In the Trenches: Defining Roles

by Brett Snyder

2 min read

It’s a funny thing. As a startup and small business, you just get used to wearing many hats. One day I’m helping a client, the next, I’m sending out invoices and paying bills. It generally requires doing just about everything. But now that I’m again looking to add an employee, I find that I’m being asked to define the job. That’s tough to do.

I’m working with an employment attorney on an offer letter and employee handbook so the details of the job being offered are very clear. I’m happy to incur some expenses to develop this now rather than deal with the headache of a confused and unhappy employee later. But part of this process is defining the job. For many of you in small business, you know how tough that can be.

On the one hand, it really does help me narrow down what tasks are out there and which ones should be done by someone else. On the other hand, I don’t want to feel like I’ve constrained myself. Of course, I’d hope that the person I hire wouldn’t sit there and stare at me when I ask them to do something, only to say, “That’s not in the job description.” But it could happen. (I have nightmares about hiring the wrong person.)

So what I’m doing is reviewing all of the possible tasks I could have for this person and then building in some broader themes around those tasks to keep the reach of the job a little more general. I’m sure my employment attorney will tell me if I’m being too broad, but this can’t be something unique to me. All small businesses must struggle with this type of thing. It’s simply not as easy to define a role in a fast moving business that requires all kinds of help wherever it’s necessary.

It’s the kind of role that requires a specific person who is willing to jump in and do whatever is required, but it’s also not fair for me to give too vague of a description to a potential employee.

I suppose it’s a lot tougher now because all of this is still theoretical. Maybe once interviews get further down the line and the potential employee rises to the top, it will be easier to craft the job description a little more clearly. Still, it’s ultimately going to have to remain somewhat nebulous. That’s the nature of a small business.

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