Top 10 duties of a business owner

Which tasks should you take on yourself and which should you delegate? Check out these common business owner responsibilities and decide.

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  • Top 10 duties of a small business owner

    Top 10 duties of a small business owner

    As a business owner, you can spend almost half of your time dealing with administrative and non-revenue-generating tasks.1

    Whether you're just starting out or reassessing your current role, think about the responsibilities you have to take on — or outsource — to make your venture successful.2 Then decide which activities you should spend your time on and which you can delegate to someone else.


    "Is It Time to Outsource Human Resources?" Entrepreneur. (2011)

    "Tasks & Responsibilities of a Small Business Owner." Demand Media. (2015)

    "Five Duties of a Small Business Owner." Demand Media. (2015)

  • 1. Writing a business plan

    1. Writing a business plan

    Your first duty is to develop your business plan:

    • What will you sell and who will your customers be?

    • How will you produce and distribute your products or services?

    • How will you make money?

    Answering these questions is just the beginning of business planning. As you develop your startup idea and create your business plan, be prepared to leverage your industry knowledge, do market research, and conduct a competitive analysis.

    Should you outsource? This is a tough task to outsource. As the business owner, you'll want to be part of the planning stage to ensure your strategy is sound. But if you need guidance, a business coach can help you set goals and refine your business plan.

  • 2. Managing finances

    2. Managing finances

    You're in business to make money. That means financial management is a critical function for you to take on or assign to someone else.

    This responsibility involves managing daily finances — including accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll — as well as longer-term tasks, such as filing taxes. If you need extra capital to start or grow your business, you'll also have to identify potential lenders and submit financing applications.

    Should you outsource? Hiring a bookkeeper or an accountant can help you maintain careful records, avoid mistakes, and identify opportunities to save money. A bookkeeper can help with recording transactions, paying bills, sending invoices, and completing other operational tasks. An accountant can advise on big-picture financial strategy.

  • 3. Hiring employees

    3. Hiring employees

    If your business has employees other than you, human resources is another important duty that includes:

    • Interviewing and hiring new employees

    • Determining salary and benefits

    • Managing payroll

    • Handling complaints and dismissals

    Should you outsource? If you only have a few employees, handling human resources yourself may be the best option. When your staff starts to grow, however, hiring an HR consultant or professional employer organization (PEO) can save you time and ensure your business meets all legal requirements related to labor. 

  • 4. Responding to customers

    4. Responding to customers

    In small businesses, the duty of responding to customer phone calls, emails, and questions often falls to the owner.

    You'll deal with product questions, quality concerns, and even delivery issues, depending on your product or service. Interacting with customers frequently can also help you understand their needs and direct your products or services accordingly.

    Should you outsource? Delegating customer service depends on your size and industry. If you run a small manufacturing company, you may not need the extra help. But if you own a business centered on service — a restaurant or retail shop, for example — you might hire a customer service representative to help you manage the workload and guarantee an excellent customer experience.

  • 5. Creating marketing and advertising campaigns

    5. Creating marketing and advertising campaigns

    Any successful business has an established marketing and advertising strategy to connect with customers and reach its goals. Popular approaches include:

    Should you outsource? If you know your customers and have conducted market research, you may feel comfortable handling your own advertising. If you're looking to expand your reach and target new markets, though, an expert may be helpful. 

  • 6. Handling legal issues

    6. Handling legal issues

    Business owners must adhere to strict federal, state, and local laws regarding:

    • Choosing a legal entity

    • Navigating business licenses and permits

    • Creating and signing contracts

    • Managing liability issues

    • Meeting tax requirements

    Should you outsource? Faced with such a wide variety of legal issues, most small business owners need expert guidance at some point. Keep a lawyer on standby to help you through legal matters when they surface, especially if they involve disputes with customers or employees. 

  • 7. Managing the office

    7. Managing the office

    Regardless of size or industry, your business will require administrative tasks, including:

    • Ordering and managing office supplies

    • Dealing with suppliers and other partners

    • Scheduling appointments and meetings

    • Signing for deliveries

    • Tracking receipts and invoices

    • Organizing paperwork

    Should you outsource? These responsibilities could be delegated to another employee, freeing you up to focus on the business's management, operations, and goals. But even if your budget allows this, you’ll have to get involved in many of these issues as the business owner.

  • 8. Supervising a team

    8. Supervising a team

    In addition to HR responsibilities, such as hiring and payroll, you have important tasks as a personnel manager, including:

    • Training employees

    • Resolving disputes

    • Encouraging communication

    • Enforcing company policies

    • Motivating employees

    Should you outsource? As the business's leader, you're responsible for creating a positive culture where employees can do their jobs well. You may be able to share several of these tasks with your management team, but you'll also have to take on many yourself.

  • 9. Monitoring inventory

    9. Monitoring inventory

    It's important for you to know what you have on hand, what's in use, and what's on order so operations are as efficient as possible. That makes inventory management a key duty for small business owners.

    You'll track the production process, monitor when inventory is ready to package and ship, and plan ahead to prevent shortages and surpluses.

    Should you outsource? If you have an operations manager or contract with an outside warehouse, they can supervise inventory on a daily basis and alert you to trends or emergencies as they happen. If you handle your own operations, however, you'll always have detailed knowledge of supplies and production.

  • 10. Overseeing tech support

    10. Overseeing tech support

    Staying on top of technology is an important part of remaining competitive in the marketplace, and it's up to you to decide which technologies matter for your business. Tech issues that may impact you include:

    • Maintaining equipment

    • Accepting online payments

    • Improving office communication

    • Protecting secure information

    • Managing a CRM system

    Should you outsource? For many businesses, this is a responsibility best left to a tech expert who knows the ins and outs of your operations. If you own a technology company, however, you may have the skills to handle these tasks yourself.

  • Deciding the best route

    Deciding the best route

    As you decide which duties to accept or delegate, reflect on your expertise, your availability, your budget, and the role you want to play in your business.

    It can be difficult to decide which tasks you'll take on and which you'll outsource, but you can always adjust. If you're stretched too thin or your business grows, consider delegating another responsibility.

Published: April 24, 2015
Apply Your New Knowledge

Answer these quick questions to move on to the next topic in the Business Plan Center.

1. Do you handle your own marketing and advertising?
2. Do you outsource financial tasks?
3. Have you delegated any duties you would prefer to do yourself?