Is it (really) time to grow your team?

A common mistake in small businesses is over-staffing – but when you want to grow and need a hand, hiring seems like the natural solution. Here are five common challenges when it comes to staffing plus flexible, scalable options to help you manage your business in the best way possible.

Challenge: You’re too busy to sustain any more work

Example: Jack Redman* ran a successful landscaping business with just one other team member. He was working 12 hour days and realised he needed to hire more people to support the company’s growth. He started the search for an extra landscaper and got them on board – but his business didn’t retain the new customers and growth stalled. Jack soon realised he had been right in hiring more hands, but he'd hired the wrong role. It was Jack's skills and expertise the customers actually wanted. Realising his error, Jack hired a bookkeeper instead and placed himself back ‘on the tools’ and business growth was restored.

Solution: Fill the right gaps. Over a weekly period, write out a time sheet and assess where exactly you’re spending your time in an unemotional manner. You can find a custom timesheet below that you can download to help clarify what you're doing. 

Download your timesheet here

Download the timesheet now to get a better understanding of how you're spending your time.

 

Then, consider the strengths and unique value that you bring to your business. Weigh that up against the time spent across different tasks and see what can be outsourced: Can you hire a part-time bookkeeper? Do you need a second set of hands to mirror your workload? What can be taken elsewhere that will free you up to add the most value to your business? 

Find out what defines a casual or a part-time worker to ensure you’re compliant.

Challenge: You need a more senior role in the mix but don’t want to add someone full-time 

Example: Perhaps your hiring needs are above you. You may want to grow your business beyond what you feel capable of when you started out. Consider carefully what you want to achieve from the addition and whether you’ll be truly willing to support someone else in managing your business.

Solution: Hire a more senior business consultant or mentor to come in and assess your business, offering a report at the end of their time with specific action points for you to embrace. An outside perspective from someone with more experience may be just what your business needs to take it to the next level and identify issues you might not have picked up on. It’s also a gentle way of adding seniority to your business without handing over the reigns completely.

Reach out to someone you admire in your industry and ask them if they would consider being a mentor or taking on a consultancy role. Check out flexcareers for senior women looking for flexible job opportunities, or ask others in your industry what seniors they’ve worked with that you might be able to approach. LinkedIn can also be a valuable tool for connecting with people in specific job roles and industries.

Seek advice from a trusted mentor to help guide your business

Challenge: You’re stressed out and too busy

Example: Here’s the bad news - being over-worked isn’t unfortunately enough of a justification to start hiring. Before you add people to the mix you need to be realistic with yourself about needs and have a very honest understanding of your incomings and outgoings. You should also assess whether the time you’re spending on tasks is worthwhile. If maintaining your Instagram page is taking up several hours a week and isn’t pushing directly to business growth, is it worthwhile doing (even if you just pause it temporarily)?

Solution: Firstly, consider culling tasks that aren’t essential to your business during extremely busy periods. Assess whether things will change, or if your workload will continue to be overwhelming. If you do decide to get extra help, a general rule of thumb is to get the best assistance you can afford – and that may look very different across varying businesses and business owners, depending on your requirements and budget. Hiring, onboarding and managing people can also take up a lot of time so be prepared to accommodate that and allow things to change slowly.

Outsource what you can but don't underestimate what key value you bring to your business

Challenge: You periodically need help – but your requirements shift regularly

Example: If you work in a business where things get hectic during certain times of year (seasonal, school holidays etc.), then you could consider expanding your team as required. This means you can avoid the need to sustain regular salaries but also allow you to grow, be more productive and deliver your best possible efforts. When planning your year, use forward thinking to identify any known situations where this may happen so you can prepare ahead.

Solution: There are choices when it comes to scaling up without permanence. Common options include outsourcing (and/or contract work) and freelancing. Outsourcing is when a task, operation, job or process is contracted out to a third party for a period of time. This can be performed by a third party on or off-site. Freelancing, on the other hand, is more fluid, allowing you to hire someone to do a task on an ad hoc basis for an agreed upon amount. (Check out Freelancer.com for an example of what sort of roles you can use.)

Learn more about the difference between contractors and employees to make sure you’re setting things up correctly.

 

Challenge: You want extra hands to grow – but not on-site

Example: Technology today enables professionals to be able to work from anywhere. There are times where nothing can replace a hands on, physically present team member, but there are also many roles or tasks that can be done remotely and in a non-permanent manner. This will save you the burden of paying overheads associated with payroll taxes and expenses, as well as avoiding the need to physically accommodate them (it can be a challenge to add people to the mix when you’re working out of your kitchen!). Marketers, graphic designers, legal roles, web designers, social media managers, community managers, bookkeepers, PR specialists, IT support workers and more can all be done externally on a freelance or contract basis.

Solution: If you're hesitant about hiring or simply need help you aren’t sure can be sustained by a full-time or even part-time role, try outsourcing in small steps. Create a project for a bookkeeper to complete, hire a virtual personal assistant on a freelance basis during a busy period or a copywriter for an ad hoc job. The risk is low if it doesn’t work out and if it does, you've started to establish a network of people you can call on when needed. Get started with sites like Airtasker or Fiverr, where people bid on jobs needed and the budget, deadlines and requirements are transparent.

It isn’t glamorous but remember – safety first

Outsourcing overseas or to remote workers can deliver huge advantages (quite often budget related) for small companies. Language barriers, time zones and even Australian custom laws can cause unplanned hiccups, so be sure to weigh up all aspects of how it will impact the end result. For example, is it important to be able to chat or easily check in with your freelancer? That may be difficult if they’re working when you’re sleeping - and vice versa. Outlining expectations upfront will help create a positive outcome for all parties.

Finally, consider the security of your goods and services from all angles when you let someone into your business. Check what electronic files can be accessed via shared servers, what physical items need security and even what intellectual property you may not want to share (yet). While trust and letting go of control will absolutely assist in developing a mutually beneficial relationship, applying logic and rational safety steps will protect everyone.

*Name has been changed.

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