Avoiding the growing pains
Defining job roles by skillset and competency is vital for businesses. LCCC can help
It starts out simply.
You’ve launched a small business and, as the owner, you hired friends, relatives or acquaintances as your first employees. They pitch in doing multiple jobs, serving as jacks of all trades, because they know and trust each other and are happy to do whatever needs to be done.
But then the business grows, and that’s both a blessing and a challenge — because as revenue increases, so does the importance of having defined job roles filled by qualified candidates. Otherwise, growth can become compromised.
“You might have had your sister doing your marketing for you, and that worked for a while, when you were a small business and getting up to $10,000 in income,” says Lori Baukus, Lorain County Community College’s manager of training projects for talent and business innovation. “But if you want to get to half a million dollars, you need someone who actually has the skillset to do that job.”
Continuing to operate according to small business habits — the mindset of everybody taking on added responsibility — long after the growth phase can result in employees who are underqualified for or unhappy in their roles. Defining — or in many cases, redefining — job roles is critical to small business growth, no matter what stage a company is in.
Getting to the next level
LCCC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Business Growth Services have helped many companies navigate these tricky waters and ensure that they properly define job roles to avoid fees, fines or revenue limitations.
“Our advisers can help small businesses map out all of these things,” Baukus says. “We have a plan that helps us lay out the needs of the business and the key roles that are needed to meet business goals.”
One area small businesses often struggle with is handling the human resource issues that come with growth.
“For example, if an employee was experiencing harassment or a medical issue, a growing business might not be compliant and might not know how to legally handle those issues,” says Baukus. “That’s a huge one that we see and that we have the resources to help with.”
Other businesses face accounting and bookkeeping concerns as the result of accelerated revenue that no longer makes it practical or possible to operate as a sole proprietorship or limited liability company.
“They decide that they’re going to become a corporation, but they’re trying to do it themselves,” Baukus says. “Then they end up missing deadlines and filings, which results in fines. It’s just a mess.”
Issues can also arise when longtime employees are elevated to supervisory roles strictly on the basis of tenure, not on their readiness or their ability to take on a leadership role.
“Being a supervisor has its own set of skills, in addition to being technically competent,” Baukus says. “When you put someone who is only technically competent into a role, it creates a lot of tension and can lead to work not getting done. When supervisors are not properly trained, they don’t want to — or don’t know how to — handle issues between employees, they don’t fill out forms or paperwork like tracking sick leave, and they don’t report things you’re supposed to report, like injuries, again creating a mess.
By employing LCCC’s services — from the SBDC to supervisor training programs to Earn and Learn apprenticeship models — small businesses gain help in cleaning up messes, or preventing them from occurring in the first place, ensuring they have the right people in the right positions to continue growing. SBDC advisers can help start-ups better recognize their personnel needs and identify the qualifications that will be required to fill those positions.
For existing businesses, the SBDC can connect employees to the proper training that will allow them to handle new or expanded duties. The SBDC can perform a skills gap analysis to determine which skills and knowledge might be lacking among employees within the organization.
“We can help businesses avoid a lot of mistakes,” Baukus says.
The SBDC has two courses — Profit Mastery and Lean Six Sigma — that are especially beneficial for business owners looking to improve their processes and become more profitable. Baukus was so impressed with the Profit Mastery course that she recommends it to everyone. And participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Bakus says many business owners have seen their businesses transform as a result of taking the course.
“Those courses can really help fix the broken parts and help you do more of what works better,” Baukus says. “You do more of the improved processes, where you are taking something that was maybe giving you a 10 percent profit before, and now you’re making a 40 percent profit.”
And while increased profit is good, it can bring new problems not envisioned when a business launched. That makes it vital to address these all-too-common issues with the SBDC courses, skills gap analyses, upskilling and supervisor training programs, and Earn and Learn models available at LCCC.