Hats Off to Business Leaders

During my interview with the leaders of DUDA for this month’s cover story, CEO David Duda said something that has stuck in my head ever since. Business owners, he said, don’t realize how many times they have to switch hats on any given day. One minute they’re the CEO, another minute they’re the chair of the board, and the next they’re a manager or even a technician.

As your company grows, you can hand off some of your hats to other people who work for you — but for most entrepreneurs that only means you’re trading those in for other hats. This applies to people in the corporate world, too. I remember having a phone conversation with a bureau chief when I worked at a daily newspaper. He was the lead editor in a group of journalists who were located about an hour from the main office where I worked. I was asking how we were doing on our daily deadlines, and I could practically hear him wiping the sweat from his brow. He said he had started the day calling an air-conditioning technician to fix an issue with the building, so he’d been spending time in the parking lot sorting that out.

It occurred to me that I was leading a pretty cushy life at the newspaper’s main office. If my computer stopped working, I simply dialed a four-digit number and someone from tech services would help me troubleshoot it. I miss those days sometimes when I’m working from my home office and I have to switch hats to solve those kinds of issues myself.

Duda was making the point that his family’s company, which started with Andrew Duda and his three sons in the early 1900s, has grown so large over the years that even though it’s still family-owned, the duties have to be divided. No one person could possibly wear all the hats required to operate a company with a presence in 19 states, gross revenues of $519 million and an employee roster of more than 700. To complicate that picture, 130 of the Duda family’s 212 members have to be kept up to speed as shareholders.

The company has set up an effective system for managing all of these hats. That system has morphed over the years, as it should, and will continue to develop as the company grows.

We saw a similar situation with the family-owned Long and Scott Farms, which we profiled for another article in this issue. The family divided the duties and has assigned hats to several different people who are responsible for their areas of expertise.

This will work for your business, too. Think about how many roles you play in your own life. In addition to your business hats, you wear hats as family members, community leaders, volunteers and household managers.

Which of those hats could you delegate? I was having dinner recently with some friends who are women entrepreneurs. We had a long conversation about whether it’s more cost-effective as a business owner to delegate services like laundry and housecleaning or handle them yourself.

I was at a conference earlier this year where one of the workshop speakers had us write down each task we handle in our daily business lives. Then we wrote down how many hours a week each task took us. He had us put a check mark next to those that could be delegated. About 70 percent of what I had written down could be handled by someone else.

These solutions mean relinquishing a few hats. But I’ve been working on that. And let me tell you, my head feels a lot better without all that weight. Try it.

Have a great month!

About the author

Diane Sears

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the editor-in-chief of i4 Business. She is the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC and co-founder of the Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect current and future women business owners with growth opportunities. She also serves in leadership roles with the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Business Development Council of Florida/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Athena PowerLink.

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