I experienced a tremendous growth spurt in my business in 2013 and couldn’t see keeping up with my orders without hiring someone to help me. This was something I had never done before so I learned a lot as I went through that season.
When the year ended and things slowed down, I no longer needed extra help but the experience was eye opening for me. There are parts of that process that I did well and there are other parts that I could have done better if I had known more going into it. I'm sure it would have at least helped my stress level through it all!
WORK WITH AN ACCOUNTANT
One of the best decisions I made was to work with an accountant that specializes in working with small businesses. I asked her lots and lots of questions. I called and emailed her about anything that was confusing.
She emailed me all the forms for each person to fill out as they were hired on. She filed all of the paperwork and made sure I knew about things that needed my attention. It was a relief to know that she had my back in areas that were completely outside my understanding and comfort zone.
For help in choosing an accountant you may want to read about the process I went through.
DECIDE ON A SCHEDULE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
This was something I struggled with because I thought more about what worked for the ladies who were helping me than what worked best for me. I literally worked ALL weekend just to get things ready for them on Monday.
I also thought that we needed to start at 9am. This eliminated any possibility of getting exercise in the morning before my work day started.
The best lesson I learned from working that kind of schedule was what DIDN’T work for me. I now start my work day later and realize I was delegating some of the wrong tasks.
DELEGATE THE RIGHT TASKS
It may take a bit of extra time to train someone to do a task that they aren’t familiar with but it will be well worth the time invested.
If your items have lots of little details as mine do, having an extra pair of hands helping with them can make a huge difference. With deadlines looming I was feeling a bit panicked so I did most of the detail work myself. I would definitely have taken the time to hand more of those little jobs to someone else.
After a few days of working together I found out where some of the rough spots were and it was tough to ask them to do thing over and over again until they were right.
HAVE HONEST CONVERSATIONS AND SET EXPECTATIONS
Working closely in my small studio made for an environment where spontaneous conversations could happen. I knew that we needed to start off our working relationship with an honest and open talk about how I run my business, what my customers expect and what they could expect to happen each day/week. I also knew that the volume of orders would drop considerably after the first of the year and I may not need their help anymore at that point.
KEEP THINGS OPEN ENDED
For me, keeping things open ended was the best solution. I could not guarantee a set number of hours each day or days per week of work for them and I made sure they knew that before we started working together. This goes along with setting expectations. I was so grateful to have women working with me who could handle a flexible schedule.
HAVE SYSTEMS IN PLACE
In order to hand off responsibilities and tasks to someone else, it is really important to have some systems in place. Whatever information you have in your head that someone needs to know in order to duplicate what you do, needs to be put into some kind of format or organized in a way for someone to easy learn and follow.
Samples of finished products, reference notebooks with written instructions and measurements, photos or drawings, categorized materials, etc. are all systematic tools that can help someone work independently and efficiently.
HIRING VS MENTORINGIn 2013 I was desperate and couldn’t see any other option but to hire some people to help me. This past April, when my daughter was getting ready to take the Summer off from her teaching job, she was hoping to join me in my studio so she could be mentored in how to build her business. We work side-by-side, bouncing ideas off of each other, making products and trying new things. She is learning-by-doing about how to manage and grow her small business.
It may be that you need to hire someone during a busy season of your business. It may be that you just need to bring in a student intern or someone who wants to be mentored. Whatever your choice, I encourage you to have open conversations with them about your expectations AND talk with your accountant about what you can expect in the way of taxes, paperwork and other things you may need to consider when hiring someone to help you.
Whatever your situation, unless you’ve been down this road before, be prepared for a huge learning curve. For instance, I learned the hard way that I can’t start my work day at 9am. I now start at 10am after I’ve taken my morning walk, taken a shower and had a good breakfast!
If you have a small business and have brought someone on board to help you in one way or another I would love for you to share your tips and insight here in the comments! Thanks!