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Productivity / Growth

Your options when you get too busy

Flexibility is one of the main reasons for going solo in business; so how do you protect it when life gets complicated?

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Being busy is a beautiful thing when you have your own business; it’s wonderful when your products or services are in demand. So when things are finally taking off and your days are feeling busy, what are your options when you realise you’re working more hours than you would like to?

Do you curb business activities to maintain a manageable load, or do you expand?  Perhaps you offload tasks you find tedious so you can spend more time on the elements that you are passionate about.

There are many reasons soloists consider taking on an extra pair of hands. Some examples from the Flying Solo forums are:

  • To cover maternity leave
  • To cover for illness, or caring for a family member
  • To reduce hours spent in the business, for work/life balance
  • To get a break occasionally

When soloists need another hand on deck, the obvious choices are Virtual Assistants or employees.

"Virtual is so…virtual. What about when you need an actual pair of hands to help?"

Virtual Assistants can be perfect for taking on your bookwork, marketing and administrative duties. You need to be specific about expectations and processes to follow and – importantly – review their work regularly. There are some fantastic VA services around, including those in our Flying Solo community.

Yet Virtual is so…virtual.

What about when you need an actual pair of hands to help?

Employing another person can be daunting. While many soloists enjoy being their own boss, many aren’t comfortable with being someone else’s. An employer assumes many responsibilities and the cost of hiring is often underestimated. There may be a reduction in income while you recruit and train, plus the cost of paying the employee.

However, finding a great employee can be a boon for your business if you’re willing to spend the time and energy. Look at the arrangement from an employee’s perspective and be open to negotiation with the right person. A preparedness to be flexible will increase the range of potential candidates, especially when considering part-time hours and working from home arrangements.

You don’t have to use a Virtual Assistant; there are other options out there

Here are some actual cases.

Two graphic designers, who occasionally referred clients to one another for different projects, decided to merge their solo practices into a partnership. This allowed them to focus on their preferred projects, while still keeping the client in-house, for work the other designer would do.

This freed them up a lot when they both wanted to cut down their hours to spend more time with their young families and also allowed them to tender for larger projects, as they had a greater range of complementary skills.

A chiropractor, who was a single parent, found it difficult taking annual leave away from her solo practice. She decided to team up with two other clinics in her area to take turns, ‘looking after’ each other’s practices, when on holiday. It meant that their patients could continue receiving care and, importantly, the practitioners get a regular break to recharge.

Solutions that minimise disruption to established processes

A book keeper opened her own successful business after being refused part-time hours by her former employer. When she, and then one of her staff members got pregnant, she tried sub-contracting arrangements but wasn’t impressed. She decided to train a team of franchisees. That way, processes are kept uniform and franchisees can help each other out when on holidays or sick.

Two entrepreneurs, with two very similar products, were introduced by an investor who encouraged them to work together. After meeting they not only realised their ideas were comparable, they also shared the same goals and values in business and even mutual friends. Feeling it was ‘meant to be’, they decided to merge companies and work together.

Don’t underestimate the value of trust

All of these arrangements have involved trust, which is the basic requirement when working closely and successfully with others. With trust, it is possible to create flexibility in your business and within your business structure.

Partnerships, franchises and practice-sharing are not going to work for everyone, but there are three things you can do to encourage their success:

  1. Establish whether you can work well together (have a trial period);
  2. Align purpose, values and goals; and
  3. Complete a detailed business plan and strategy to work to.

The most important factor though, is you.

If you have been flying solo, especially for a long time, can you be flexible enough and trusting enough, to let somebody else into your business when you need it to grow?

What do you do when you need to take a break from your business?

Elissa Doxey

runs Spindle Consulting, a boutique consultancy specialising in business strategies and policy development, particularly in the not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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