Business Productivity

Workload management: How to handle growing pains

- October 25, 2006 3 MIN READ

How you proceed if you find yourself swamped with work depends largely on your personal goals and the direction you want to take in the future. Three soloists share their workload management experiences.

For most of us, being a soloist is really all about that – running a successful solo enterprise that fits in with our lifestyle and goals. If you’re struggling to keep up with your success it could be time to learn workload management skills including how to resist the temptation to take on every client who comes through your metaphorical (or actual) door.

Just say no

If you’re fully booked, by your own standards, you can simply explain to new clients that you’re unable to take on their business. It might be a good idea to find other businesses who offer similar services to your own that you would be happy to recommend.

To try and minimise the times you need to turn business away, look at ways to improve your products and productivity or, for a service-based business, try turning some of your services into products to maximise profits for minimum input.

Outsourcing to minimise your workload

Jeanette Derbyshire runs Inspiro, a custom-design environmental bag supply business. She also juggles that with the needs of a husband and four young boys. “I’ve just become so busy lately that I needed to call in some help, either with the business or the boys,” she says.

Rather than outsource the care of her children, she opted to outsource some of the more time-consuming aspects of her business. Through the good old school network, Jeanette located Sam, herself a business owner with her own range of natural pet-care products. They now enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Jeanette has passed the bookkeeping and sales enquiries to Sam, leaving her time for business development. And Sam has more financial freedom to grow her own business.

Want more articles like this? Check out the growth section.

Taking someone on board

Sometimes the obvious solution is to hire someone to work for you. If this is what you need, be aware of all the responsibilities that this entails.

Michelle Jacquet runs Living Maintenance, a landscape maintenance business that she started to allow her to spend more time with her family. She was so successful that her family time was rapidly diminishing. Initially, Michelle’s remedy for this was to hire assistants herself, but this proved to be a time-consuming exercise, particularly when people she hired often lasted only a short time.

After some soul-destroying disappointments, Michelle turned to a labour agency to provide her with the solution she needed. “Now if I need someone new I just call the agency,” she says. “The down side is that the people tend to move on quicker and it costs a little more. But, it’s well worth it.” The added bonus of using an agency is that they take care of all the legal nasties like superannuation and WorkCover.

Upsizing and downsizing

Sometimes success isn’t about size. Kim Mallett started Panacea, a book-keeping and training business, almost 10 years ago. She was so successful that she expanded the operation to run a team of bookkeeper/trainers (Panacettes!), as well as opening up an office in North Sydney and hiring a full-time receptionist. But, as the business grew more, beyond her loyal team Kim was finding it difficult to maintain staff levels to meet client demands.

With a desire to reduce her stress levels and wanting to start a family, Kim made the hard decision to scale back the business. She shared the customer base among the team, who had worked almost autonomously anyway, and closed down her office, keeping around 20 customers for herself.

Kim is happy with the decision she made. “It’s quite a nice manageable client base,” explains Kim, “and it’s good that I’ll be able to grow the business again if and when I need to in the future.”

Your business, your choice

In the end, your workload management decision as to what to do about your enviable success comes down to what you want to achieve for yourself. No matter what you decide, you need to remember that you measure success on your own terms. Whether you want to maintain enough business just for yourself or look at ways to expand or diversify, the decision rests firmly with you.