Multi-tasking as an employee in a small business


Bill Karpovich, co-founder and CEO of commercial open source software company Zenoss, is quoted as saying, “Being small helps people take ownership.”  He added that “…because it is so small, this notion that you’re very close to the heart and soul of the company is a feeling that you can’t replicate in a large organization because of the layers and layers and layers.”


As an employee in a smaller company, the opportunities are there to feel that you are making a difference, that you can see the impact of your contribution in the business’s customer relationships, turnover and bottom line.  It’s a little like riding in a sports car – it feels faster and more thrilling because you are closer to the road!


The idea of multi-tasking is more about the opportunities you gain from the fact that there are less people doing more stuff.  You get more hands-on experience, as smaller businesses need the team to have a broader set of responsibilities.  As they are also less formally structured and more flexible, there is a greater opportunity to not only contribute ideas but implement them.


The downside is that you aren’t able to delegate as much of your workload, and you may be asked to wear many hats and take on more roles.  However, if you’re open to the challenge and like the idea of multitasking, this could be a great move.  Being flexible is very much part of the small business landscape as you may be required to drop what you are doing at a moment’s notice to grab a phone or look after a customer if the person responsible is out to lunch.


These opportunities also enable you to develop a broad range of skills that you would not get from a larger employer.  Having a close connection to the customer gives you an appreciation of the importance of customer service and building customer relationships that impact the success of the business.  Having a close connection with the business owner helps you keep connected with the core purpose of the business and create more meaning and purpose for your role in it.


Being in close proximity to the business management and leadership means quicker action as well as closer scrutiny.  There is nowhere to hide in a small business, but there is also the opportunity to get things done faster, more efficiently and with less red tape, and there are fewer layers of approval to deal with when decisions need to get made.  If you’re an action-oriented person who’s used to quick decisions on multiple projects with fast turnaround times, this can be a great environment.


And working on multiple projects creates more opportunity for skill development, exposure to the sales cycle from go to whoa and a sense of satisfaction that you were able to keep a lot of balls in the air for a while!  This adaptability develops your character, and skills set.


Lastly, the key to successfully multi-tasking in a small business is to be the Ideal Team Player.  According to Patrick Lencioni, the ideal team player is “Humble, hungry and smart”.  You can’t afford to be arrogant, selfish and rude, it just won’t work.

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