Think Big to sort out who does which roles in your business

Published on: 24th April 2014

Firstly, it's great you're setting up on your own! Fantastic! You will never look back.

If you're setting up the new business on your own, keep reading - the stuff below might help you plan your time.

If you're setting up with old colleagues, friends or even loved ones, this article was written exactly for you.

Starting up your new business can be a great way to create a fun working environment - after all, you get to choose to work with people you want to (and like!)

But because of this, it can come with pitfalls, especially around who does what. The natural tendency we all have is to all pile into doing (and deciding) everything and it's a near inevitability you'll end up in treacle even as things fall through the cracks. It's also quite likely you'll avoid tackling early some hard questions - like who should the boss be?

A neat way through this is to think big - imagine what your organisation structure will need to be when you're successful beyond your dreams! How many people are you going to need? Which roles will be needed to sustain the success? What responsibilities does each role have in that model?

Then, carve up the roles now amongst your current team. After all, if you're going to need these roles in the future, successful you, in the large part you're going to need them now too.

Carving up the roles is the hard bit - so naturally I'll gloss over it somewhat - but a few tips:

  1. you'll need to have an honest discussion about competencies, motivations and personalities;
  2. the roles assigned don't need to line up with seniority or ownership - e.g. the biggest shareholder might not be the MD;
  3. don't worry that you might not cover be able to cover all the roles from a skills point of view - match the closest one of you to the role
  4. for now, forget the fact that some roles might be quite intensive right now and others less so

Congratulations - you have the bones of your first organisation structure.

Bring it to life!

The big tip here is to really try and live the roles day-to-day.

In a consulting business (started up a frightening number of years ago), I picked up several roles... and used to plan my week around them, so I knew that Monday I'd focus on marketing, Tuesday on current leads and so on.

Some other interesting learning points that came out:

  1. it's worth the effort of putting together a role description for each, describing the purpose of the role, the key activities, the goals and measures of success, and any additional resources needed;
  2. when you're pulling plans together, it'll be much easier to assign responsibilities but don't devolve everything into the roles : you still want some collective decision-making and team-working!
  3. keep on monitoring the load on everyone - if you can't fulfill your suite of roles, it should be telling you something - maybe you need to rebalance the workload ... or maybe it's even time to think about recruiting? (You already have an emerging job spec...)

We even structured our management meetings around the roles. I do wish we'd taken video of some of the early meetings, where one of my friends kept switching costumes and personalities between each agenda point as he took the role-switching just a step too far.

Here's a simple agenda we used to use

Agenda Point by Role (Person)

  1. Update from Managing Director (PH)
  2. Latest financials from Financial Director (MB)
  3. New services update from Operations: Service Development Lead (PH)
  4. Sales pipeline update from Operations: Business Development Lead (PB)
  5. Performance in consulting ops from Operations: Delivery Lead (MB)
  6. Knowledge sharing update from Best Practice in Operations Lead (PH)
  7. Report from HR & Compensation Manager (MB)
  8. People update from Recruitment & Training Manager (MB)
  9. Marketing Positioning update from PR & Marketing (PB)
  10. Partners & Contracts (PB)
  11. Shared Services (PH)

We didn't look back from the day we organised our small company like it was a bigger one - it was certainly a factor in our success. (We're hoping for the same at PYXI too!)  Helping clarify roles improves focus - increasing performance - and also removes the danger of things falling through the cracks. It also makes decisions on resourcing, work-load and skills more objective - for instance, we were able to work out that our team collectively wasn't very good at HR, so that's a position we recruired early (rather than blaming the incumbent for it all going wrong).

Having it all mapped out also made it easy to explain things to new people as they joined and - whilst on paper a bit formal - it released some tensions and helped us have fun growing the business together.

If you try it, let me know how you go.


PYXI CRM Team: 24th Apr 2014 09:00:00