In our recent BOSS (Business Of Speaking School) training program, with Jane Atkinson, we talked a lot about outsourcing, hiring virtual assistants and delegating work. Outsourcing is always a hot topic, but as a startup it’s not always easy to make that first move. Instead, you do it all yourself.
With the recent addition of Kelly to our team, I realized there is a whole new way to outsource that gets results faster than I ever thought possible. In fact, there are three ways to outsource your work. Let me explain.
Typically, we think of two ways to get help: employees or virtual assistants. The employee works in your office, the virtual assistant works from home and has other clients in addition to your work.
Both are big commitments. But there’s another way to get work off your desk. Before I get to that, let’s talk for a minute about the biggest mistake business owners make: not delegating.
THE BIGGEST MISTAKE BUSINESS OWNERS MAKE
In the E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber describes the baker who grew his business, but not his team and was working “in his business, instead of on his business”. Been there, done that.
When we know everything, we are often the last person to let go of responsibility. We are the best sales person, teacher, designer, consultant, widget maker – so you keep doing the lion’s share of the work. You can only grow your business by working longer hours or charging more. Delegation multiplies your efforts.
When we know everything, we are often the last person to let go of responsibility.
Let’s look at three ways to outsource, but keep in mind all of this is for naught if you keep holding the reins – you have to be willing to give responsibility up for this to work.
THREE WAYS TO DELEGATE
When I have a one-time task to get off my hands, that’s a “task” delegation. No relationship building, just find a warm body and get’er done. We often use a local person we know and trust or fiverr.com.
Examples of “task” delegation include:
- turning business cards (first we batch scan them) into a spreadsheet file for inputting into Infusionsoft (or your CRM of choice)
- creating a 3D version of a book cover (for promoting the book on our site)
- editing a photo to remove background for a Slideshare presentation (note: if from Creative Commons you need to check if this is allowed)
- hiring musicians to create original music for my podcast (note the cost was so low I hired four at one time and picked the best)
- getting a voice over for my podcast intro and outro
- creating a unique spreadsheet formula for Google Sheets
- taking the BOSS logo, adding my music (that I own), and creating an intro. video.
- making a whiteboard video explaining how our SOS program works (check it out here – this was created for $35!)
When we identify a task that will be repeated, it’s a “duty” delegation, in that we are delegating a “duty” we want that person to own. This is what we did with our most recent hire, Kelly.
In this case, we need a trusting relationship with the person, but we’re not hiring an employee or assistant (that’s what I call “role” delegation, see below).
The basic process we try to follow is:
1. experiment doing the work yourself until you are confident in the process (and know you need to delegate it!)
2. write up an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). This is simply a list of steps to complete the duty. You can use Excel, Google Docs, Word – we like Google Docs because it’s so easy to share it with the person doing the work and then they can update it as they perfect the process.
Click to download a sample SOP.
3. create a “dashboard” (again, Google Docs is perfect for this) where you record the task and they sign-off when they get it done.
4. go on upwork.com, post the job, choose two-three good applicants and give them sample work as a test, hire the best, and get started. You aren’t getting married, so hire fast and, if needed, fire faster. The idea is to get started while you’re thinking about the work. Don’t delay and end up doing it all yourself.
Ah! This is the big one. You identified a gap in your team. Now you need the perfect person, with impeccable resume, and resolute attitude, to fall prostrate while mouthing the words “I want to learn from you so badly I’ll work for free!” Dream on.
Hiring an employee or virtual assistant can be the most stressful, challenging, but also rewarding job you do all year. We’re talking relationship, trust, communication, responsibility, and accountability. It pays to move slowly. The best book I’ve read recently about hiring virtual assistants is Chris Ducker’s, Virtual Freedom.
Three mistakes to avoid (actually I’ve made many more than this, but I’ll spare you):
- falling in love and hiring too fast. Don’t let desperation override logic. Sure, they’re all sweet and walk on water, but one more interview, or a three month trial period won’t hurt and might save you a lot of grief later.
- assuming you will teach what they don’t know. Remember the reason you are hiring is because you are swamped and need help. Assuming you will teach them how to use a computer, makes sales calls, or manage your books is a fool’s game. Unless you live in Tuktoyaktuk, there are probably candidates more qualified waiting for your call.
- ignoring warning signs at your peril. Most people will broadcast everything you need to know in the first 10 minutes of an interview – if you’re paying attention. My mistake has been to enter the interview desperate for a solution, and ready to fall in love with the first person I like. Instead, be objective – it’s a whole lot easier to say “No, thanks” now, as opposed to three months from now when they’re driving you crazy reorganizing pencils because they’re waiting for instructions.
What about you? Are you doing $10/hour work and convincing yourself there’s no other way? Whether you take five minutes and $5 and get a task done on fiverr.com, or take 30 minutes and post a “duty” role on upwork.com, do something. The faster you build your team the faster you can get back to what you are a genius at, and grow your company. And that’s a good thing.