Article header for Jack of all trades, master of them all?

Running a business: Jack of all trades AND master of them all?

There is a lot to keep on top of when you are running a business. When you're a smaller organisation, some people will hold many roles and need a broad knowledge of a lot of subjects. And it doesn't get any easier as you grow, it just changes.

An edited version of this article appeared in Quay Magazine in March 2020

So, you fancy running a business?  Or maybe you’ve already started and you’re working out what you need to do to grow.  You may have even been running a business for a while and have a growing workforce.  Whatever your situation, you have one challenge that is greater than anything anyone ever explained to you…

There’s a lot you must do, and you need to do it all

What do I mean?  Well, running a business may not be as simple as you’d like to think.  However there is loads of advice available.  You can find it online, through government-funded organisations or by using any of a plethora of business advisers.  For example, the advice to new start-ups tends to follow answering questions like:

  1. Why do you want to do start this business?
  2. What’s the idea behind the venture?
  3. Is there a market for your product or service and how can you get honest feedback?
  4. Have you done everything to setup the business properly?
  5. What’s your plan for success and growth?
  6. How will you finance your plan?
  7. Who is going to do this for, and with, you and how are you going to find them?
  8. In what locations and premises are you going to do your work?
  9. Where are you going to get your first sales?
  10. Are you ready to go and grow?

The 'running a business' challenge revealed

This list of questions starts to reveal the challenge, particularly if you have limited people involved. You need to be a visionary, researcher, a dispassionate critic of your own work, finance and legal wiz, planner, recruiter, purchaser, designer, marketeer, salesperson and, above all, a worker!

“Well that’s ok,” you say, “I’m great and I have a wonderful idea, and everyone I know says I’m going to be a huge success”! And it’s brilliant to be that enthusiastic before your first failure.  Oh yes! You will fail, at something.  Many things in fact.  Can you maintain that initial enthusiasm in the face of adversity?

You see, behind every one of the roles that you need to fulfil are rules, laws, standards, good practice, skills, expertise and knowledge.  Have you got it all to hand?  Do you have the capacity and capability to do it all? How many opinions and solutions will you listen to before making your decisions? What corners are you going to cut?

Hold on there… cut corners?  Is that a good place to start this beautiful new venture of yours?  Surely such an outstanding vision needs to be surrounded in a bed of perfect policy, process and procedure. Nah!  Corner-cutting in business today is almost a given, for some reason.  The question is, will you get caught cutting the wrong corners and do you even know which ones to go around?

Corner-cutting in business today is almost a given...

for some reason!

So many questions!

Get used to it!  Questions are a cornerstone of any business.  Have you made that sales target?  Has the customer paid their bill?  When will the delivery happen?  Where’s your tax return? Are you registered? Where’s my coffee?

The trouble is, you will always want to focus on what is important to you, what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. However, you will need to make sure you commit time and effort in answering all the questions and to doing the stuff that doesn’t enthuse you, or just downright cheeses you off. 

Much of what people in business tend to avoid doing is lovingly called “compliance”.  It’s the work you know you must do but don’t want to spend time on it.  It includes everything from registering your company through to paying your taxes; from recruiting someone through to paying their parental leave; and from gaining proper consent from your customers through to checking that your suppliers are handling your data correctly.

There is, of course, the issue of knowing everything the law requires from you and your business.  Unfortunately, “sorry, I didn’t know I had to do that’ is not an excuse.  If you want to run a business, you need to appreciate the rules of the game and learn to play fair.

Striving to know and follow the rules of running a business

What you must do is to make sure that your business gets on, and stays on, the right side of the law. Follow these steps:

1. Understand exactly what is required to run your business. 

Research the regulations and standards that are applicable to your business.  There may be variations depending on your industry, size, location, property usage, employment levels and relating to what exactly you do.

2. Decide whether it’s worth you, or one of your team, learning how to do what is required. 

Some regulations are complex. Creating your own ‘specialist’ can be quite an overhead in terms of salary and maintaining their knowledge, skills and qualifications.  However, with the right support and training, you can achieve a lot with a willing and capable worker.

3. Consider finding a service provider to help with your compliance. 

Businesses commonly use bookkeepers and accountants to look after their money and tax.  However, many resist using companies to help with other things like employment, health and fire safety and information security.  These are definitely not the corners to be cut. So, make sure you do them well yourself or buy in the expertise from a trusted service provider.

4. Set up a way of tracking and checking that you are keeping up with what’s needed.

There are around 200 basic regulations and standards for business, and they change. Also, with the UK exiting the European Union, this regulatory load is going to get heavier, at least, in the short term.

5. Make plans to improve and then make sure you commit the appropriate resources.

You will always have something to do and you will likely never be 100% compliant. However, if you have a resourced plan and can be seen to have taken reasonable steps, then regulatory bodies tend to be more forgiving and supportive when things go awry. 

Spend 10-20 minutes, every day, doing something to improve your business

So, can you master all the trades needed to run a business?

By yourself, it is very unlikely that you could master everything needed to run a business.  However, it is more impractical than impossible.  Having said that, if you are surrounded by a collection of skilled, knowledgeable and experienced people and organisations, then you could easily be the leader of a well-run, respected and profitable venture.

How Gydeline helps

We, at Gydeline, help organisations of all types and sizes to save money and time through better and simpler compliance.  We do this with software and services.

If you would like to discuss any aspects of dealing with this and other risks in your business we are always happy to offer some, no obligation assistance – just contact us.

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