Sending Out an S.O.S.—Finding Help for the Small-Business Owner/ April 14th, 2008
Small-business owner Andrea Young has a busy day ahead of her. The lengthy to-do list for her start-up software consulting firm includes balancing the company's books, preparing invoices, picking up a batch of brochures from the printer, meeting with a new client, answering the phone, managing e-mails, attending a weekly networking event, updating the Web site, making travel arrangements for an industry conference, and putting out any fires that may pop up along the way. "This is a pretty typical day," she admits. "But for every one thing I get done, there are a million other things I feel I really should be doing for the business." Like most entrepreneurs, Young tends to be a do-it-yourself kind of person. And, like many small-business owners, the "I must do this myself!" mantra may be one of her biggest roadblocks to success.
Outsource to a good resourceBusiness owners need more help today than ever before, as evidenced by the current boom in the outsourcing industry. And yet, small-business owners may not be aware of how much their organization could benefit from letting someone else take over small or routine tasks so the business owner can concentrate on what he or she does best.
Visit your credit union to talk about your small-business needs.Maura Nevel-Thomas is a productivity expert based in Austin, Texas. Her company, Burget Ave. Management Services, helps small-business owners across the country organize and manage their time. "I try to raise awareness about what's available," says Nevel-Thomas. "What many of my clients don't understand is that today they can get someone to do just about anything for them—from processing payroll to baking cookies for the company party." Nevel-Thomas says she often sees entrepreneurs spending too much time on administrative tasks because they think they can't afford to pay for help. But she points out they usually think only in terms of part-time or full-time assistance, when in reality help is available in small increments—say, four- hours a week—or on a per project basis.
Today, it's easier than ever to find the help you need."It doesn't benefit small-business owners to do their own data entry, for example, or filing when there are so many talented assistants available with skills that they themselves don't have," states Nevel-Thomas. "It ends up costing them more money to do it themselves and would be much more efficient if an assistant could finish in two hours a task that would take [the owner] four hours to do."
Sending out an S.O.S.So how do entrepreneurs decide which tasks to delegate and then find the help they need? Nevel-Thomas suggests:
- First, understand what your time as a business owner is worth—see it as an actual number ($ per hour) or in terms of reaching a specific goal.
- Next, take a look at your to-do list. Is everything on that list something you have to do, or simply think you should do?
It's much more efficient if an assistant can finish in two hours a task that would take a small-business owner four hours.
- Realize that "should-do's" (filing, inputting data, organizing receipts) are good things to outsource.
- Weigh the real price of doing the "should-do's" yourself against outsourcing them to someone whose time costs less.
Virtual vs. onsite assistanceThe virtual assistant (VA) trend has been growing rapidly since the mid-1990s along with the growth of the Internet and online services. VA supporters say such an arrangement has major benefits, including:
You can get someone to do just about anything–from processing payroll to baking cookies for the company party.
- Paying for time spent on your projects only
- Working with an experienced administrative professional
- Little training necessary
- Not limited to a local talent pool
- No need to provide work space or equipment
- Working relationship can be terminated quickly and easily if need be
Understand what your time as a small-business owner is worth.Onsite assistance can be found in various forms such as concierge services, temp agencies, independent bookkeepers, and personal assistants. The average cost ranges from $15-$50 per hour, depending on the type of services needed.