip makers or TV antenna manufacturers), the owner has to see that and shift directions. When new competition or innovation rocks the market, the owner needs to plan the next move. Owners are the ones who step to the plate, in good times and bad, and keep the business on track. They are the leaders of their businesses.The business’ strategy is the essential job of the owner, and no one else can do it. But, this doesn’t mean they have to do it alone, they can (and should) involve their key staff members and advisors in the process. Nevertheless, after all the talk and all the good ideas have been put on the table, the team is going to look to the owner for a decision.
  2. The owner must watch over the culture and brand.There’s a famous story within HP about Bill Hewlett. Legend has it that Bill visited a plant on a Saturday and found the lab’s stock area locked. Bill always encouraged his engineering staff to take equipment home on the weekends to conduct experiments on their own – that experimental passion was one of HP’s defining principals, and one of their secrets to great innovation and attracting the best people. The story is told that he immediately went down to the maintenance department, grabbed a bolt cutter and cut the padlock off the lab’s stock door. He then left a note that was found on Monday morning: “Don’t ever lock this door again. Thanks, Bill.”Individuals within the organization often don’t have the big picture view like the owner does. They don’t see how their individual actions add to or detract from the uniqueness of the organization. And, it is up to the owner to define and maintain this uniqueness. The owner must set forth, again with the help of his key team members, the purpose and values of the organization as he wants the team members, customers and community to see it.
  3. The owner must hire, train and develop the business’ key team members.The key team members in the organization must act as proxies for the owner when he or she is not available. The larger the organization, the more this will happen. In order to ensure these key team members work and treat people the way the owner would, they must be hand-selected by the owner. The owner also must personally oversee their training and development. These members are key pieces in creating the community of the organization and maintaining its effectiveness. As such, they need to have some of the owner’s DNA in order to operate in his place.There is hardly anything a business owner can do that will create a more lasting value for the business than to choose and train the right key team members.
  4. The owner is the most effective salesperson for the company.Not every owner is a great salesperson, and successful companies will grow to the point where the owner cannot close every sale, or even every large sale. However, I have seen time and again that owners can close sales that even the best salesperson cannot. There is something about the credibility of hearing information directly from the owner, the one with whom the buck stops, that can close tough sales.Many business owners are the top salesperson for their company, and they need to aspire to a time when there will be others who fill that role better. Some business owners want to hire salespeople as soon as they can afford them. However, while you definitely get good results with excellent salespeople, you also gain unique and invaluable insight from sitting eye-to-eye with customers and listening to their problems and concerns. Just showing you care enough to spend time with them and listen to them can close many deals.

When you finish, look at all the things you are currently doing, are there some that don’t fit into this job description? Make yourself a “stop doing list” and hand those responsibilities to someone else.

As a business owner, be sure you know what your job as “business owner” entails. If you don’t have a clear idea of what your responsibilities are, then you’ve got some thinking to do – and a job description to write.


Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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