One particularly tricky stage in small business is knowing when you need to get some assistance. Typically, the time you first feel the pain of doing everything is when revenue is low and your stress gauge is nudging towards ‘extreme fire danger’.
Let’s see if we can ease things a little for you.
While ‘freedom’ probably tops the list of reasons you started your own business in the first place, buckling under the pressure of trying to split yourself into so many roles was unlikely to be on your radar.
Well in case you haven’t heard, just because you choose to work in a small business - perhaps like me you choose to work solo - doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself.
And in the wonderful world of independent work there are other professionals, who are poised to step in and give you support.
So getting help need not mean taking on staff. It may lead to that, but not necessarily.
In my life, I have a bookkeeper who spends a couple of hours a month helping me keep my finances in order; I’ve a sound engineer who edits and polishes my podcasts; a designer who turns my ideas into things of beauty; a researcher who does background work for my writing and the wonderful Keith who keeps my garden alive despite my best efforts to the contrary.
I broadly know how to do all these tasks, but what takes someone else an hour, would likely take me three times as long and what’s more, I’d end up cranky and with a shoddy job.
For every hour of ‘grunt work’ you pass to someone else, you have an hour to do what’s truly important to ensure your prosperity. Successful entrepreneurs and small businesses outsource all kinds of services from bookkeeping to phone-answering services, to catering and house cleaning.
Avoiding responsibility is not delegating!
A word of caution before you get too excited about delegating. You can’t just outsource a task and wash your hands of it. Particularly when it concerns essential actions like marketing, finance and people management.
Yes, we’d all love to imagine someone turning up and taking all our problems away, but it’s not quite that easy.
‘Abrogating responsibility’ is not delegating it’s er, being irresponsible.
You need to know exactly what you want done; understand enough to monitor the work; trust who’s doing it, and of course think twice before handing over passwords and account details. In other words, do your due diligence!
Having said all that, ‘understanding’ differs from ‘doing’. Upskill to grow knowledge - reading a book on the topic is a good place to start - and once you grasp the task, by all means get it off your desk.
Here’s a simple way to help you figure out what to hang onto and what to let go of. Ask yourself, ‘Does the task have high value to your business?’ If so, probably best to keep it under close scrutiny.
Is the task of low value, something that’s easy to do? Get the steps documented; get it outsourced; get on with high-value work.
Those who delegate well see the true value in their time, and free themselves up to engage in the work they are best at.
‘Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.’
That’s a quote from Tim Ferriss and if you’ve not read his book The 4-Hour Workweek, it’s a great read that bases its entire premise on eliminating as many tasks as possible from your to-do list by aggressively outsourcing.
You may not feel the need to go that far, but the book will help open your eyes, your mind and your arms and embrace the support of others.
But do be careful when you get to outsourcing. Choose your support crew with care and remember that while the benefits of creating more time for money making tasks is obvious, the wrong outsourced person can sometimes require more management time than they are worth.
Robert Gerrish is the founder of Flying Solo and author of The 1 - Minute Commute published by Pan Macmillan and available in all good bookshops, online and as an audiobook. Read more of his work at www.robertgerrish.com