Once upon a time, long, long ago, I took an entrepreneurship class at a local college. I’ve been an entrepreneur now for a while now, and with that comes no escape from the obligation to be an executive for one’s own business. Only recently have I been in charge of a non-profit business that also needs to send out a W-2 for an employee, and manage payroll taxes, so I’m not coming to this column as someone who has led hundreds of people in an organization, but from the perspective of someone who has had to hone his own decision-making and learn that much of it pertains to work I should NOT be doing for myself!
Entrepreneurs, so we were taught, need some key relationships: a banker (for loans, which I have avoided so far), a lawyer or at least legal insurance like Legal Shield (that is what I use, and I can make a referral to a Legal Shield representative), an accountant/bookkeeper. I add that every executive/entrepreneur needs a coach and a candlestick maker (the first for productivity, purpose, work/life balance, etc., the second for when you’re burning the candle from both ends in spite of all that great coaching you’re getting).
It took some time for me to finally hand over all my Quickbooks responsibilities to a bookkeeper, who works alongside an accountant to keep me a) on the right side of the law and b) sane. I’m so glad I did. Once you get into filing 990’s for a nonprofit, managing and paying payroll and sales taxes… let’s just say I’m happy to admit it got over my head. I’m not trained as an accountant. Why would I try to do their job, even a little? They aren’t trained as a coach, and they aren’t trying to do my job! (Okay, sometimes people do try to do my job with no training. They hang out a shingle and call themselves a coach. Would you hire a bookkeeper like that? People, make sure your coach has some training!)
What does a good executive do? Hire the right people to help you, trust them to do their jobs. Pay attention to details that other people line up for you, and so long as everything looks accurate, sign the documents. Then pay your bills to these trusted helpers in a timely fashion. Use the information they provide to make marketing decisions. Sell product or service, every day. Look for billable hours! Make sure customers are taken care of, get feedback from them, adjust.
The thing is, being an executive is easy, if you’re willing to get up in the morning and start to execute the most important work first, and make sure somebody does the urgent work so you can sign your name to it.
What else do you think entrepreneurs need? What do you think executives need? I don’t think this is an exhaustive list, and I look forward to your comments!