You don’t have to do EVERYTHING.
When it comes to your business, you don’t have to do EVERYTHING. For some of you, that’s a relief. For others, it brings stress because you want to control every aspect of your business.
As an entrepreneur, you should be prepared to do anything, but you should not plan to do everything. Let’s break down the difference.
Entrepreneurs should be prepared to do anything.
Entrepreneurship is a volatile world. Employees (and even business partners) will come and go. As the owner, the buck stops with you. If there’s a task that no one else in the company can complete or a project that falls through, you are going to bear that responsibility. You will be the person most affected by the issue - mentally as well as financially.
For example, while running my first company (which was an exterior painting business), two of my employees walked off one of our job sites. The customer called me and explained that the deck was left half stained and he had no idea where the employees went. I needed the mess to be cleaned up, the porch looking spectacular, and the job finished in a two-day time span. There was no time to hire and train a new painter. If I wanted to save my business and my reputation, I would need to grab a brush and start staining.
Remember, no one cares about your business as much as you do. Therefore, in an emergency, you are going to have to step in where it counts. Your goal as an entrepreneur should be to minimize these types of emergency situations, however, they are inevitable.
Additionally, you are going to start out with a small number of customers/clients and a small budget. Labor is some of the highest operational costs, especially in America. You probably won’t be able to afford an accounting or HR department like a Fortune 500 company.
You will need to have a flexible mindset and be okay with doing small tasks to keep your company alive, even tasks that you do not like or hope to pass off to someone else in the future. During Global U, I started a Spanish tutoring business where my friend from Nicaragua taught my other friends in America Spanish over Zoom. I started out with only 6 students per week, which is not enough revenue to hire someone to balance the cash coming in and out of the business. In order to survive, I needed to take on these tasks. Additionally, because I was starting out, there was not enough work on the finance side of things to justify bringing a whole new person to the team just for that one weekly task.
One other reason why you need to be prepared to do anything is that you may need to partake in daily operations in order to learn and innovate. Let’s say you are passionate about healthcare and want to work on bringing efficiency to doctor’s offices. Well, it’s a bit difficult to know how to innovate unless you understand what the current process looks like. You might need to experience working in an office or partnering with an office in order to understand where you can innovate.
On top of looking to improve products and processes for your clients, you will also want to make improvements to your internal processes. Jumping in with your employees to see the operations of your own business through their eyes can bring a valuable perspective. You are putting yourself in a position to be frustrated by inefficiencies and problem-solve what can be improved. It is important knowledge like this that fuels innovation.
Entrepreneurs should not plan to do everything.
Some entrepreneurs fall into what I call an “operations trap”. In the very early stages of your business, you might have to do just about everything on your own. However, it’s especially important to keep the “operations trap” at the forefront of your mind if you are hoping to scale.
To “scale” means to grow your revenue/customer base at a faster rate than your costs. If you are scaling, you are taking on more work than what one person can do alone. In this case, you should not plan to do everything for your business as you grow, because delegation will be necessary.
*Note: There are some of you that might not want to scale your business. You might want to contract just enough work for you to manage all of the operations and that is quite alright. However, this message will apply differently to you.
Let’s go back to the example of my Spanish tutoring business. If I planned on teaching every single class, there would definitely be a cap to how many students my business could have. However, when I hire other teachers, depending on the number of students who are interested in taking classes, then I have the capacity to take on as many as I would like because I’m not limiting myself to one person’s labor.
For some of you, it will be difficult to stay out of the operations space. Anytime something goes wrong, your instinct might be to jump in and do it yourself. As mentioned above, there will be emergencies where you will need to jump in. However, your first question should be “how can I better train others so they can handle the issue next time?” A small amount of time on the front-end can save you lots of time later when they are empowered to solve their own problems. And, you will save yourself a lot of time to work on what you do best.
Another tip is to consider the opportunity cost of your time. Look at all your tasks and ask yourself two questions. 1) How much time will this take me? 2) What would it cost if I contracted someone to do this? 3) Is it worth it to spend that much of my time there?
When you compare the numbers in questions 1 and 2, you will have the answer to number 3. If you’re spending 10 hours a week editing podcast audio and transcripts while it would only cost you $40 to pay someone else to do it on Fiverr, you need to consider outsourcing. Of course, this depends on how much revenue your business is bringing in, your budget, what skill set you’re hoping to increase, etc. However, the point here, is that by saving 10 hours of your time from editing podcasts, you could spend that on something such as training your employees or networking with new clients — tasks that cannot be outsourced.
Entrepreneurs should know the difference between preparing and planning to do everything.
Delegating is a flexible process that depends on a number of factors: industry type, budgets, revenue, and stage in the startup process. Don’t make decisions on a whim. Put some time into considering where/when it makes sense to do the work and where/when it makes sense to delegate.
We'd like to hear from you! What tasks are you delegating/outsourcing/hiring out and which ones are you keeping?