Must be Good at Multitasking. A Small Business Pre-Requisite.
Industry Canada's definition of a small business is firms that have fewer than 100 employees. So I suppose we would qualify as a REALLY small business. Before the whole COVID fiasco, we were growing and ready to hire new people to join our team, but we've had to readjust. Over the last year, a few of us got laid off (including myself), some are still laid off, and a few got to stick around to witness the whirlwind pivoting that our company keeps experiencing and that our owners are doing a remarkable job navigating.
Adjusting and readjusting to the volatile economic landscape and the changing needs of businesses is something you've got to do to stay afloat. As a company pivots, so do its employees. When approaching growth in their company, owners and employees of small businesses tend to do multiple jobs until they can hire that next person to take over a more specialized skill set.
I was lucky enough to come back to work after being laid off and have experienced this first hand: I do design work. I write blogs and website content. I recently started taking care of our social media. I help with graphic production. I have helped with a couple of fabrication projects. I've gone to help with installations. I was even cleaning the office here for a while. That is a lot for one person to juggle, and it will have to remain this way until we're able to hire/hire back some more people again.
There are arguments out there that multitasking is the devil and not as efficient, but personally, I like being a Jack-of-all-trades. I enjoy variety in my work and relish doing something different every day.
The majority of my coworkers are in the same boat, although I can't be sure that they enjoy it as much as I do. We all have to pitch in a little here and there to make up all the positions that our small business needs to run smoothly. Tracey, one of our owners, does sales, marketing, art directing, human resources work, bookkeeping, payroll, benefits, estimating, and accounting! If I were speaking, I would've run out of breath just there. David, our other owner, does sales, fabrication work, project ideation, estimating, IT, procurement, logistics, and design. That's one busy duo. Tyler is in the print department and handles preflight, printing, production, and installation. When he was working at his last job, he solely dealt with the printing, and other people were there to take care of every other job. Kelly, our fabrication guru, has his hands on everything that comes in and out of the shop and helps with estimating and installing projects as well. It can be rewarding to handle a job on your own from beginning to end, and the fact that you're doing many different things to finish a project just further develops your skillset.
When a company reaches a certain point in its expansion, job positions and titles will become more definite and apparent. Until then, people will have a little laugh when they try to fit their job titles onto their business cards.
Many companies move into the business market and swiftly out because it's tough to make a new business work sometimes. Especially now. The flexibility required to remain successful through pandemic times has unfortunately been beyond some of our reaches. It has undoubtedly cost many small businesses their lives this past year.
Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
I believe that to be flexible as a business, your employees need to be flexible as well. Working within a small group requires you to be a team player and to adapt to the needs of others. We may have had to make some temporary adjustments for now, but businesses will hopefully begin a normal growth cycle after the pandemic slows down again. Still, we can learn an awful lot from the more well-rounded skillsets that we've developed and the more closely we've worked with each other. Understanding what other jobs are like within your company creates empathy and understanding of what your fellow employees are dealing with within their day-to-day, and that is no small thing.
In the end, you've got to do what you've got to do. I think the people who work at Exhibit have been doing a great job with all the different things they've got on their plates.
To all the small businesses out there that have had to juggle tasks more than usual, keep it up! I hope that we can all come out the other side of this with some new skills and perspectives that will be useful moving forward. Regardless of the pandemic we live in, small businesses have to begin this way anyways, so try to embrace what you can learn from the first stages of growth and have some fun while you're at it! Here are a few tips and tricks to help enhance your multitasking skills starting today.
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