Dear Danielle: What Is Your Advice on Growing?

Dear Danielle:

I wanted to know your advice on growing. I am just on the verge of maybe needing help. Do I hire a colleague with her own company, hire an employee, or bring in a partner?  I just don’t know. I feel like hiring is taking me out of the industry that I hold so near and dear to my heart. Also, do you have advice on how to select a person to bring into your business. I have had some offers from people, but they are not familiar with the industry.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  Could be good to teach someone from ground zero, but also time-consuming. –LE

Here’s what I always tell people:  Just because you are a solopreneur doesn’t mean you should be working alone.

Solopreneur does not mean you doing everything yourself. It just means that the stock you are trading in is your own intellectual capital and your particular skill, talent, know-how and experience in your craft.

You can’t delegate those things, but you can certainly surround yourself with the right professional support so that the primary thing you are doing in your business is your stock-in-trade and letting those in supporting roles to you handle the rest.

Those supporting roles could be a bookkeeper so that you aren’t expending your time on that work (and also ensuring that it’s done correctly), an accountant to make sure you stay in compliance with any financial or taxing agencies and to give you the best financial management advice, and/or a business attorney to look over your contracts (both those in your own business as well as those others may want you to sign), run legal things by, and get advice on situations that hold potential liability for you and any other business matters that arise.

I also recommend that Administrative Consultants have their own Administrative Consultant, staff or a combination of both.

When you work with someone you develop a relationship with over time, the possibilies are endless with regard to the support they can provide. In an ongoing relationship like that, they get to know you and how things work in your business, they are able to support you in a way and to a degree that you just can’t get by outsourcing individual tasks occasionally to people you don’t work with consistently.

On top of that, there is a greater ease and efficiency when you have someone you work closely and continuously like that.

You may even identify non-critical parts of the work you do with clients that don’t require your particular brand of expertise that you can have them do for you.

Of course, the relationship is always between you and your client and I never recommend outsourcing that. When clients hire you, it’s for your brain, your critical thinking, your creativity and your expertise.

Never abdicate that. It’s part of your value and part of the thing that makes your business distinctive.

But that doesn’t mean that parts of the work can’t be delegated within your own house to staff or your own Administrative Consultant you have hired because they have impeccable skills and in whom you have absolute confidence.

In fact, I will tell you that you will always be stuck within a certain income level if you don’t ever get your own help.

As already mentioned, another way to get support is to hire staff (an employee or two).

You really don’t need much help in order for that support to make a hugely significant difference in your business.

And there are all kinds of ways to get that kind of help. You can post to job boards at local colleges. You can participant in state work-study programs (where the state will repay you a percentage of whatever wages are paid to the student employee). You can put family members to work (I’ve always thought getting the kids involved is such a great thing to do as a parent).

Of course with employees, there is more administration and taxes involved, but if you have a professional bookkeeper, you should have them take care of processing paychecks and so forth.

I personally like a combination of both. I like to have someone in-house who can take care of filing and other things that just require a physical presence. Once a week or two for just a few hours, just light clerical stuff. Someone like that you might not even end up paying more than $600 in a year in which case you may not even be required to formally process that person as an employee.

But for the bigger, more important meat-and-potatoes work, if you will, I definitely recommend hiring the best, most highly skilled person you can find. Someone competent, running their own business should not require “training” and will have her own process for learning what she needs from you in order to support you. Otherwise, it just defeats the purpose of easing your burden and take just too much time and energy.

It also doesn’t happen overnight. Think of yourself. It took years to establish the kind of skill and expertise you now possess. How much time and energy will you have to invest before that unskilled, untrained person becomes a real, viable asset to your business rather than a drain? Just something to think about.

As far as bringing on a partner, I can only offer my opinion which is emphatically NO!

Seriously, I have never seen a business partnership end well. There are far too many agreements and understandings and potentialities to take into consideration.

It’s always the one thing you didn’t think about ahead of time that ends up causing a rift. There can really only ever been one captain of a ship. And regardless of legalities, the person who started the business always feels (at least emotionally) that they “own” more of the business and that feeling of “more ownership” often causes resentment with the other partner.

Decision-making, conflicting workstyles, having to compromise, differing visions or opinions… all of these things are tedious and cumbersome. They just complicate and slow down the business.

On top of that, the business now has to earn for two owners instead of just the one—you. I don’t think you need a partner. I think you just need the right panel of informal professional advisors, and business support and strategies.

More on strategies tomorrow…

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