By Maria Anton

One of my partners commented today that this is “the year of learning how to do everything.” Slightly more than one year into our startup, we’re still marveling every day at all the things we don’t know.

You know how it is. When you’re an employee, if your e-mail goes haywire, you call the IT guy to deal with it. Now, we’re our own IT guy—as well as our own cleaning person, secretary, mail room guy…you name it. It’s a rare day in the office when I’m not crawling under something, climbing over something or moving something.
My partners and I have been looking forward to the day when we can finally stop doing it all. But according to this article from, that day could be further away than we think. “As staffs shrink, business owners are taking on support duties they haven’t had to handle in years,” the article reports.
With an estimated 1.6 million layoffs from small companies this year, entrepreneurs are putting on hats they had long ago taken off. The article cites one business owner who, after cutting her staff from eight to five people, started shipping her own orders (and messing lots of them up).

Nicholas Aguilera, whose San Diego print shop has cut staff by half, is cross-training all his employees to handle each other’s jobs. He’s also doing things he hasn’t done in years, like ordering supplies.

Knowing how to do “a little bit of everything,” as Aguilera puts it, is probably a good idea in boom or bust times. If employees (and owners) are motivated to learn new things and share their skills, maybe that’s one silver lining of this recession.