The Many Hats Of The Small Business Owner

It’s a well known fact that small business owners tend to wear a lot of occupational ‘Hats’ – one minute you’ve got your ‘Bookkeeping Hat’ on while trying to record the last few transactions, the next you’ve put on your ‘Customer Service Hat’ while on the phone talking down an angry client, and you’ve got your ‘Sales Hat’ for when you’re presenting to potential clients! This does make a lot of sense – you know your business back and forward after all – so how could anybody do a better job than you? Well…

Sometimes, it pays to let go of certain aspects of your business. Listed below are some of the more common ‘Hats’ a typical small business owner wears, and why you might be better letting somebody else wear them.

Hat 1: Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is one of those tasks that – pre self-employment – you’d be only vaguely aware of. But when those first transactions start coming in, you quickly realize you’re going to have to learn how to keep track of it all. Once you’ve gone through the (pretty steep) learning curve of various accounting software solutions, meticulously backing up records, preparing them for the accountant and sorting out payroll, you’ve got the basics covered.

Should You Keep Doing it?

If you’re just starting out on your own, doing a bit of bookkeeping at first can be a good exercise. But once you can afford one, a good outsourced bookkeeper brings a lot to the table, such as:

  • Knowledge of what is tax deductable and what isn’t – essentially, you’ll pay less tax
  • They can do the more basic accounting tasks at a cheaper rate than an actual accountant
  • They’ll chase unpaid invoices (this is never fun)
  • There’s less risk of rookie (read: costly) mistakes

Outsourcing your bookkeeping isn’t all that expensive either – it can start from as low as $20 an hour.

Hat 2: Marketing

For many small businesses, the word ‘Marketing’ now means pretty much one thing – website promotion. For the DIY loving small business owner, this will likely mean learning two similar, and yet entirely distinct disciplines – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). If you are a complete technophobe then this might be a little bit of a challenge, but learning and doing the absolute basics of SEO will still likely have a (small) impact, and spending $10 a day on SEM should generate some results, provided your website is decent. Heck, just creating and verifying a Google Places listing might even get you into the top 10 for your chosen keywords if your market is small enough.

Should You Keep Doing it?

It depends on the size of your market. If you are a local florist targeting a few suburbs in your area, then you probably don’t need a fully fledged digital agency handling your AdWords account. A little bit of education on your part and some time set aside to keep things ticking along is probably going to do it for you.

If on the other hand you are aiming at even a moderately competitive market, then you will absolutely need to outsource that work. When properly managed, SEO/SEM should easily be the highest ROI marketing you’ll do, and it’s much too important to be done wrong.

Hat 3: Getting Finance

This (hopefully) isn’t too regular an activity for the average small business owner, but it’s important enough to get a mention. It seems that whenever a small business owner needs finance, the first impulse is to go straight to the same bank they’ve always dealt with. What’s so bad about that, you might ask? The people there know you, you have your credit cards and home loan with them – they’ll surely give you a good deal, right?

Should You Keep Doing it?

No. You should nearly always get some second opinions – and, if possible, get multiple lenders to essentially pitch for your business. After all (even after the GFC), small business loans are still pretty lucrative for lenders, so make them work for it.

Hat 4: Selling

It might not have been your forte, but those of you who’ve been in business for any length of time have learned to sell. And it wouldn’t have been that hard either – I mean, at least part of your reasoning for becoming self-employed must have been the thought, “I can do better than that” when you saw sub-par service at your old job. When you are so convinced of your own abilities/products that you decide to do it full time and on your time, that confidence and passion comes through when selling.

Should You Keep Doing it?

As your business gets bigger and your time becomes more valuable, selling is one of the last day-to-day things that you should let go of. It’s perhaps the highest ROI activity that you personally can do (at least until you start doing top level strategic decision making), and it can be hard finding good sales people.


If you can stand to let go of parts of your business for other people to manage, that aspect of your business will now start to grow beyond your knowledge. Start outsourcing as soon as possible and watch what happens!


David Ferrini is a freelance writer for First Choice Loans, a mortgage broker in Perth that offers a range of finance options, including home and investment loans. See their Guides and Articles section for information on finance, real estate and small business.

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