Posted Feb 20, 2013
As surprising as it is inevitable, your business will eventually find itself beyond the 'start-up' phase. You'll have gotten the knack of marketing, creating offers and products, and you'll have a steady flow of customers and clients and cash. And more. And more. And the momentum beings to build on itself. You used to be able to make leisurely, thoughtful replies to every email and every phone call. And now you're a week behind your inbox, and that little blinking message light on your phone has been there since... yesterday? the day before? And you still haven't listened to it. Congratulations, my friend, and welcome to success.
Your business has never been more at risk.
You'd be surprised at how long a business can limp along. I've been a part of organizations, and watched other businesses that have skated perilously close to the danger zone for years, decades even. And then, for some reason, the business has a breakthrough and starts to experience success. And one to two years later, the business is gone. What happened?
Success requires teamwork.
If your business is ever going to expand beyond 'limping along' you will need the support and efforts of others. You will. No, stop arguing with me, it's just true. ;-) There's just too much to do. One of my clients asked me recently: "Wow, Mark. I've watched your business grow so much over the last few years. I'm amazed- just getting my own business going this past year has taken so much. I'm imagining you have so much more to do - how do you do it all?" The answer? I don't. I can't do it all. Heart of Business would be a pipsqueak of a business without the efforts of at least eight other people that I can count off the top of my head. No, we don't have eight full-time employees. But, we do hire out quite a bit of help, including:
· Web design
· Audio transcription
· Admin tasks
· Newsletter formatting
· Article distribution
· Packaging and shipping
Sounds nice, doesn't it? And obvious. When your business starts to get going, of course you want help. Except that "nice" doesn't cover it. "Intimidating" is more like it. And, if you have a heart, how can you want to become a hard-driving, whip-wielding boss? And, would anyone actually want to help you? Besides, if you had an honest-to-God live employee or contractor standing in front of you, what would you do with them? How does it work?
First Step: Admitting you are powerless over your business.
Alcoholics Anonymous had a great insight here: the first thing you need to admit is that you can't do it yourself. That your business has become unmanageable with just you, and that you need help. Period. That's the first step. If you can come to accept that step, truly and deeply, you will be amazed at how different your business will look to you. And, how much mercy and compassion and lightness you can feel in your heart when you realize that you aren't a screw-up, there's just more here than you can honestly handle alone. If you've gotten this far, you've traveled further than most people in your position. You're now ready to step into actually seeing some help come through. How? Keep going.
Keys to Beginning to Outsource.
Start with a small project. Pick one project that is important enough that you need help, but not so important that your business will crumble into little bitty pieces if it doesn't come through. Yes, I know that everything in your business looks like that, but some things are less important. Take some time in your heart to ask: What *can* be outsourced?
Start with a Virtual Assistant. A virtual assistant is someone who does admin and business support work for your business, but they have their own business doing it for more than one client. Advantages are that you are part boss, and part client. A good VA will help teach you how to direct them, and so it's great on-the-job training for learning how to direct others to help you. Even more, you are a client of theirs, so they will (oughta) treat you really well.
Be the student master. You may have become an expert at your business, but you're probably feeling like a novice as a boss or employer. Another hard transition is going from a place of mastery in one moment, to 'beginner's mind' in the next. This is what I said to the first assistant I ever hired: "I've done management before, and I've been managed before, and neither worked very well. I want to tell you directly that I need help. But, I don't know how to be a good boss. I need you to help me direct you."
Make sure you allow for the learning curve as you take your project to a new assistant. Don't expect instant, amazing results. This is a new skill and relationship to have with your business, give yourself a good six months to a year to step into it more and more. Although hiring and outsourcing can be bumpy at first, once you do it, you'll never go back. And neither will your business. As one of my clients told me: "I was nervous as heck, but the year I finally starting hiring and outsourcing, my business doubled. And I've never looked back." Okay, boss, you tell me: when are you going to start outsourcing?
The best to you and your business,