The collective operation business resembles a beehive and requires the help of others from the very beginning. The queen bee (owner) works to give birth to and grow the business while the worker bees (employees) complete the various day-to-day tasks necessary to keep the business operational. Collective operations include restaurants, doctors, day spas and etcetera. While it is technically possible for one person to be a cosmetologist, massage therapist, nail technician, esthetician and make up artist, it is highly unlikely a day spa will be successfully operational with only one person.
The independent operation business can be started and run by a single person. The independent owner must become a jack of all trades. Strategy, administration, marketing, service, bookkeeping all starts and stops with the owner. Independent operations can include coaches, financial planners, direct sales, caterers and etcetera. The independent operator can be reasonably successful as a solo-professional, however there is usually an income ceiling based on the time available to work.
Many small business owners, if possible, start as an independent operator. It generally makes sense when you have more time than money to do as much as you can do well when your client roster is small. What if you want to grow your independent operation into a collective?
You may notice I said you can do what you do WELL. Yes, you can google how to create a business plan and fill in a template, however if you have never managed a business before you may not have any idea where to get usable data to put on that template. If that is the case, you should take a hands-on business planning workshop or hire a business planning coach to walk you through process step by step.
When should you consider hiring someone to help you? It may be from the beginning as in the case of tasks you do not do well. You do not need to hire an employee for single tasks. If you need to learn accounting software that you will manage initially, hire a short-term trainer. You may discover that you really dislike the data entry necessary to use that accounting software. Instead of hiring an employee to work two hours per week, outsource the task to a freelance bookkeeper.
What if you love accounting and marketing and you have a relatively successful business? Do you need to hire someone to help you? It depends. Do you have tasks you dread doing? Are you working more hours than you should be? Has it been years since you have given yourself a raise?
If you answered yes to any of those three questions, you need help. During the course of a week, track your working hours and the tasks you do each day. Do you log into social media for a 15-minute “business check” and then get distracted for another hour by personal posts? When you are focusing on completing client tasks are emails and phone calls interrupting you? Track all your work in a seven-day period. If you work evenings and weekends, notate it.
Next, total the time you spend on each category. Create categories such as social media, client work, bookkeeping, phone calls, email, networking and etcetera. Once you have that divided list, check to see if there are systems you can implement to become more efficient before you decide to get help. If emails, phone calls and social media notifications keep interrupting your tasks, shut off the notifications and set “answer times”. Devote up to your first 30 minutes each day to checking and responding to requests made after business hours. Set another answer time right after lunch and again before you finish for the day.
After you check your systems, review the hours it actually takes you to do your client work and adjust your rates if necessary. If it takes you an average of two hours to do a one-hour, in-home massage after you add in travel and clean-up time instead of the one and one-half hour you set your rates to when you started, raise your rates to encompass the extra half hour. An in-home massage is a premium service and your travel time needs to be billed at the same rate as your massage time.
The last step to take before you move past this initial list is to determine which tasks could be completely removed from your business schedule. Not all marketing platforms work for all businesses. Perhaps you are solely a government contractor. Regular Facebook posts are not likely to ever help you get a contract, however reaching out and establishing some LinkedIn connections that will let you know when jobs are up for bid could morph into business if you have a competitive bid. Drop Facebook from your work schedule and only use LinkedIn.
How do you know if your marketing is effective? Set tracking metrics and check them! I have a client with a very tiny email list who compared the purchases her customers made the year before she started her email campaigns to the year after she started. Email is her primary marketing platform. She saw a big enough increase in sales to warrant continuing. She checks her numbers each year to make sure her sales are not dropping, and her open rates are consistent. If her open rates and sales dropped, she may consider another marketing method.
Go ahead and get started auditing your business hours. This will enable you to set a strong base as you start your journey from independent operator to a collective, so you can grow your business.
Until next time…
Have a great day,
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