You Don’t Have to Hire a Big Team to Save Time and Money!
To save time and money is critical for small businesses. But a big team does not guarantee that you will save either one. A bigger team has more moving parts to control. A bigger team has more interdependencies to monitor. A bigger team has more money going out the door as waste if you aren’t on top of all this.
Yet one of the biggest mistakes I see business owners making is wanting a bigger team. More hands means getting more done, right? Copying a mentor’s processes, tools or team size will give them the same results, right? Not TRUE!!
Your mentor/coach/idol got to where they are by:
- Solving a problem that people will pay money to have solved.
- Having a great solution, which they could bring value to.
- Knowing how to connect with and get in front of the people that have this problem.
- Providing a solution that is unique to their delivery methods, or client transformational needs.
- Working to achieve these goals with the right tools and support (Including teams).
- Maintaining a profitable business.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe any of us can make it totally on our own and grow to the fullest of our potential. I do believe that each of us brings unique perspectives and solutions to problems. And I do believe we all need team members to do the things that are not our greatest expertise.
But copying someone else’s business model fails 60% of the time. Copying without understanding the underlying business structure fails 90% of the time. Good business structures are built by understanding each part of the business and its processes. In this article, we explore the aspects of building the right team in your business, while lowering those risks.
Entrepreneurs are great at taking risks, and hiring can be a BIG risk. But the difference between a risk taker and a gambler is that a risk taker accepts they can fail and knows they can recover. Whereas a failure for a gambler can come with a slew of other problems, and usually no recovery. So here are a few things that will keep you on the side of a risk taker.
- Why do you need more team members? Are you there to coach and you need technical people? Is your business model changing and you need expertise in a new area? Or are you providing technical skills and you need customer service or marketing team members? Being clear on why you are adding team members will ensure that you pick the right skills. But there are pitfalls:
- It is a common mistake to hire someone that you like, a relative, or because the price is low. To build your business you need to hire team members that will take you further than you could have gotten on your own. That often means hiring people that are quite different than you are. The best team members are able to do things in your business faster or better than you could alone. It is not just that you can get more done with more hands. You can get exponentially more done with the right extra hands. You are an expert in your field. An expert in a complimentary field will bring expertise and training that you haven’t mastered yet. If their skills compliment your skills, your business growth will be exponential. But how do you find the right skill sets and team members? There are many tools, each with their own value. Check out Kolbe, Strength finders, Disc, or Enneagram assessments and find one that works for you.
- Hiring one person to do everything. If you want to grow your team, hire for specific skills. Don’t expect one person to be excellent at both customer service and highly technical areas. That will create frustration for everyone. When someone is working on something highly technical, interruptions cause errors and cost money. But when a client calls they need customer service, which is immediate attention. If you are doing technical work that is an interruption. If you are focused on customer service that is an opportunity.
- Hiring someone before you know what you need, or where the company is going. Without a true plan, you are gambling. We all need support but hire for the specific support you need right now if cash is tight. Short term help can be a lifesaver. But committing to a monthly minimum of hours can leave you scrambling to fill those hours.
- What do you want them to do? There are various tasks that you may want a team member for, and not all of them require you to know the details specifically. But expect to pay more for someone that you aren’t training.
- An accountant or lawyer has years of training that exceeds most business owners skill level, and they charge accordingly. But you may only need a full accountant at year end, or to set up a business chart of accounts for your bookkeeper. This means you need a relationship with one, but probably not a retainer for them. A bookkeeper, however, might need some guidance specific to your business. Or they might need to know how your accountant wants to receive the information at year end. But a bookkeeper will also charge less.
- Or if you have been using a simple email system like MailChimp and decide to go over to a complete tool like Infusionsoft. When you are making a major switch, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” So it is hard to gauge the level of work required. Hiring for these changes can be difficult. But an Infusionsoft expert can do much more with the tool faster than someone less experienced. So paying more to get it set up correctly and running smoothly is a better return on your investment. Once you have worked with an expert, you will understand what is required in that position. Another landmine with this type of hire is:
- There is no standard testing for this type of expert. Certifications are great, but not consistent. It makes it hard to know how they deliver results. In areas like this, I like to look for someone that does some teaching around the product. Because nothing shows what you don’t know than having to explain it to someone else. Look for the people that run the local User Group, or provide training. Attend a few sessions, or invest in a course. You get a chance to see how they work with people and how they answer your questions. Even if they don’t do the work themselves they often have a list of contacts that can do the work. You will also meet people in the group that can make recommendations.
- Once you have good contacts and an understanding of what is required, then you need to test individuals for the position. Never give open access to a new team without a test option. This is where the ‘what’ comes into play.
- When hiring someone technical, get real clear on expectations and deliverables.
- How do they talk about your project? Does it seem like a job they are interested in and invested?
- How do they answer your questions? Do they explain things that make you feel more comfortable working with them, or make you feel uncomfortable? Do they use a lot of jargon without explaining it?
- Do they ask a lot of questions? I find this is the most telling. Someone that asks instead of telling, wants to get to know my business. And that is part of a good business relationship.
- What is their communication style? Do they only like emails, but you need to sound things out? I am a great talker, so even though I tell my clients that I prefer email for tasks – we often have to chat through things. And they know that will happen because most of them know me well enough before hiring me.
- Don’t gamble. Plan a simple test that they can complete.
- Make sure that the commitments on both sides match the expectations. Don’t sign a long-term contract without a trial period or sample project. Even if you pay more for the sample project – it can save a lot of issues later on.
- Mix up your tests. I have seen it time and time again. Someone gets hired to build a website but disappears when the mundane jobs need attention. That is a big red flag in a sample project. But if you don’t test for it, you may have a website that you can’t get fixes for. Or a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) that you can’t get fixed when things break.
- The best advice is to hire slowly and fire quickly for every team position. Bad team members affect everyone, so test a few things, and see if they fit into your team.
- The more specialized and specific the tasks are, the more likely it is to grow your business. But you have to determine what tasks and positions to fill first. Knowing what has to be accomplished is the best way to lay out the hiring order. Then it is easy to determine WHEN to hire.
- Starting with a Virtual Assistant (VA) is a common time saver. Because it is easy to unload small tasks. But if the tasks you are outsourcing are not freeing you up, what is the gain? Only offload tasks that are critically important to your business growth.
- Hire a VA that is a master at getting you speaking engagements if that is your biggest leads source. Then measure the VA cost against revenue increases and you will know the value.
- For me, the priority is a bookkeeper. Because the time I take to do that task is better used for me serving my clients. I also charge out at a higher rate than I pay my bookkeeper so the return is easy to measure.
- You know you need to add team members WHEN:
- you have enough clients to offload tasks
- the expense is less than the extra income generated by having that person on the team.
- There are several different ways to pick the activities that can be outsourced to make you more money. Consider how you spend your day.
- What tasks do you do and which ones do you procrastinate on?
- What tasks can you pay someone significantly less to complete than you get paid for the same unit? (if you are paying hourly, then that is the unit)
- What tasks generate revenue in your business? Own these and control these – but look for supporting tasks that can be outsourced. For example booking appointments. If you are a coach then booking your appointments does not make you money. How can you outsource that?
- Consider automation. Appointments are a good example of a task that can be automated and save you time without costing a lot. My calendar booking software costs me less per year than I make in one call. So it’s a no-brainer. But use the tools you pay for or get rid of them and know your cash flow.
- Other considerations for WHEN.
- Plan for where you want to be in 6-12 months. Don’t hire for where you are now. Because the goal is to be growing, it doesn’t make sense to hire and know that position will be obsolete in 6 – 12 months.
- Plan for changes in your business model. What will that look like in a year or 5 years from now? Do you want to still be doing everything you are now? And don’t forget to consider when you will sell your business.
- Will you work with them? It is important to understand and set expectations around working with a team early on.
- What is your interview process?
- Some pre- screening should be automated. But don’t go overboard.
- Depending on the level of autonomy that you require, you want to temper your steps to an interview.
- Consider the position you are hiring for and the respect it deserves.
“Treat your employees, as you want them to treat your best customers.” Steven Covey.
- If you are screening for a professional set it up accordingly. Google them. Check out reviews, testimonials, LinkedIn and then set up a complimentary chat to see if they are a fit.
- If you are screening for an employee then set up the steps according to the position needed.
- If you are screening for a freelancer or contractor. Treat them and their time like you would any other business. Don’t ask them to complete steps that you wouldn’t do for your prospects. And don’t ask them to complete the same steps that you would an employee.
- You will always get people willing to complete anything you ask of them, but they are the ones that have the time and freedom to do that. It does not guarantee that they will be great at the job. You want to hire someone that understands the expectations but is not desperate for a job. So calculate the risk of the steps you are including and adjust accordingly.
- Have a communication plan. How often? What should it include? Don’t create meetings and activities just because you think you need them. Create a plan for how to work together and share information that works for everyone. Consider project management software, and/or a file sharing system like Evernote. If you want to have an efficient team then have efficient tools that work well. Everything, including reporting on work needs to be built into the processes early. This ensures that you are not wasting time tracking down information or updates when you need them. It also ensures that the team is clear on the expectations and timelines. And don’t forget to accommodate time zones if your team is not located in one city.
- A good system will also provide a repository for any assets needed to complete the work. Doing this efficiently ensures that it is easy to recreate the project next time or tweak the process to be more productive.
- How will you document the processes? And who is responsible for that documentation? Setting this up at the beginning ensures that the team meets your expectations. It also ensures that if you have to replace a team member you are not starting at zero again.
- What is the company culture and values? Do you have them listed in your office and is the team aware of them? Do you have guidelines or understanding about authority levels? Customer service agents, as an example, need to clearly know how much authority they have or who to go to in a given situation. Document these early and revise often.
- What is your interview process?
- The right team needs a leader, not a manager. If you have done all of the above items well, then are you ready to be the leader that the team needs? What do you have to do to be that leader? Can you step aside and let people be the best version of themselves? Can you help them grow into that best version?
Perfecting a team is a big investment of time and money. And protecting that investment can take a gamble to a calculated risk. So how do you protect that investment? One way is to have regular team retreats that allow the team to bond together, and build on any successes. Another is to get an outside view of the team and your processes. But whatever method you choose, make sure that it is a regular review process. Every method should come out with action steps that are communicated to the team. As a leader, you are responsible for the results of the team. Measure your own success with the team similar to how you will measure any team member’s performance. That is how you create teams based on assessed Risk and not on a Gamble.
Every business needs the right team. Use our complimentary business assessment to assess the risk and check the health of your team today!
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