I launched my start up business in March of 2011 (after practicing law in a large law firm in Chicago for nearly seven years). In the first year of business, I worked closely with law students and new lawyers on presence, presentation, and communication skills. I have now grown my business to include working with entrepreneurs and small business owners on these very same skills.
I launched my business as a “solopreneur.” I did not intend to partner with anyone or hire any employees, so I did not give much thought—if any—to the best practices for building a team for my business. While I developed detailed plans for business operations, extensive substantive training materials, and growth ideas out two years into the future, I set forth no criteria for interviewing, evaluating, or hiring anyone. It turns out I had overlooked a critical component, not only for business success but business wellness.
And here’s what happened because of it: In the spring of last year, I hired someone to design and develop a new website for the portion of my business that focuses on entrepreneurs and small business owners. We signed a contract and he (let’s call him “J”) got to work. Over the course of our working relationship, it became clear to me that J was in over his head. He did not appear equipped to build the kind of website we contracted for. He seemed overcommitted, too, and I was not impressed with his time management. The launch of my site–and consequently, the launch of my business—was untimely and did not go as planned.
When the site was nearly complete, J informed me for the first time that he had somehow exceeded the maximum contract amount by 250%. And he would not release my website, despite the fact that I had paid every invoice in full up to that point, until I made up the difference. This was a difference of $7,000 (over and above the agreed-upon contract amount). For weeks, I was in a panic as he held my website hostage, and I finally had to get lawyers involved to enforce our contract and gain access to my website. This was costly and incredibly stressful.
Now, J’s attempt to breach our contract and force me to pay him thousands of dollars in exchange for my site was not cool, and I’m sure he’ll be hearing from the business karma gods because of it. But hiring him in the first place was a mistake–and one that could have easily been avoided.
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve learned that every business—no matter how complex or simplistic, and no matter the size or number of participants—will require help. A lot of it. And it is important to have comprehensive systems in place from the beginning to ensure you are compiling the right team of people to support you as you execute your business vision. Without these systems, you are likely hiring on a need-basis (and likely when the need is urgent or pressing), so you are not in the best position to think clearly about who you are letting into your sacred business space. And without these systems, you run the risk of unnecessary stress, diversion of resources, and, in a worst-case scenario, becoming generally disillusioned with the idea of running your own business in the first place.
No matter where you are in the life cycle of your business, and whether you have hired no one or work with a staff of 40 people, now is a good time to check in and make sure you have systems in place to select, manage, and interface with the best teams for your business. If you do not yet have help, seriously consider getting some–your business will only be better for it. If other adjustments need to be made to your staff or team, go ahead and make those adjustments so that you can get back to running your business in an optimal way.
If you are running a new startup and are unsure of where to begin with building your team, start by making a list of all of the tasks you do for your business on a daily basis. Group similar tasks together and give those tasks a name. For example, if your daily tasks include posting status updates on your Facebook business page, tweeting tips to your Twitter followers, and chatting with people in a business specific LinkedIn group, categorize those tasks under a “Social Media” heading. Once you have a clear idea of the universe of tasks you do on a regular basis, identify groups of tasks you do not enjoy or that you do not excel at, and consider whether these tasks can be outsourced to someone else. Even a lean starter can use resources like Fiverr and oDesk to get hourly short term and long term help at incredibly affordable rates.