The first handful of years that Steve and I had our web business we shared all of the roles in the company.
Sometimes he would sell a deal; sometimes I would sell a deal.
I would code; he would design.
We would both code.
I would manage the client; he would send the invoice.
He would manage the client; I would put out a fire.
This seemed to work. We both learned each aspect of building a web agency. But we were struggling to make ends meet.
Over time it emerged I was a little more elegant with selling and he was better at managing projects. More importantly, selling and working with clients to propose projects was something that I really enjoyed.
I love the hunt. Steve loves building systems.
But even though we were naturally gravitating toward specific roles, we still didn’t define them. As we started to add staff to grow our business, our lack of defined roles crept into other people’s positions.
I forced our team members to wear different hats, always eroding why they were hired in the first place. I passed this off as “we are a bootstrapped web shop, people need to do what they need to do.”
But it caused unneeded tension.
One of our mentors suggested that we define better roles. He said, “Brent, you should be selling full time and Steve should be managing operations.”
This single suggestion changed the trajectory of our business.
We drew lines around our roles and, whenever necessary, would put up fights to defend our turf. It was not my job to deliver a scope. My job stopped at the sale. This kept me laser focused on filling the pipeline and making sure we were hitting our revenue numbers.
Having a business partner early on helped make this possible. Once we had more people, besides the two of us, the idea of “roles and responsibilities” continued to be a theme.
After consulting with a lot of freelancers, I can see this idea also applies to individuals as well. The natural tendency is to just flip hats on and off as needed as the day goes on.
When we do this a pattern emerges: feast or famine. It happens to teams and it definitely happens to individuals.
The root of the problem is when you reactively step into roles you might go a month (or maybe a quarter) without putting your sales hat on. Or maybe you don’t spend time creating systems for your projects to flow through profitably.
To divide and conquer, you actually need to divide your team (or time) into roles. Instead of just “doing” your business from dawn to dusk, split your business up into these primary functions and assign a person, or a percentage of time, to each:
In a future post, I will get into managing a limited amount of time.
For now, divide and conquer.