Every entrepreneur gets to the point where you cannot do everything yourself. In fact, the realisation that you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all is a great step forward in terms of entrepreneurial maturity.
Many entrepreneurs have to fight the urge to try and control everything – after all, this is your baby and you don’t want someone undoing all your hard work, right? But the tendency to micro-manage and do it all yourself only limits the growth, potential and quality of your business.
When leading VE People, I have consciously focused on ensuring that my time is spent working on what is the biggest value for the business and our clients. Anything and everything else is handled by my internal team. And if I am completely honest with myself, they usually do a better job of it than me anyway! Sure there is quite a lot that comes to me by way of “approval required” requests and I do my fair share of managing and monitoring, but overall I try and spend as much of my time adding the value I can rather than simply coordinating activities.
The big question is, when you are ready to hire your first virtual staff member, who should you hire first?
The biggest temptation is to hire someone who can fulfill a specific delivery need that you have – it might be a web developer; or it could be a graphic designer. It might even be a Customer Services Representative; but this might not be the best course of action (and I have found out the hard way).
When you decide to hire your first virtual team member, it is natural to assess the pain points you have and try and remove them. Let’s work through a basic example:
Mrs Entrepreneur owns a company that builds template websites. In addition to this, she offers a range of online services such as graphic design, digital marketing and mobile application development. Mrs Entrepreneur is busy with a handful of projects (yep, she is customising the templates herself), keeping her current clients engaged, trying to win more business and keep her books and finances in order. She is one busy bee and there is little time for planning or strategy development
In the current situation above – who is Mrs Entrepreneur likely to want to hire first? My prediction – she will go for the Web Developer or Graphic Designer first.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that whilst Mrs Entrepreneur may free up a little of her time in terms of building the client websites, she still will need to manage the Web Developer. And if human nature takes hold, the “The New Guy Isn’t Doing It As Well As I Can” syndrome may kick in. But regardless of the skill level of the new Web Developer, there is still going to need to be some oversight and management involved. In reality, Mrs E is replacing a whole lot of “doing” with what is like to be a whole of “managing”. And this takes time.
Often engagements between a Business Owner and their Virtual Assistants will disintegrate as the Business Owner realises that they have just replaced one form of work with another. And this comes down to selecting the right role to begin building your virtual team with.
I always build virtual teams around a core person/s. I call them “All-Rounders”. This is the first person I hire and their role is two-fold:
- They must be “do-ers” – they must be able to perform a range of different tasks relatively well although they do not need to be specialists. Whether it is basic graphic design, writing an article or two, bookkeeping, client services, chasing up accounts – these people will work on anything even if they haven’t before.
- They must be “leaders” – they must represent you with other staff, suppliers, and clients. Sometimes they even need to give you a dose of the “wake up call”. They must understand your vision, buy into it and be able to effectively communicate it to the rest of your team. They must be empowered to perform their role and free to make mistakes
My current team set up has two All-Rounders. One is more focused on the Administrative side of the business; the other is focused on Marketing and our overall brand. Overall, they both understand where we are heading and they both allow me to focus on high value-add activities. They also do a pretty damn good job of keeping me accountable and focused! We are currently training a third staff member to become an All-Rounder and there are more potentials within the team.
Hiring an All-Rounder would not solve Mrs Entrepreneur’s initial capacity issue. However, with a slightly longer term view, the All-Rounder absolutely will. For example, my current All-Rounders have the capability to manage any Web Developers we hire meaning that my involvement in website build projects is only required on an escalation basis only, which is rare.
The best course of action for the budding entrepreneur is to think a little longer when you begin to build your team. Hire someone that you can take on the journey with you and get them to believe in your vision. Using Time Doctor can lessen the stress on your shoulders by monitoring the work performance of your team for you, but the right person will then take it forward with you which will free up your time and reduce your stress levels. Running your own business can be an isolating and sometimes lonely experience and having someone on the journey with you can lighten the load and help keep things positive. It may feel like bringing in a “non-specialist” as your first role may feel like a little extra overhead but with a longer term view and commitment to real success, it may be the initial master stroke that sets the ball rolling for your business.