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North Central Business Journal News

(April 2002 issue)

by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.

          A major difficulty of operating a small business is doing everything by oneself or with a very small number of employees.  What makes this so difficult is that almost no one is an expert in everything.  That means that people in small businesses are doing things that are in areas of weakness.

          Operating out of weakness causes people to experience stress because their work is rarely at the level to which they aspire.  Business is lost when people are work outside their expertise.

          Another problem small businesses face is lack of resources.  It is difficult to find the finances to purchase expertise.  It is easy to succumb to the temptation to purchase a book to provide all the answers for those areas outside one’s expertise.  But books are rarely helpful in solving the problems because they tend to provide general information that doesn’t address the particular issues a small business is facing.  They provide a false sense of expertise that leaves the business owner feeling incompetent in putting the book’s solutions into practice in the daily grind of running a business.

          A helpful way for small businesses to operate more effectively and efficiently is to take an inventory of the strengths of the business.  Look at each person involved in the business and list all the strengths of each person.  Next, list the strengths of the business in general.  Those are the areas out of which a business needs to operate.  People are more effective when they work out of their strengths.  Knowing what those strengths are helps one lead from strength.

          But there will be some areas that are missing.  Taking a look at the long list of strengths which the business possesses also lets one see areas that are not covered.  Those are areas where expertise is needed. 

          Things that we dislike tend to be things in which we are weak.  Most small business owners know the things they dislike doing.  Their frequent response to those areas is to push themselves to do them.  But that rarely works well.  Other things are not done while one is forcing oneself to do things one dislikes.  When those things that are disliked are finally done, they are rarely done well, causing the person to feel incompetent and angry with themselves for doing a poor job and wasting so much time doing it.

          It is a wise use of limited financial resources to purchase expertise in those areas which one dislikes.  There are people out there who enjoy doing things another person dislikes.  It is worth paying money to have the work done effectively and efficiently.  The money that is spent purchasing expertise in areas of one’s weakness is more than offset by the money made by working out of one’s strengths.  When people work out of their strengths, they have more energy and can get more work done. 

          It is also wise to surround oneself with people whoaredifferentfrom oneself.  It is tempting when running a small business to hire employees who think alike and who share common personality traits.  Life is more comfortable when we are surrounded by people who are alike.  However, in a small business, it is more important to cover all the bases than it is to be comfortable at work.   Having people with lots of different strengths allows each person to work out of strengths and avoid weak areas. 

        Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human resource issues.   Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions, specializes in aiding small businesses.  Dr. Neal can be reached at sos_hr@localaccess.com

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