Running a small business requires you to have more flexibility than the average chief executive officer (CEO) of a large corporation. When an employee calls in sick, you might have to cover for them. You'll need to directly manage projects that would normally be handled by entire departments, like marketing campaigns. And through all of this, you have to remain organized, innovative and customer-centric.
Of course, delegating is an important skill for any CEO, but when you manage a small team, it's beneficial for everyone to wear multiple hats, including you. CEO responsibilities for a small business include tending to finances, managing employees, outsourcing projects, networking and much more. Here's an overview of some of the most common responsibilities that small business CEOs encounter.
CEO Responsibilities Start With Business Strategy
As the CEO of a small business, you likely founded that business or worked your way to the top over many years. Either way, you have a strong personal connection and emotional investment in the company. You have the title of CEO because you have an unwavering dedication in your vision for the business.
Your major responsibility as CEO is to maintain that vision and develop a business strategy that supports it. What is your brand identity and how will you build it? What weaknesses exist in the current strategy? What are the business's strengths?
Although you can certainly obtain input from employees and even outside consultants in answering these questions, ultimately it's up to you to approve the strategy and ensure it gets implemented.
Securing Funding and Assets
Larger corporations have a CFO, or chief financial officer, to worry about all the financial aspects of the business. But as a small business CEO, this is a responsibility that falls on your shoulders. If you need a business loan in order to continue implementing your vision, it's up to you to secure it.
Finding diverse funding is important for a small business and may include grants or investors. It can take months to hear back after submitting grant applications, and networking with investors can't be rushed either. It's best to start early and make this a routine priority on your list of CEO responsibilities.
Handling the Budget and Hiring a CPA
Speaking of money, you have the responsibility of drafting, finalizing and monitoring your company's budget. Drafting the initial budget represents a daunting task because of the sheer amount of detail that should go into it. But once that's done, you can't just "set it and forget it".
A budget is a living document that constantly changes. You may have set aside too much money for office supplies, or not enough for purchasing inventory. Monitor it and analyze it each financial quarter to make adjustments as necessary. Re-draft a budget each year based on what you learned the previous year.
If handling finances isn't your best talent, consider hiring a CPA to assist with budget concerns. A CPA can also handle your taxes, ensuring you have all the proper documentation for legal purposes and reducing the chances of an audit. As the CEO of a small business, it's wise to outsource anything you can, so don't hesitate to find a CPA familiar with your industry to assist you.
Hiring, Firing and Managing Employees
Hiring, firing and managing employees is typically done on a departmental basis in larger companies. If your business isn't large enough to warrant having separate departments, you get to be in charge of employee management. On the other hand, it's possible that your small business is large enough to have several managers to help oversee employees, but you still need to oversee the managers and handle larger disputes that crop up.
Hiring employees involves creating job descriptions, sorting through applications, scheduling phone interviews, scheduling in-person interviews and providing a job offer. But it doesn't end there: you need to ensure the employee is properly trained and is carefully monitored during the first few months.
You also need to take on the role of the human resource manager by setting up employee benefits and ensuring that all tax paperwork, like W2s, is distributed and filed. And when it comes to firing employees, you need to have the backbone to actually do it. This is crucial, because your company cannot flourish without the right team.
Outsourcing and Directing Marketing Projects
Next on your to-do list as a CEO is to oversee marketing campaigns. Even for a small business, marketing can easily become a full-time job, so it's not unusual to outsource the work to a marketing agency. However, for best results, you need to remain involved in the process. It's up to you to approve the materials that they develop to ensure they accurately represent your brand, send the right message and accomplish what you expect.
The more you work with a marketing agency, the more you may come to trust their work. However, it's important to continue to scrutinize everything they send to you for approval, especially data reports. If you're not happy with the results and want to change direction, that's up to you to decide. Even if you choose to outsource the work, never forget that you are the marketing director for your company and have the final say.
If you choose to do the marketing work in-house, consider hiring at least one employee to implement the campaign and perform market research. This will free up more of your time by allowing you to only worry about high-level decisions.
Purchasing Inventory and Resources
As the CEO of a small business, you're also a one-person purchasing department. You'll create relationships with suppliers and track inventory to know what you need to purchase, how much to buy and when it needs to be delivered.
It's possible that you can delegate this task to a manager, but since you're also in charge of the budget, you should review and sign off on all purchase requests.
Networking for Additional Opportunities and Innovations
As you can see from this list, you have a few responsibilities that you can outsource or delegate to the right team member. But networking isn't one of them. Forging connections with other business people is a task tailor-made for the CEO. You can represent your small business better than anyone and have the authority to discuss potential partnerships with other businesses.
Forming a network of local and national — or even international — business alliances can help you procure resources, ideas and funding during crucial moments. Attend conferences, keep an active web presence on sites like LinkedIn and don't be shy about giving out your business card.
Assisting With Customer Service
Despite all the high-level tasks you have, your CEO responsibilities for a startup or small business can't get in the way of assisting with customer service when things get busy. You should be able to jump right into the fray and know how to assist with anything, just like your entry-level employees. This will help you earn their respect and also gives you the necessary perspective when making decisions that will affect the entire company.
In short, the responsibilities of a small business CEO run the gamut. Sometimes you can delegate, sometimes you can't, but you should always infuse your work with passion and vision.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.