Small-business owners often use a reactive approach to hiring, bringing in workers as they need them rather than as part of a planned growth strategy. But being proactive and creating a multilevel organizational structure will help employees know who their direct supervisor is, decrease the amount of time you spend dealing with worker complaints and give your staff a clear path to moving up in your organization.

Ordinary Staff Members

Staff members are workers who have no management responsibilities or people reporting to them. They usually have little to no autonomy in how they perform their jobs and often work as hourly wage earners. These employees are the lowest level in an organization, can be easily replaced and often do not come into contact with executives or top management.

Supervisors and Coordinators

Coordinators are one step above staff members and have been given some type of low-level project work or a position that requires them to perform simple, ongoing tasks for managers. Like staff members, coordinators have little autonomy or decision-making authority. A coordinator might handle such tasks as taking an employee or customer survey, creating a database of customer and potential customer contact information, handling the logistics for a meeting or event a manager has outlined or calling vendors to get competitive bids for a product or service, using parameters a manager has set.

The Role of Managers

Managers serve executives, often department heads or directors, handling specific tasks given to them by their superiors. Managers are expected to use their education, training and experience to handle tasks, with some autonomy and authority granted to get the task done.

For example, a director might tell a manager to organize a national sales meeting, giving the manager the purpose for the meeting, the agenda, the guest list and the budget. The manager then researches locations, airfares, catering, audiovisual and other meeting logistics, presenting them to his superior with recommendations. After the director gives her approval, the manager and his coordinator execute the plan.

Directors and Presidents

Directors and presidents are “big-picture” employees who decide how to achieve goals set by an owner, board or executives. For example, the owner of a shoe company might decide to add children’s shoes to the company’s line. The marketing, sales and production directors would then meet to decide the best way to do this. They would decide what types of children’s shoes would sell best, determine distribution channels and set prices. They would then work with their managers to get plans executed.

The C-Suite

Older organizations or those with more than a few dozen employees might have executive-management structures that include a chairman of the board, chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO). The CEO, COO and CFO comprise the company’s brain trust and are responsible for the bottom-line performance of the company. They work with all or most of the company’s directors, rather than supervising only one.

At a very small business, the C-suite might consist of the owner and a trusted management-level employee that oversee several shift managers who in turn oversee the rest of the staff. At a restaurant, for example, the executive team might include the owner, chef and bookkeeper, who collectively oversee one or two dining room managers who in turn manage the wait staff and busboys.