A Tale Of Business Infrastructure

by Shonali Burke on May 20, 2010

Once Upon A Time…

The new Executive Director realized she had some HR problems (which is how I came in).

But neither she nor her Board Chair had any ideas of the extent of the mess. For the first time, I could find nothing to retain in their management effectiveness review.

The problems that underlie the “people management” ones extend to most of their other critical infrastructure.

Worse, they are creating a significant portion of their financial difficulties.


You have a focus, maybe even a passion, about your work.  And you get through all the things you need to do -  to get back to the parts you love.

But too often we put off investing in the support we need to succeed.

Maybe you have put off upgrading software or hiring services or adding people to save money.  Perhaps, like many entrepreneurs, you have hired someone on the cheap or for two different types of work and not had the results you sought.

Or, like another client, built a business plan that did not take into account some basic laws and thus had no possibility of success.

Infrastructure done well supports your business goals.

I know of a book author who needed to get a lot of exposure quickly to sell her book and thought speaking engagements would help.

But in weeks of working on finding such options, she was getting little traction.   She finally bought some marketing advice.  That led to her hiring a virtual assistant who did all the research on upcoming women-related events and got them her marketing materials.

Within two weeks, she had 20 speaking engagements set up for regional and national events in the next six months!

Buying the marketing advice and using a virtual assistant, her book took off.  And she got a great start in her second career.

Take a look at your infrastructure.  Is it really effective for what you need?

Do you have the systems and processes that make normal work easier?  If you are the “face” of your business, are you out in the right venues to build your business?  Or are you too busy doing other tasks instead?

How much work are you doing just to cope, rather than to be fully productive?  How much time does that take away from your income-producing work?

From items as simple as regularly backing up your PCs to buying advice, many of us skip that investment until we are “burned” and lose time or business when we least can afford to do so.

You certainly do not need the infrastructure of a large operation.

Yet many entrepreneurs grab programs and policies from past employers or other sources.

I regularly see the problems this creates as they are not tailored to what is needed.  My non-profit client above has a salary structure based on government, which built in costs they cannot sustain.  Their past management grabbed it without understanding the impact.

Now, we have to try to ameliorate its worst effects and create an effective process tailored to their market and needs without losing valuable employees.

Tick tock, tick tock…

If I have made you think, great!  I hate it when I’m called in because a lawsuit or a government audit has put the future of the organization in jeopardy.  And too often,  I learn the problem originated from trying to save money on expertise or systems.

Not sure what you really need and can afford?

Look at the things you are doing that you don’t enjoy or are not expert in.  Plus whatever you should be doing but have not.

What would make you more successful?

Make a list. It may look overwhelming at first.  Don’t give up!  Start with some priorities.  Then see what assistance and information are available from the SBA, SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center.  Check out your professional association’s offerings.  Ask colleagues and competitors what their most effective resources and practices are.

Take your business to the next level of success!

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Image: Kjirstin Bentson, Creative Commons

Regular contributor Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker, and executive with expertise in human capital. Launching a new Women Grow Business series on human resources for small business, Patricia is founder of Strategies for Human Resources. She helps small to mid-size organizations achieve their goals through more effective human capital strategy and management. She can be reached through her website SHRinsight.com, where archives for her ongoing management series can be found.

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