Archive for the ‘Self-Care’ Category

Dear Danielle: Should I Hire an Employee, Work with a Colleague or Bring in a Partner?

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’re 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 find myself reminding colleagues of frequently:

Just because you’re solo doesn’t mean you need or should be working alone.

Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself.

It simply means that the stock you’re trading is in your own intellectual capital and your unique personal skill, talent, know-how and experience.

Those aren’t things you can delegate, but you can certainly surround yourself with the right professional support so that you can focus doing what you do with your clients and let those who support you do the rest.

Those supporting you might include:

  • 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 draft and/or review your contracts (both those in your own business as well as those others may want you to sign), run your legal questions by, and get advice on situations that hold potential liability for you and any other business matters that arise.

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

When you work with someone who you develop a relationship with over time, the possibilities are endless with regard to the support they can provide.

As they get to know you and how things work in your business, they’re able to support you in a way and to a degree that you just can’t get by outsourcing individual tasks here and there to people you don’t work with consistently.

On top of that, there’s 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 an employee or your own Administrative Consultant whom 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 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 hired paid interns from 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).

Of course with employees, there is more administration and taxes and reporting requirements 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 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 wouldn’t 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 afford.

Training just takes too much time and energy. And it doesn’t happen overnight.

Think about your own background. 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.

Which is why hiring a colleague (who is themselves a business owner) is the better option in my book.

As far as bringing on a partner, I can only offer my opinion which is emphatically: NOOOOOOO! Don’t do it!

Seriously, I have never seen a business partnership end well.

There are far too many agreements and understandings and potentialities to take into consideration.

And it seems 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 be one captain of a ship. Two will inevitably bump heads, want to steer in different directions or be the boss.

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 become more tedious and cumbersome. They 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 professional advisors, and business support and strategies.

These Are the Clients You Do NOT Want

Uh, no… that’s not how this works. That’s not how ANY of this works, lol.

Can you relate?!

I love this video because it brilliantly illustrates exactly what is going on for so many business owners.

Personally, I have some of the most fabulous, wonderful clients in the world. They are an absolute joy to work with and know.

However, it’s all because of the simple fact that I don’t put up with or work with any of the kind of clients portrayed in this video.

They don’t exist in my world because I don’t give them the time of day. As a result, I make great money and live a fabulous life.

It wasn’t always this way for me, though.

TRUST ME, I’ve lived to learn and tell every about every stinking pothole you’ve ever found yourself in, LOL.

So I talk about this stuff because bad clients happen to good people all the time, and I want to help them see how they can avoid becoming hostages to them.

(To be clear, I go to bat for clients as much as I do for colleagues. Good, honorable clients deserve no less than skilled, competent Administrative Consultants who know how to run their businesses well and thereby provide clients with great service and value.)

The bad clients I talk about are exactly the ones portrayed in this video. They’re the clients you don’t want to work with, who will literally steal your soul.

I have zero sympathy or tolerance for them because at its core, what’s really going on with these types is that they are self-entitled, self-absorbed cheapskates who think the world revolves around them.

They would have you treat yourself poorly and operate in way that’s detrimental to your own personal or financial well-being so that they can profit at your expense or get something for free.

That’s not brotherly/sisterly love, much less a mutually respectful or equally beneficial business relationship. That’s not caring about your fellow human being and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It’s a selfishness and soullessness that is at the root of so many problems in the world today.

I have no use for folks like that and unlike the bleeding hearts who are probably busy as we speak twisting themselves into pretzels over the poor, poor clients who just can’t afford things, I refuse to make excuses for them.

It’s not your job to make excuses or allowances for them either.

What We Mean by Structure

In a recent post that discussed properly framing your business so the marketplace “gets it,” I reminded those of you in the administrative support business that structure is your friend.

It occurred to me, however, that some people might not understand what I mean by structure.

First, let me emphasize that creating structure is not about boxing you in. On the contrary!

Structure is about erecting a foundation in your business that will support solid weight and give you the space you need to move around.

It’s about establishing standards, policies and procedures.

It’s about systemizing, automating and streamlining those recurring and repetitive processes, workflows and tasks.

It’s about setting and managing proper expectations in clients and giving them parameters and boundaries.

It’s about communicating that information to them.

Structure brings order to chaos. It’s what organizes the disorganized and disjointed. It’s what preserves relationships.

Structure is what will allow you to roll with the punches and go with the flow caused by all the twists and unexpected turns that you WILL confront throughout the life of your business.

Structure is what will allow you to remain flexible and agile. It will prevent your “building” from crumbling to the ground when you encounter setbacks or are forced into detours or course corrections.

Structure is what will give you the time to develop your ideas and work on experiments, as well as the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Structure is what will allow you to take superior care of clients and do your best work for them.

It’s what will prevent burnout and overwhelm.

Just as importantly, structure is a comfort to clients.

It tells them that yours is an administrative support practice that is set up smartly to serve them and that you are in a committed, legitimate business.

It says that yours is not a fly-by-night operation and they won’t be putting their eggs in a basket that may disappear into thin air tomorrow.

It shows them that you take their interests seriously and have given careful consideration in setting up your business to serve them for the long-haul.

Valuing Yourself and What You Have to Offer

Mikelann Valterra shared the best quote in her newsletter recently:

“If you place a small value on yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise the price.” —anonymous

She followed this quote with one of her very astute observations:

“The true key to earning your worth is to believe you have worth to begin with. Not only do you have worth, you are WORTHY of good money. We all want other people to value us. But how highly do we value ourselves? Value and worth come from the inside out. When we know in our gut that we are indeed worth a lot, it is far easier to ask for good money. Don’t expect the world to pay you top dollar if you place a small value on yourself!” —Mikelann Valterra

Mikelann is one of my favorite authorities when it comes to helping women value themselves in business.

She has such a knack for clearly and eloquently ideas and concepts that aren’t always the easiest things to relate.

I can’t recommend her stuff highly enough.

Go to her website. Sign up for her newsletter. Subscribe to her blog.

Acquiescence Is Not a Business Strategy

Some members and I were having a brainstorming session to help a colleague who had a prospective client who was balking a bit at the terms of her agreement.

In the course of our conversation, another member proposed the idea of allowing the client a PAYG (pay-as-you-go) arrangement until they felt comfortable working on a retainer basis.

Here’s what I think about that…

Acquiescence is not a business strategy.

It’s a mentality that says “I need to take whatever I can get and my business interests are of less importance than the client’s.”

It’s settling for something less than ideal.

You do not have to settle for anything less than what you want for your business.

And you will never get what you don’t ask for and expect.

If you allow others to dictate what you want or need, whether in life or in business, you will be forever plodding through life at the mercy of everyone else’s whims and wishes.

Set it and expect it!

If you are trying to build a business with a roster of retained clients, it doesn’t serve your purposes to expend your time and energy on prospective clients who aren’t ready to commit to working with you in the way you need and want.

All that does is distract you and divert your focus, energy and resources from finding those clients who are ready.

If you never assert your expectation for working only on retainer, you will be stuck piddling around with clients who won’t ever make the commitment.

And for every exception you make to your standards and policies, you are instilling more work, more administration and less profitability in your business.

The beauty of this is that having this expectation doesn’t involve long, convoluted discussions.

You don’t have to explain yourself or make excuses for your policies.

All you have to do when you are having your consultations and explaining how things work in your practice is simply say, “This is how I work with clients to help them achieve the best results in their business… ”

Let those who don’t fit weed themselves out. Save your energy for those who are a fit.

You will be much happier. And your business will be much more successful and profitable because of it.

Inside Secrets to Having Friends as Clients

Nina Kaufman is an attorney and business expert who is always spot-on with insightful advice. We in the administrative support business seem to encounter the hazards of working with friends over and over so I thought this article was well-worth sharing. —Danielle

Inside Secrets to Having Friends as Clients
By Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

When we’re growing our businesses, friends can serve as a great source of referrals. They know us well, trust us, and have no hesitation about recommending us to others.

But what happens when a friend makes a referral… and the referral is the friend herself? The dynamics of your friendship can change radically, and often not for the better. (I know–I’ve “been there, done that,” and got the tatters of a couple of friendships to show for it.) Here are some inside secrets to making sure that both your business and your personal relationship with this friend stays happy and healthy:

  1. Set business expectations. One of the reasons that having friends as clients becomes a disaster is that friends may expect you to handle their work the same way as you handle their friendship. Let’s say that “Janine” is used to your dropping everything to help her in a crisis. She may get upset when you don’t handle her web design project with the same urgency (even if it’s really not urgent). Before you take her on as a client, have a good long talk about your company’s standard procedure for working with its clients. Let Janine decide whether your S.O.P meets her needs, rather than convoluting your company’s policies to meet hers.
  2. Be clear about what you’ll charge. You’re not doing a friend a favor by not charging him (or deeply discounting) the products or services you provide, and ending up in an unprofitable situation you later resent. Natalie ran into a situation where she agreed to help Michael, a friend from church, with IT services. She had agreed to install and configure a particular computer program for Michael–she’d only charge the out-of-pocket expenses for the program itself. She bought the computer program at her preferred partner rate (so Michael got the benefit of her discount). The company sent the wrong program, so Natalie had to spend valuable time straightening that out. It then turned out that Michael had misunderstood his computer capacity, so when Natalie tried to install the program, all sorts of other programs wouldn’t work with it. Ultimately, Natalie spent many more hours than she had intended, earned no money on the deal, and Michael was upset with the whole process taking as long as it did, so never referred any further business to Natalie. A lose-lose situation all around.
  3. Get it in writing. David had this very issue with Gary, a college buddy. Gary needed help with PR services, and David agreed to help his long-time friend with a particular project… on a handshake. But Gary kept expanding the scope of what he wanted David to do, and once embroiled in the middle of it, David couldn’t easily pull out. Had David had a written agreement, he could have set out the scope of his services more clearly so that Gary would better understand when David needed to charge additional fees.
  4. Have someone else say “no.” You know from the moment you pick up the phone and hear from the friend on the other end that he has a need whether this could become a problem situation for your business. I feel a knot in the pit of my stomach. Other people feel their chest tighten. Still others get a headache. Don’t disregard those warning signs. If you know you really can’t meet your friend’s needs, but don’t have the heart to deny them personally, find a “bad cop” to bring to your client meeting. Your “bad cop” could be a business partner, division manager, or other work associate who will be the one to deliver the hard news about what the company charges, when payment is expected, and whether any exceptions will be made. It’s not the best of all worlds, but gives everyone a way to save face–and to save the friendship.

Doing business with friends becomes awkward because it inverts your natural rules of relating. Business needs to come first, not the friendship. That’s a hard boundary to set. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a friend is to refer her to someone else to meet her needs. That way, you can help your friend while still keeping the friendship intact.


© Copyright 2008 Wise Counsel Press LLC. Nina L. Kaufman, Esq., is a small business attorney and the founder of Wise Counsel Press LLC, which offers easy-to-understand legal strategies and information products that protect small businesses and save them money…wisely. To learn more, and to sign up for their FREE how-to articles and FREE audio class, visit

A Quick Thought About Focus

A quick thought for all you in the administrative support business struggling to gain balance and focus:

You aren’t in business to serve anyone and everyone.

You are in business to serve only those you serve best, whose needs are most in alignment with your needs and business offerings.

Focus first on what you need and want from your business and the kind of clients you want, and everything else will fall into place.

Forget about trying to offer every single thing that you think clients want.

Figure out what business you want to be in, what you want to offer, how you want to offer it, and who you want to offer it to, and your right, ideal clients will find you.

As you gain clarity and understanding about that, you’ll find that your business is easier and happier to run, you attract more money and clients (and better clients), and you have much more success and satisfaction.

I guarantee it. You’ll see… :)

It Doesn’t Have to Be Done RIGHT Now

It Doesn't Have to Be Done RIGHT Now

I know that sounds obvious, but how often have you found yourself trying to get EVERYTHING done RIGHT NOW?

Did you know that you can actually create a much happier, more profitable and smoother-running business if you embrace this mantra?

Not only does it not have to be done right now, it really shouldn’t be done right now.

What do I mean by that?

Well, operating a solo business is a bit trickier than running other business models.

People who go into solo practice aren’t interested in managing people, and they have no desire for the kind of demands and volume that a larger business model would entail.

They like being the technician slash business owner, and find meaning, purpose, enjoyment and fulfillment in doing the work.

And like an artist, their craft and talent and how they deliver their work and results is unique to them alone.

This means, however, that they must be even more conscious of their business processes and how their resources are expended.

One of the things that becomes really important in a solo business is having the space and mental bandwidth to think and move around in the work in order to produce quality work in a professional manner.

If you continually operate with clients in RIGHT NOW mode, you give away control over that space.

Pretty quickly, clients get used to the “instant assistance” and begin to expect it, all the time, every time. They forget that you have other people to serve besides them. And when they are allowed to have those kind of expectations, they quickly become very unpleasant to work with.

Eventually, you realize you can’t sustain that kind of pace, not without sacrificing your quality of work and service standards along with your sanity, happiness and well-being.

This advice is summed up very neatly by my online buddy and branding expert, Rob Frankel:

“… being too responsive can kill you, because the client begins to expect you to react instantly, even to issues which require more time.”

See how that can create unreasonable and unsustainable expectations in clients, the kind you can’t afford to have in your business?

The solution is to examine your work processes, formalize policies and standards, and set and manage client expectations that give you the space you simply must have in your solo business to maintain quality and prevent burnout and overwhelm.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about this in your own practice:

  • How much breathing room do you need to do great work at a comfortable, humanly sustainable pace?
  • How many days would that be? Next day? Two days? Three days? More?
  • What days/hours of official operation do you want clients to be observant of?

Mind you, this doesn’t mean you still can’t work any time you please, but you don’t want clients calling and chasing you around on the phone at all hours of the day and night. That’s a surefire recipe for boundary issues and resentment.

It’s okay to have parameters. It’s imperative that you do, in fact. You’re a business and it’s healthy and in the best interests of you and your clients alike.