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Business Owner is a Title, Not a Job Description

Tips for building a job description for business owners

A well-defined job description is critical for maximizing performance, yet very few CEOs have a business owner job description for their own job! Most of us have taken the time to develop a solid and well thought-through job description for our employees, but not for ourselves! The business owner’s job is too often the most undefined and poorly documented job in the company!

When we create detailed job descriptions for each person in our organization, taking in to account what they are good at and what they enjoy doing; we are creating engaging and challenging roles for everyone else. Frequently business owner’s job description becomes “doing what everyone else doesn’t want to do, or is no good at!” This is not right! If you don’t seize the reigns and grab control of your time, making yourself responsible and accountable for your company’s key success factors, you aren’t doing your job!

Having a job description for the business owner can also help combat the feeling that you are responsible for everything. If you are responsible for everything, then you are really responsible for nothing. You need accountability just like your team members do. There are things that, if you don’t do them, no one else can (or will) – and some of those things are crucial to your business. If you are doing everything then the urgent squeezes out the important and you never get most of what you need to do done.

When you create a job description for yourself, it becomes clear which tasks you need to delegate in order to succeed. Sure, in a small business just starting out there aren’t always team members to do each job. Everyone, especially the business owner, has to wear multiple hats. But when your company experiences growth, it becomes necessary to hire team members and delegate responsibilities and job duties.

This is where things start to get tricky! 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 bookkeeper, not only is he diminishing the bookkeeper’s confidence, but he is taking himself away from his own important responsibilities. Not only does this create inefficiency, but it can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration among team members. The best way to show your people you have confidence in their abilities is by letting them do their job.

What’s in the Business Owner’s Job Description?

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

1. The business owner must set strategy.

A business owner’s job is to define the future by casting a vision, and communicating that vision to the team. You need to have a point of view on where the marketplace and your company is going. That point of view includes how you are different from your competitors and how you are likely to succeed. Once you know where you want to go, you need to 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., TV antenna manufacturers or makers of DVD Jewel Cases!), 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. It’s the business owner’s job to 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 business owner for a decision.

2. The business 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 may not have the big picture view like the business owner does. They don’t see how their individual actions add to or detract from the uniqueness of the organization. It’s the business owner’s job to define and maintain this uniqueness. The business 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 business owner must hire, train and develop the business’ key team members.

You can’t be everywhere. Sometimes your team members are going to interact with your customers, or work on products or services that are going in front of your customers. As your company grows larger, this will happen more and more. In order to ensure these key team members work and treat people the way you would, they must be hand-selected by you! You need to personally oversee their training and development. Not every minute, of course, but the quality of the result is your job.

These team members are key pieces in creating the community and culture of your company, and maintaining its effectiveness. And there’s something only you, as the business owner, have that they need to “catch”. They need to understand and be able to live by your values in order to operate in your 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 business owner is the most effective salesperson for the company.

Not every business 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 business owners can close sales that even the best salesperson cannot. There is something about the credibility of hearing information directly from the business 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.

How do I get it all done?

First, start by focusing on just a few things. I’ve suggested just 4 items that should take up the majority of your time, strategy, culture and brand, hiring and training, and sales. Maybe you can’t make it quite that simple but you should start there! Look for those things that only you can do or that you are uniquely qualified and gifted at. The rest needs to be delegated or outsourced!

When you have finished, take a look at all the things you are currently doing. Are there some tasks 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.

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