When you’re first starting a small business, then it’s easy to put all of your energy into staying afloat. If you don’t survive in the short term (and many business don’t), there’s no way you’re going to thrive in the long-term. The structure of your business might seem like a strange concern, to begin with, but it’s one that will have enormous ramifications as your business expands and evolves. What if all of your clients have to go through a single point of contact? What if all of your hiring decisions are taken by the same people?
An understanding of the fundamentals of your businesses structure will allow you the security of knowing that it’s fit for the future. But exactly what are those fundamentals?
The 3 Departments
All businesses have three core functions, often performed by three distinct departments. These are:
Sales & Marketing
These are the people who persuade customers to make a purchase. It might include Public Relations, online marketing, and the person (or team) who runs the Twitter account.
These are the people who fulfil the promises made by the sales and marketing people. People who develop products and services would be classed as operational people. This might include a person who works on a production line, or the person who tests and designs an app.
Finance and Administration
These are the people who keep records of the other two. Without these positions, an organisation cannot effectively communicate with itself, and may run into legal difficulty. Accountants, book-keepers, management and HR might all fall into this category.
As your business expands, the organisational structure within these categories may become more complicated – but the principles remain the same whether you’re a two-person operation or a multinational conglomerate.
There are some cases where privacy is essential. If you’re dealing with sensitive information from clients and staff, then opacity is an ethical and legal requirement. In other cases, the flow of information is essential. Structure your organisation in such a way that anyone who needs information to do their job can easily gain access to that information.
Too much rigidity when it comes to structure can lead to problems. In many cases, these problems will be known by the workers in the business itself. Putting in place mechanisms where any worker can report an organisational problem and have it taken seriously will allow you to perform regular reviews of your structural successes and failures, and to do so in a way that’s informed and actionable.
Often, you might find that certain rarely-performed jobs are best performed by a skilled outsider than a fixed internal department. Risk management lawyers, for example, might be brought in to address any potential legal trouble. On the other hand, IT security experts might be consulted to ensure that your computer system is safe from cyberattacks.
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