Entrepreneurial Woes

I was talking to my friend, Michelle Wolverton yesterday, who works as a virtual assistant.  This means she takes on various tasks for clients on a project by project basis, helping them manage their businesses and time, on an as-needed basis.  Like many service based professions, including lawyers, income flow is not steady but sporadic for her, as is equally true for her clients.

I was also talking to a close friend who is a physician, whose husband is in private practice.   The story here is much the same as it is for Michelle’s clients-  “Dr. Dan” can only see so many patients by himself, and accomplish so much on his own.  This will limit his income potential, unless he expands his practice in some way.  If he works more hours, he takes time away from his family and young children.  If he gets a partner, that can help build the practice, but it can have headaches and disagreements associated with it as well.  As a result, he sticks with an “as-is” situation, and becomes a little frustrated, but is nervous about all the work that will go into changing the status quo, even if the long term benefits seem attractive.

We all reach this wall at some point in time- we are spending out time as efficiently as we know how, but we aren’t getting enough accomplished, or have reached the limits of our own expansion potential.  This is the time when people have to consider options such as outsourcing work.  And to outsource work, you need to know what you need to accomplish, compartmentalize tasks, be able to trust someone else with the work, and be able to pay them for that work, which means hopefully charging any client enough to cover your work and that of your assistants/subcontractors, plus make a profit.

It may seem like alot, for example, to pay a lawyer $250 an hour to write your wills or manage a legal problem for you.  But out of that $250 an hour, you have to consider that they have to pay secretaries, paralegals, rent on their office, rent on the copier and all sorts of other costs-meaning the attorney is not pocketing the $250 an hour, but actually paying a whole host of people out of that hourly rate.

Likewise, for working moms, hiring a nanny means they have to be making a wage that allows them to support a whole person taking on their “mom” duties, plus pay taxes, plus make enough money on top of that to make “outsourcing” of the Mom and home duties worthwhile, financially as well as mental health-wise.  You have to be making enough money outside the home, and enjoy it enough, to make it worthwhile hiring an at-home replacement. (because regardless of how we try, those silly tasks like dishes and laundry keep on coming….)

For many entrepreneurs, this means taking some real time to calculate their economic value to themselves and to others, what any replacement costs for their own “free” work might be involved, and where and when they hit the wall on their own work capabilities.  I know so many people, like “Dr Dan”  who don’t expand their business because they simply can’t wrap their minds around the process of hiring someone new, worrying about supporting them on the payroll, and everything else involved, even if this is perhaps the only way to eventually increase productivity,  overall income, and maybe even buying yourself some leisure time.

Likewise, I know that I currently need help from a virtual assistant, particularly with some website maintenance tasks I have been avoiding.  I have no doubt that these jobs are worth outsourcing, because I am not particularly thrilled with the housekeeping aspects of the job,  and I know how glad I will be when this project is just done-so paying someone like Michelle to come help me on a short term basis to get me back on track is perfect.  It is worth my money, and the time I will save not doing it myself.  other tasks, like audio editing, are more of an art- and as much as I can get tired ears after a while, this is not an aspect of producing my podcasts I feel comfortable outsourcing.  This is the “art” part- the part that is my value add, so I can’t really give this part away to someone else.

In order to expand a business, you need to be able to manage and delegate your duties to yourself and others.  You need to be a good leader, and you need to be organized.  If you can’t take the time to consolidate your tasks, you will most likely not accomplish everything you want, and you certainly can’t see where and  what might be easily outsourced to others.

This is a whole area entrepreneurs struggle with- in part, it is due to the high rate of ADHD among entrepreneurial types, where they are great at generating ideas and solving complex problems, but aren’t as good with the”ground work” and day to day tasks required for execution of these ideas and plans.  The only answer is to find a team, where everyone uses their talents to the best of their ability, and outsource those things that are not particularly enjoyable tasks to someone who loves them.

Best businesses thrive when everyone is doing what they do best.  Figuring out what you do best and focusing on those areas as your value add takes a significant amount of self-evaluation and self-reflection.  This can be time consuming, but in the long run, it is the pre-requisite to success.

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