Time. We never have enough of it.
While it’s true for everyone, never having enough time is an especially common problem for entrepreneurs. If you’ve ever owned your own small business, consulting firm, or done freelance work, you know that your time is a precious thing. Besides doing your primary work, you may also double as your own accountant, lawyer, IT professional, sales person, and customer support rep. It’s tricky to juggle so many things, but it’s also part of the fun.
That said, you can’t run a successful small business by working more and more hours every week. Your company’s growth will be limited by your time, and you’ll be at a high risk for entrepreneurial burnout. The only way to get more done is to learn to delegate your work, but hiring someone new is a big risk.
Here are some things to consider before you bring on a new team member.
Evaluate Your Strategies
So, before you get it in your head that you need to hire someone, take stock in what you’re spending your time on. For example, if you’ve spent 40 hours on LinkedIn groups marketing your service in the past month, but have seen no new customers, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach?
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media, but with so many networks and strategies out there, it can be a real time suck. Make sure that you stay active, but don’t let it consume you. It’s better to own up to a poor business strategy than to kill your company proving that it will eventually work.
What Do You Need To Do, And What Could Someone Else Do?
Once you’ve charted out where you’re spending your time, it’s time to figure out where you still need a little help. Maybe you spend 10 hours per week training your clients or performing basic customer service. Couldn’t your time be better spent making new sales or up-selling your current clients on new services instead?
Generally speaking, you want to focus on the areas that add the most direct value to your company. You should be the one going to conferences, making new sales, and managing projects; let someone else make copies, send faxes, and bill clients. All these small tasks chip away at your day, and most can be outsourced for much less than your time is worth.
You may want to consider hiring a college or high school student to help you out with some of these less challenging, but time-intensive tasks every week. For example, I used to pay a college student $12 per hour to do my laundry and ironing every week. He was happy because he just wanted some quick cash for beer money, and it gave me 4-5 extra hours each week to work on adding value to my business.
Watch Your Cash Flow
In a small company, cash flow is king. You don’t want to send your business (or yourself) into an ocean of debt just because you felt the need to hire someone you couldn’t really afford.
Make sure that you’ve got consistent income that will cover your new employee’s paycheck or use a commission-based system so that they are fairly paid for work that brings your company a known value.
Avoid hiring people for the sake of hiring people. Your business is a business, and not a charity. Hiring someone is expensive, and firing them six months later is even more expensive. Try to find a third party service to step in and act as an extra set of hands for you rather than go through the new employee process.
Find The Right “Level” Of Employee
If you’ve decided that it’s absolutely necessary to bring someone else onto your team, start with a part-time intern or contractor. Unless you have a lot of luck or you know an excellent candidate personally, bringing someone in on a part-time basis can prevent a lot of headaches down the road. If you do go this route, you should realize that they are likely hoping to move into a full-time position someday. Be up front with them, and don’t lead them to believe this temporary position will be something more than it really is.
Running your own business is a rewarding but often stressful experience. You may love your work being self-employed, but if you’re spending 80 hours per week on it, a burnout is inevitable. Sometimes making a new hire is your best bet.
Have you ever hired a new employee or even a personal assistant? Tell me about your experience in the comments!
Join the discussion 14 Comments
Great post Karl! I just started my own Virtual Assistance business for Trade Shows and my client felt the same way too. On the flip side as a marketer, my time is very valuable because I still work a full time job during the day, so there might be times when I feel I need help. I think honestly it is about prioritizing your time efficiently and if what you are working on is something that needs your attention now.
When I started my business, I was overwhelmed the first week because projects came up at work and I was behind on my blog. Once I sat down and got my schedule together, it made things easier. Could I use the help? Sure and I have people on my team for my business to help with other duties that I can delegate over. I think people just don’t like asking for help and I am one of them. It might boil down to trust ultimately, but I would rather ask for help sooner rather than later.
Priorities are definitely the key. From what I’ve seen in most companies I have worked for, at least 25% of the employees there are unnecessary but bad managers with lopsided priorities and workflows create a need. If you’re in a small one or two person business, this is especially critical as it sounds like you’ve discovered.
Thanks Karl for a great post!
I have tried to hire an assistant twice, but it didn’t work out. I spent most of my time teaching the first one and it became a management issue. The second one was great, but he was not consistent.
So I made a very long list of all the tasks to be done. Online and offline. I had to see where my time was focused on things I wanted to do myself. It seemed to be everything. So what I learned is to let go a bit.
Now I hire people to do different tasks instead of a VA. An example is that I’m working on a product site. I hired someone to put that up. If I have technical issues, I hire someone to do that for me instead of spending time to learn it myself.
As for my home, I hired a landscaper, because I was spending too much time keeping up with the outside of my home. I used to enjoy it, but it became a task. Also I will hire a cleaning service once in a while and hired a dog walker for my 3 dogs.
All this frees up my time. I haven’t run into a good VA yet, but am still on the “look out”
Thanks for the great tips,
Learning to train and delegate effectively is the hardest thing when you’re hiring someone. I’ve learned to be very specific because if you can’t dummy-proof a job, even a smart person who doesn’t know what you do can screw it up. I like the idea of outsourcing the tech you don’t know though. Definitely better to outsource that than your core business.
Welcome to Carol’s place and great share.
I have hired a few people to do jobs that I have no clue how to do. I admit probably wasting a lot of time teaching myself how to do things that I could have hired someone else to do but then again, I wouldn’t be able to share with my readers how to do those things.
When you look at productivity and making money then I’m sure a lot of people would argue with me that I should be much further along then I am had I not taken the time to teach myself how to do things I could have hired others to do.
Knowing my luck though, I would have ended up like Donna. I’ve been told to hire a certain group of people because you’ll get good work for less money but the downfall is that you have to teach them what to do. Well hell, I might as well just do it myself then.
I also admit not having the funds in the beginning so I had to do it all myself. I’m getting there though so there will be some things I’ll outsource in the near future.
That’s a really good point, Adrienne, but who cares if you aren’t as “far along” as you should be. Life is about the journey, not the destination, right?
Nice post. I feel like I’m always out of time and a clone to help me get my work done! 🙂 So much work to do. I have hired people in the past but not for my home based business. Thanks for informing us on what is needed.
I joke with people all the time about getting a clone. If only the technology existed…Well, maybe before I die: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9753647/Human-cloning-within-50-years.html
As a freelancer and online entrepreneur, I do not try to lose my time and sanity do technical stuff, so for me that’s a time to hire someone or pay a service to do it. I do the basics stuff, but the rest I pay someone to do it for me.
I am not going to spend the time that I don’t even have to first learn how to do the darn thing, and than to do it. NO way!
In such case, money not only buys the service I pay for but it pays off for my time saved and my sanity. Great saving if you asked me 🙂
Thank you for your valuable post.
Thanks for your thoughts, Sylviane. It definitely sounds like you’ve got it right. I started my career in a technical field (engineering & web development), so I know how much time that stuff can take to learn. You’ve got the right idea though; know what you know, and let someone else do the rest!
Great – and very relevant – post, Karl. In February, I hired three contract employees, agreeing to a set fee per month for three months. We have everything in writing and I was very up front that, once the three months are up, I will need to evaluate the value and decide whether to continue for another three month contract. So far, I am really encouraged that their contributions are freeing me up to focus on the work that I am best at, leaving some of the web/tech stuff to them. But I agree that, especially as a small business, it is best to begin with contractors and move from there.
I agree with you and with Karl on this, too. A full-on hire is a big investment and responsibility. it alleviates a lot of stress and unknowns – for both parties – to hire on a trial basis.
Great tips Karl. If what you are doing is not generating production, it is time to let somebody else do it.
And save yourself the burnout!