Small Biz Advice: Getting it in Writing



Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

Dear Holly,

I manage a night club that has multiple locations nationwide, including one here in NYC.  I took on the position about a year ago and recently, the owner has started piling on work that I did not sign up for.  I don’t have a formal written job description, but we did have a verbal agreement when I started.

The tasks that he is asking me to complete are way beyond my skill set, and I fear that my lack of knowledge around this area, and the fact that my plate is already full, may cause more harm to the company than actually being productive.  What’s more, if I have to cut back on my current responsibilities to take on this new task, I’m pretty sure the business will lose money. 

How do I approach my boss about this situation and make sure that it works out for both of us?  I don’t want to give him an ultimatum, but I also don’t want to constantly feel like I’m failing at my job.  Please help.


In Over My Head


Dear In Over,

Sounds like you’re in quite a bind here and a really moral-draining situation.  I agree that giving your boss an ultimatum would be a terrible idea and probably not work out in your favor.  However, there is a way that you can present this case to your boss that has the potential to make both of your lives better.

In the future, know that a verbal agreement on anything when it comes to doing business probably won’t work out in the long run.  Unless you have things in writing, you won’t be able to plead your case with ease.  So, moving forward, I highly recommend requesting a written job description that you and your boss can both sign off on.  Here’s what you can do now to move forward.

First, it’s important to stay focused on what’s best for the business.  Keep in mind this really isn’t about you personally or your boss, but about how you can work together to keep the night club running successfully.  If you take on that attitude, instead of a finger pointing approach, you’re already more likely to see the results you desire.

Second, from the perspective of what’s best for the business, take time to lay out your case for your boss.  Write down how your time is currently spent, and how that makes the business a lot of money.  It’s likely that he’s not aware of how your daily activities have increased sales and brought profit to his company.  He’s a busy man and has probably not taken the time to see how you have changed things for the better.  Spell it out for him.

Third, write down the “loss” you project if you were to cut back on your current activities in order to take on these new tasks.  A clearly written, objective argument is much more persuasive than one that is fraught with emotional baggage.

Finally, if the tasks your boss is giving you are beyond your skill set, make the argument for hiring someone who specializes in this area.  Many times, businesses lose money because employees don’t have the proper training or skills to complete the work that needs to be done.  So, if a specialist is needed here, find out how much it would cost to hire that person, then make the case that hiring an extra staff member is actually more profitable for the business than going without.  Show how your focus on your specific skill set will continue to increase profits for the business while covering the cost of this new hire.

Approach this situation with an attitude of what’s best for the business, and you’ll surely find the solution that is agreeable for both you and your boss.  Good luck with this and may your business continue to see lasting success!



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