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The Multi-Role Dilemma: Strategies for Business Owners

The Multi-Role Dilemma Strategies for Business Owners

Running a business can be an exhilarating journey. Still, it can also become overwhelming and demanding, often leaving owners feeling like they’re trapped in a never-ending cycle of work. We often juggle multiple responsibilities, struggling to find enough hours to get everything done. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything ourselves, believing that no one can do it as well as we can. However, this approach can quickly lead to burnout and a lack of work-life balance.

There is a way to break free from this cycle and achieve sustainable success. We’ll explore how micro businesses can grow without overworking with these principles to reclaim their time, leverage personal strengths, delegate effectively, manage capacity, and strike a healthy life balance.

Whether you’re just starting or have been in business for years, we will provide valuable insights into creating a business that works for you rather than the other way around.

The Life of a Micro Business Owner and the Multiple Hats

Let’s define a micro-business owner. A micro-business is different from a small business, as it employs anywhere from 0 to 9 employees. Once the number of employees exceeds 9, it is considered a small business. Although micro-businesses and small businesses are often grouped together, they face different challenges. Micro-businesses usually have fewer than 9 employees, with most being run by just one person for several years.

As business owners, we often juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. We are the CEO, the accountant, the marketing department, and the customer service representative all rolled into one. It can be overwhelming, and we may feel like we are constantly running out of time.

But here is the thing…

The more hats you wear, the more hats you drop.

As you approach your second year in business, you begin to realise that running a business is more challenging than you initially thought. Despite your passion, improving your performance is challenging when you’re constantly attending to clients. Starting today, we will explain what’s happening and provide actionable steps to make changes.

The Role Ratio

In any business, large or small, five activities determine our role.

  • Time for LEADING. Improving everything and everyone, including you. 
  • Time for MANAGING. Checking to see if everything and everyone are as they should be, and making sure that changes if they’re not. This is the stuff that keeps your organisation where it is and what manages risk. It includes managing all stakeholder relationships.
  • Time for Being an EXPERT. Skills that keep the business operating. Such as the web development, bookkeeping, IT and business development.
  • Time for WASTING. This adds no value whatsoever. Just like those endless meetings that achieve so little. 
  • Time for LIVING. Looking after your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. 

If you open up the diary of a CEO in a large company, you will discover they have a lot of Time for Leading activities and no Time for Being an Expert activities. If you open up a manager’s diary of a large company, you will discover they have a majority of activities dedicated to Time for Managing, some Expert and some Leading. Ideally, we all have plenty of Living and zero Wasting time. Ideally. But not the case when you operate a micro-business. 

What is common for micro-business is some Leading, very little Managing, tonnes of Being an Expert, and a heap of Wasting and a depleting Living. The problem is that most business owners love doing Expert activities. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with focusing on Expert tasks, it’s crucial also to prioritise Leading and Managing activities. Without Managing activities, risks may go unchecked, and without Leading activities, businesses may struggle to improve and ultimately lose their competitive edge.

It doesn’t start like that, but it does end up in the Multi-Role Dilemma.

The reality for micro-businesses

The Multi-Role Dilemma

Most business owners start their business because of their expert skills, for example, an IT professional. When they start their business, they have lots of contacts and relationships from their previous employed work to get a running start, and naturally, the majority of activities in the calendar are Time for being an Expert. 

Because they are doing the Time for being an Expert activities, they don’t look after Leading and Managing. They simply don’t have the time. Over a couple of years, business doesn’t drive forwards or generate awareness, they don’t spend the time checking in with their clients and keeping the relationship, and the messaging dilutes, as does their sanity. 

They reach a dangerous point in business, meaning they have no choice but to start doing Leading and Managing activities. That work takes time—on average, two years! Hopefully, they survive this period. 

Most don’t and go back to employed work. They can’t wait two to five years to build the pipeline. 

Let’s assume they survive. The feast and famine continue until they lose the passion and desire they started with. The business fails to materialise into what they had envisioned and hoped for, and they gradually become less engaged in their work as they mistakenly anticipate that the workload will eventually decrease. Unfortunately, this never happens, and instead, their energy and enthusiasm slowly dissipate over time. Time forLiving activities have a slow decline over this period. 

Note: the feast and famine example below is an average of micro-businesses, but it can be shorter depending on the product or service. Some businesses operate on feast and famine over a six month period which can take a toll on the owners mental wellbeing. 

Feast and famine

The solution

There is no ideal Multi-Role ratio! However, you must keep the pipeline primed to avoid feast and feminine. More Leading and Managing activity flattens the curves.

Note: This is an example of flattening the curve and not accurately representing the Multi-Role ratio. Your role ratio will vary depending on the role you wish to play in your business, the strengths, industry, resources and direction. 

Flatten the curve

You can choose a consistent and stable business if you clearly define the role ratio and make no changes. If you are a disruptor and want growth, these strategies will help you navigate the Multi-Role Dilemma.

Start with Living: Achieving Life Balance

You must build a business that serves your life, not the other way around. Set boundaries, establish clear working hours, and prioritise personal time. Decide how many hours will be allocated to work, the rest is your Time for Living activities. You do not eat into this time, so you aim for 100%. When you overwork, procrastinate or do activities that do not add value, your 100% will decrease. Delegate responsibilities and empower your team to handle tasks in your absence – want that holiday? Time to build a business to operate without you.

Remember: a well-rested and fulfilled business owner is better equipped to make strategic decisions and lead with enthusiasm.


The CEO: The Visionary

Being the CEO involves strategising, planning, and building systems for long-term success. You define the overall direction and long-term goals for your business. Having a clear vision provides a sense of purpose and direction for your team. This clarity enables everyone to align their efforts towards common objectives, fostering unity and focus. As a visionary, you play a pivotal role in driving innovation within your business. You can propel your business forward by actively seeking out new opportunities, exploring emerging technologies, and challenging the status quo. Allocate dedicated time each week to work on your business, focus on growth initiatives, spread the message, and refine your business vision. 

The CEO: Leveraging Personal Strengths

It is vital to identify and leverage personal strengths. As a micro business owner, taking on every task yourself is tempting. However, this leads to burnout and prevents you from utilising your unique abilities. Treat yourself like the employee, decide the role that version of you plays, and then hire for the weaknesses while mindful of what the business needs. Identify your strengths and concentrate on activities that align with them. Delegate or outsource tasks outside your expertise, focus on what you do best and add the most value to your business. This includes if you choose not to be the CEO but the expert. That is OK!


The Manager: The Power of Delegation

Delegation is a crucial skill for any micro business owner. Effective delegation empowers your team and lets you concentrate on your role. Start by documenting processes and creating clear guidelines for your team to follow. Identify tasks that can be delegated, communicate expectations clearly, and provide necessary training and support. Do it right once; no need to repeat it. Trust your team to handle these responsibilities, and you’ll have more time to focus on strategic decision-making.

Top tip: treat your freelancers like an employee. Hire through a job description, onboard them effectively and manage like they are full-time.


The Manager: Managing Capacity and Growth

Evaluating your business’s ability to handle growth and adapt accordingly is vital – this is your Time for Managing behaviour. Develop systems and processes that can scale your business. Regularly review your operations, identify bottlenecks, and implement solutions to increase efficiency and productivity. By proactively managing capacity, you’ll ensure your business can grow sustainably while maintaining high customer satisfaction.


The Manager: Nurture Client Relationships 

Cultivate strong client relationships to generate repeat business and referrals. While delivering outstanding service is essential, don’t overlook the importance of maintaining regular contact with clients, seeking feedback, and understanding their evolving needs. If you are not attending to their changing needs, someone else will.

Top tip: Surveys are great. Phone calls and in-person meetings are far more effective. A coffee goes down a treat, too!

The Expert: Billable Work

To increase billable hours, streamline operations and prioritise tasks based on their cost-effectiveness. Calculate your hourly earnings and assess if non-expert tasks cost more than increasing billable hours. If your role brings in high revenue, delegate non-expert tasks to focus on increasing billable hours. It’s understandable if you’re the primary expert in your business and spend most of your time on important tasks. To address other crucial responsibilities, consider hiring additional staff, even if it means your own work will still dominate your schedule. Ultimately, this decision will benefit your business’s growth. Eventually, as your business expands, you’ll reach a point where you can divide the expert role and shift into training to develop new services. For instance, an IT technician can become a consultant and hire other technicians to handle lower billable hours.


In the fast-paced business world, it’s easy to become trapped in the multi-role dilemma, where they juggle numerous responsibilities and struggle to balance work and personal life. If you are a sole business owner, you’ll need to balance all roles. At your earliest convenience, invest in growing your team, and the role ratio will change over time to allow more experts to do more of the red activities outside your billable hours.

Remember, building a business that works for you starts with making strategic changes today. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to prioritise activities that drive long-term success.

Take the first step towards achieving work-life balance and unlocking the full potential of your business. Embrace the strategies outlined to achieve the three fundamental roles and create a roadmap for success. You have the power to transform your business and create a fulfilling business journey. Start now and thrive as a micro business owner.

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