Jack or Jill of all trades

The ability to perform many roles simultaneously is a must

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You’ve updated the accounting books in time to make a few sales calls. But before you get II a chance to pick up the phone, your biggest client calls to request an impromptu meeting. As you grab your briefcase and head out the door, you silently pray the session doesn’t last too long. You still have to fill out purchase orders and fax out proposals-all before the day’s end.

Last month, we began our series on entrepreneurial traits by taking an in-depth look at risk-taking. In this installment, we explore multitasking and help you cope with the seemingly impossible–doing it all, all by yourself.
Evangelia Biddy spent years living out countless versions of this scenario. The executive director of Pushkin Management Group in Jersey City, New Jersey, juggled all company responsibilities “from cleaning lady to new client development executive” when she started her literary management firm in 1992. But she began dropping the ball as more clients came aboard. “I had a tough time balancing the workload with new business development,” says Biddy, 29.

“The ability to perform many functions at once is absolutely necessary, especially for new entrepreneurs who don’t have the financial wherewithal to hire additional staff,” says Bennie Thayer, president of the National Association for the Self-Employed (www.nase.org), in Washington, D.C. “But most entrepreneurs don’t figure multitasking into their startups.” Because “they don’t have the skills they need to run or manage every aspect of their enterprise, business suffers.”

In 1995, Biddy got around her problem by bringing in New York attorney Dana Emery, 28, as an equal partner in Pushkin. As acquisitions editor, Emory handles accounting and negotiations for the company, whose client list includes authors E. Lynn Harris and Ingrid Sturgis, talk show host Tony Brown and nationally acclaimed artist Alonzo Adams. “Her legal training brings certain skills I don’t possess to the table,” says Biddy. “Now, twice as much work is accomplished in the same amount of time.”

You don’t have to throw away your dream of self-sufficiency if you aren’t adept at juggling tasks. The following tips can help you do a more effective job of multitasking:

  • Set a daily schedule and prioritize tasks. Each night, list all tasks to be accomplished the next day so you can hit the ground running in the morning. Number them by importance and check each one off as you go.
  • Manage your time. “Time is of the essence when multitasking,” says Biddy. Buy an organizer to keep track of appointments and deadlines. Also, invest in a speakerphone or a phone headset to free your hands to do other things while you talk.
  • Get with the technology program. Invest in a good laptop and cellular phone so you can keep working when you’re away from the office.
  • Delegate responsibility. “The bulk of an entrepreneur’s time should be spent on revenue-generating tasks,” says Biddy. Pay someone else to provide administrative and technical support, if you can afford it.

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