When it comes to online business, one of the women I most admire and respect is Cindy Bidar. If you’ve been around me for any length of time at all, you already know this. She and I have similar experiences including progressing from a one-person shop to team management.
Whether you’re an Amazon seller whose business is in a growth spurt, or an online marketer trying to take the leap from solopreneur to team leader, Cindy offers sound tips and advice before you take the plunge.
To hear some people tell it, outsourcing is the holy grail of business ownership, without which you cannot hope to succeed. Entire books have been written about it, so it must be true, right?
Listen to a few who have traveled unsuccessfully down the team-building road though, and you might hear a different story: one that involves piles of money spent with very little return on that investment.
Flawed project? Bad hiring choices? Maybe.
More likely though, it’s simply a case of not being quite ready to make the move from solopreneur to CEO. Try to take that leap too soon, and it may feel as if you’re doing all the right things… right up until that first invoice from a new team member comes due. That’s when you realize the profit side of your profit-and-loss statement is moving in the wrong direction.
Outsourcing Can’t Replace Experience
Here’s a hard truth those vocal outsourcing proponents often fail to mention: It’s extremely difficult to outsource what you yourself do not yet know how to do. Sure, we all want to step out of the “doing” roll sooner than later, but if you take the time to get a solid education first, you’ll be much more successful in the hand off.
Way back when I was a new hire in my first official management position, I was shocked to learn that the children of the owner spent summers working in the factory. Weren’t they going to someday inherit the business? Why spend school breaks punching out car parts in a sweltering machine shop when they could be out at the lake with their friends?
Their dad had the right idea though. He knew that in order to effectively hire employees in the future, those college kids had to first understand what the job entailed.
Don’t get me wrong. They didn’t have to be proficient at everything from engineering the parts to driving the delivery truck. That’s a lifetime of education, not a summer’s worth.
What they did need though, was to understand enough to know what was both possible and reasonable. When you have enough experience to identify opportunities and avoid the pitfalls, you’re much more likely to hire, train, and grow an effective team.
In my years working as a virtual assistant, I had two distinct types of clients:
- Those who came to me with an idea and who wanted me to create it for them, because they didn’t understand all the ins and outs of online business.
- Those who didn’t really need me at all, and who could, in fact, do everything I did (even better, in some cases).
Want to take a guess which ones were more successful? The second group, of course. They didn’t hire me to build their business, they hired me so they could have more time to grow it.
Before You Bring On Your First Team Member
When your ideas begin to outnumber your available work hours, and you start thinking you could earn more money if only you weren’t up to your eyeballs in technical troubleshooting and endless paperwork and customer service, it’s time to look at outsourcing. It’s costly to hire and train a new team member though, so long before scheduling that first interview, smart entrepreneurs take the time to lay a solid foundation.
First, conduct a time audit. How much time are you actually spending on all those tasks you’re so eager to get off your to-do list? You might think you know, but chances are good you’re underestimating.
Sign up for a free Toggl account and start punching your virtual time clock. Track things like bookkeeping, content creation, keyword and competitor research, email management, marketing, social media use, appointment setting, and any other tasks you regularly perform to keep your business running.
Track your time for at least two weeks. Toggl will keep you in the know about your time spent with color-coded bar and pie charts that make it easy to spot your time wasters. That also makes it easier for you to describe the position to potential team members as well as budget for your new payroll, since you won’t be guessing how much time is involved.
Next, prioritize your projects. What do you do in your business that only you can do? For bloggers or information product sellers, that might include content creation and marketing outreach. For an Amazon seller, sourcing new products and meeting with potential suppliers is likely on the list.
Before you hand off those lower-level tasks to make more room for the important stuff though, take the time to document what you do. If you skip this step – and you’ll be tempted to – then you’re instead asking your new team member to just “do it their way,” which may or may not work well in your business.
Create checklists, instructions and templates for all of the tasks that keep your business running. Not only will it ensure that every project is done exactly the way you prefer, but it will also greatly reduce the cost of onboarding new team members. Even better, it makes training (and cross-training, when you get to that point) a breeze. That means more time for you to take on those CEO-level projects that only you can do.
Systems & Documentation Help For Online Entrepreneurs
Need help getting your processes in place? Investing in done-for-you systems will not only speed up your documentation time, but it can give you new insights into how other successful business owners manage projects. Cindy Bidar’s Operations and Management Checklists provide detailed task lists for the most common online business projects, including setting up and maintaining your website, managing your help desk, setting up a sales funnel and more.
Have questions about outsourcing benefits or drawbacks? Talk to me below!
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