While cleaning out my desk last month, I found a humorous article torn from a magazine in 2004 (yes, I was really cleaning out my desk!). The article by Harvey King in My Business magazine compared big business vs. small business life. Many of your businesses are big in terms of operations, investment, and responsibility, but are still often considered small in terms of headcount and orgainzational structure, so please, no offense at the characterization. It mentioned things like, "In a big business, you feel lucky when included with those who fly on the corporate jet. In a small business, you feel lucky when included in the first boarding group on a Southwest flight!"
Most relevant for today's column is: "In a big business, there are purchase orders and procurement departments....COO's, CFO's and VP's but in a small business, there is Miranda, the bookkeeper/office manager/receptionist." This one hit home as I've been thinking lately about how to survive the administrative hurdles of a business "start-up". Among the many burdens of a start-up are not only producing your product, but also conquering payroll, accounting, taxes, loan applications, permits, employee paperwork, and on and on. I wager one of the best things you can do is find your right-hand person, like Miranda (or Mike!), to help you out.
A friend of mine recently closed her own business and went to work for a local startup as the office manager. Not only does she know how to do all that paperwork, but she's also used to figuring out whatever needs done. Recently she stepped out of a school meeting we both attended to solve an immediate company problem - borrowing a forklift to replace a boiler that was essential to production. That probably wasn't in her job description, but she's invaluable to that entrepreneur!
I recently heard a successful cattlewoman reflect on the skill she most prizes in employees - adaptability. She shared the story of her "Miranda" who started out working cattle, learned bookkeeping, and now can manage complicated export arrangements.
Is your young or small business benefiting from a Miranda to help manage the administrative headaches? I realize finding her/him isn't easy in all locations, but think creatively and take the time to recruit the right person. Perhaps there is someone already present in another role who can adapt to what you need. Are you equipping, training, and delegating to empower her/him to be most effective? And if you do have a Miranda, thank your lucky stars and take her to lunch!