When you’re setting up a new business it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of different tasks that need to be completed. To get on top of them, you’ll need to fill at least five key roles. Sometimes, in the early stages, these can be shared so that you can get by with a smaller number of people, or you can outsource work to specialists for just a few hours a week, but sooner or later they will need dedicated people so you should start looking for the right individuals as early as possible.
It may sound odd to talk about a start-up having a chief executive officer, especially if you don’t have many employees, but whatever you call it, this is a role that will need to be filled. If you’re the key person organising the setting up of the business, it may well be your role. The CEO is responsible for driving forward company activity and interfacing between the business and the wider world at the top level. It’s the CEO’s job to get the best possible deals with suppliers and distributors, negotiate potential business partnerships, network on behalf of the business and identify new opportunities as it develops. The CEO is also responsible for overseeing the work of other team members and making sure that everybody feels motivated and shares the same vision.
Though the role of the chief operating officer is often confused with that of the CEO, both can be enormously time-consuming and companies generally fare much better when the jobs are separated. The COO is responsible for ensuring that each task within the business is completed appropriately and on time and with coordinating the overall process. This role also involves identifying ways in which those operations can be tightened up to make them more efficient, whether that means taking on new personnel, hiring storage space or replacing outdated equipment. It’s a role that requires diligence and hard work and it’s important to find a committed person to fill it because a good COO has to be prepared to identify ways of taking on extra work on a proactive basis.
No company can do without a chief financial officer to ensure that accounts are kept properly and financial reports are submitted to Companies House as required, as well as making sure tax obligations are met. In a small company, this person will usually also be responsible for looking after payroll and PAYE. Beyond this, it’s the CFO’s job to run the numbers on any new business deal the CEO is exploring, to look after any investments established on the company’s behalf and to identify emerging opportunities to invest or to take advantage of changes in the markets. This role can also involve tracking the finances of rival companies to anticipate their moves and keep track of the comparative progress of the business.
In the UK, every company needs to have a company secretary, and this role must be handled well. Alongside the CFO, the company secretary is the person responsible for producing reports that satisfy the legal requirements ordained by Companies House. Because small businesses may be unable to afford a dedicated administrator for other tasks, they also tend to fall under this remit: keeping track of essential paperwork, commissioning and organising reports from other team members, communicating with partners and customers, and even looking after IT infrastructure. The breadth of this role requires a highly adaptable individual.
No small business is going to succeed unless people know about it, so despite being treated as an add-on by many people, an efficient marketing officer is essential. Depending on the nature of the business, this individual often ends up being responsible for sales as well. A good marketing officer will be able to develop brand basics and structure targeted campaigns, but at the very least this role involves setting up a website, managing the company’s social media presence and identifying any opportunities for positive engagement with the press.
By attaching due priority to these roles and ensuring that they’re all filled by competent, dedicated people with the right skills and experience, a start-up can immediately place itself in a good position. As it grows some of the responsibilities attached to each will likely be passed to other staff members, but each of these people will continue to oversee the relevant area. A well-built, capable team is the most important asset any small business can have.