Were you born to make spreadsheets? I wasn’t.
Does your pulse quicken when you get to balance the books? Mine doesn’t.
How about designing and distributing email newsletters? That’s hot.
We are entrepreneurs. We are overachievers. We think we can do anything and everything. We are idea people, big picture people. People who make things happen, people who can build something from nothing. And to make things even better, we are often cheap. I mean frugal. I mean…smart with our money. We don’t run around throwing funds at fancy office chairs; we begin from our basements, from our couches, from our garages. We start small. And as we grow, we watch every dollar, we embrace risk, we talk bigger than we are, and that’s how we succeed. Haven’t you seen Jobs?
But let’s face it — there are things at which we suck. And for these things you need to outsource. Hire experts. Because it will cost you a whole lot more to hire yourself.
I’m crazy good at making people comfortable (read: sales), and reading people’s body language and intonations (read: recruiting), as well as wording challenging situations and difficult news in diplomatic ways (read: client relations). That said, I am just a horrible excuse at making any attempt at number crunching, dotting i’s, or crossing t’s. I have accountant friends who are the polar opposite. They really do want to spend their evenings balancing the books. I almost can’t even say that with a straight face.
We, as a group, need to get smarter. That includes eating a slice of humble pie (who doesn’t like pie?) and recognizing our weaknesses. Take me, for example. My background is headhunting. I can chat anybody up, anywhere. Plus, I’m a Midwesterner, so I was born to do it. I can come away from a ten-minute conversation, balancing a wine glass and a plate of crudités, with a new hire. Ask me three days later who that was and what my goals are for him….and I’m sunk. That’s why I have both a business partner and two assistants who excel where I flounder. I’m a think-on-my-feet-er; they are documenters, profit watchers, and risk mitigators. Which are you?
Entrepreneurs need to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and to outsource the latter.
Let’s say you have a client who is an attorney. They bill $400/hour writing contracts. Yet they understand the need for content marketing and attempt a blog. It takes them three hours to slog through some original content in an attempt to make the Google Gods happy. They have just paid $1200 for that blog.
Hasn’t sunken in yet? Okay, let’s keep playing.
Let’s say you have a client who is an executive coach. They bill one-on-one sessions at $200 and webinars at $75. The first step to launching their business, as any professional knows, is to know who their target audience is and where they are. They spend six hours attempting online research and talking to colleagues to define who they’re meant to be targeting, and where those people might be. They’ve just paid between $450 and $1200 to come up with an answer, not to mention investing additional resources in determining the cost-benefit analysis of traditional advertisements vs. advertorials, a PPC campaign, Google Adwords, a social media outreach effort, guest posting, or search engine optimization. What’s the best medium to get their message out? They don’t know. They know how to coach executives. Yet they’ve just hired themselves as a very expensive, unskilled market researcher.
But wait… this isn’t something that happens to just your clients, it can happen to you too.
You’re a web developer. You like to code. With a steady supply of Red Bull in hand, you can bang out a sexy new site, from scratch, in three days. But your clients want you to hold their hands. They want to feel taken care of, paid attention to, loved and prioritized. You want to stay in your pajamas and avoid the phone like the plague. But clients require attention, so you attempt it. And you fail. You end up overusing techie jargon, getting agitated when your client can’t (or doesn’t want to?) understand, and you alienate the hand that is feeding you. You earn no repeat business and no recommendation. You just blew it, costing you your next $2500 gig.
It doesn’t require a genius, folks: you have to hire for the things at which you do not excel. This goes for both your clients and for you.
The next time you pitch a client, remind them how much money they will save by giving over their their SEO, their web design, or their PPC campaign to an expert… you!
And when it comes to running your own business, remember to hire out or contract out the tasks at which you are absolutely terrible.
For my first two years running Virtual Assistant Israel, I refused support. I can do everything myself, I thought. Until I called a potential client, forgot why I had called, and proceeded to interview her like she was a candidate. Yep. I did that.
Now that I know better, I have an (exceptionally competent and detail oriented) assistant managing all the spreadsheets and documentation, so I know exactly whom I talked to, when and why, the action items following the conversation, and my client’s kids’ names.
My workhorse business partner keeps our profitability on track, ensures we avoid any potential legal issues, and maintains our business ethics and integrity at such high levels that potential employees seek us out.
I have a top-notch proactive thinker handling all of our guest blogging spots — I do the writing, but she finds the outlets, keeps track of contact information, pitches and dates, and alerts me when we’re featured.
I have created a machine to support the work that I love and am good at. See that? I do the work that only I can do, and I delegate the rest. But I look like I have every single ball in the air, all the time. Enter playing Superwoman on TV. Or a very talented juggler. Every part continues to move seamlessly, but I’m only doing the things that I love and I’m good at.
Here’s how to start this process, so your profits rise and your sanity sticks around a little while longer:
- Identify (or re-examine) why you went into your business in the first place. You’re probably excellent at web design, coding, and keeping up with the latest technologies. You certainly did not hang a shingle in this business because you enjoy marketing or administration. Write down the things that only you can do and the things that you love to do. Identify the tasks that bring you not only profit, but pleasure and satisfaction.
- Determine where the holes are. What is consistently falling through the cracks? What do you procrastinate, with the best of intentions, but never give the attention it deserves? Is it paperwork? Research? Client follow-up? Have you meant to get on “that social media bandwagon” for the last two years? What professional resolutions did you make this year, but haven’t thought about since New Year’s Day?
- Find the right delegation resource for you. Determine how much help you really need, and what kind of delegator you really are. Make a list of tasks you need completed, and think through whether you work best with someone in-office or virtually. Can you plan ahead? Are you a micromanager? Do you need someone to simply follow direction and bang through your inbox, or would you be more comfortable with a proactive assistant who will bring ideas to the table? Are you outsourcing things you don’t want to do, don’t have the capacity to do, or things you don’t know how to do?
Once you’ve completed this exercise (no, don’t delegate it — let’s not get carried away) you will know what you need. You may determine that you need support on several fronts, from skilled professionals (such as an accountant, graphic designer, or ghost writer) to an administrative assistant. Yes, it’s going to cost money, but not nearly what it’s going to cost you to continue either ignoring your incomplete tasks, or paying your going rate to do them badly.
Go forth and be Superwoman! Unless you’re a guy…then you can be Superman. But I’m flexible. I don’t judge.