Work now to get a structure in place that will free up your time for strategic thinking
Smaller businesses operate in very competitive environments, and being able to respond to market changes is vital in achieving profitable growth or perhaps even survival. Yet how often do you find yourself spending time handling day-to-day tasks and fire-fighting the myriad of issues that constantly arise?
There never seems any time to plan where the business is going or develop a growth strategy. That’s something you always mean to do at the weekend, but you’re simply too busy.
In a company that has grown from the top down, many owners structure their businesses without forethought. As the business expands, they hire staff – usually for the department that screams the loudest.
Businesses don’t grow uniformly, but in lumpy chunks and the key to your success is how you manage those chunks. Resourcing a business should be a strategic function, not one that is dictated from the bottom up.
The starting point is to identify the best functional structure for your business, one that will enable you to maximise the talents of your staff and operate most profitably. This means assessing which job functions and activities are needed, then allocating roles to the most appropriately skilled people. You may find them in another part of the business, or you might have to bring in training to develop a necessary skill.
Living by the code
All activities within an organisation fall into one of three groups and we colour code them as red, blue or black. By using colour-coding you can plot where time is currently spent across the organisation and then match that against what the business actually needs.
Red activities support the infrastructure and are non-revenue generating, such as administration, human resources and IT. Blue activities include all revenue-generating functions and are client related. Anyone involved in marketing will also be classified as blue. Black denotes strategy functions related to business growth, such as devising market positioning, new product development strategy, joint ventures or merger activity.
Too often business owners are busy handling red and blue activities to the detriment of black. Sorting out IT problems, organising for the offices to be decorated, handling a stock problem or agreeing to buy a new coffee machine are not strategic functions, so you should not be spending time on them.
Structure to delegate
Putting the correct functionality in place means getting the most appropriate people in a business undertaking activities for which they have the aptitude, improving skills where necessary, then empowering staff to understand the responsibilities of each role.
Establishing an efficient functionality structure can take some time, but it can yield major business benefits, not only in commercial terms, but also in developing a culture where employees feel valued and fulfilled.
About the Author
Darren Shirlaw founded Shirlaws in Australia in 1999. Since then he has spearheaded its development across three continents. It is now one of the fastest growing international business coaching organisations, working predominantly with mid-tier clients (20 to 1,000 employees). Darren also has nine years of valuable experience in the fund management industry.