Small business owners who run businesses on their own quickly become accustomed to wearing many hats in the essence of saving time and money. As the business grows, however, these solo business owners often reach a tipping point when they can’t maintain the work on their own. There are signs that it’s time to bring in some kind of support in your business:
- You spend too much time doing things you don’t like and aren’t good at just because they need to get done.
- You turn down new work that you know would be beneficial for your business because you can’t take on any more.
- You work all day, nights, weekends and even holidays, yet still don’t have enough time to get everything done.
- You don’t have anyone to hold down the fort so you can take a vacation (or even a short break).
- You’re starting to feel burnt out and wondering why you started a business in the first place.
These are very common small business growing pains, and I know first-hand how challenging it can be. My business was growing at a very fast pace with more work than I could handle, and I found myself often getting bogged down by the day-to-day administrative tasks that needed to get done instead of focusing my time on business development activities. The problem was that I wasn’t ready to bring on a full-time employee, so I had to conduct some research into other ways to get the support I needed. Here are some of the options I explored.
With about 2.4 million part-time employees today, generally working 20-30 hours per week, this can be a good way to get some help in your business without taking on the full-time commitment. While part-time employees are subject the same tax withholding rules as full-time employees, you can tailor the type of additional employee benefits you offer (health insurance, life and disability insurance, and paid vacation and sick time), making it more affordable than a full-time employee. In some situations, offering benefits such as telecommuting and flexible work hours can help you make your part-time opportunity more attractive to employees. You can find part-time employees through your network on LinkedIn, or through job boards that cater to non-traditional employment, like FlexJobs,com. Plus, starting part-time means you can always explore growing the relationship into a full-time opportunity when your business needs change and grow.
Family and Friends
If there is someone in your family looking for some extra work, and you need an extra set of hands, mixing family and business can be a really good option…or it can be a disaster. To make this work, you have to make sure you have a clear agreement about the work to be done, the timing of the work and the compensation to be received before diving in. Take time to review these guidelines from the IRS on hiring family members before getting started.
Hiring an Intern
No, I’m not talking about free labor here. In fact, unpaid interns are not all that useful in this situation because they cannot legally do any work that actually contributes to the company’s operations. Which means it won’t really help clear your plate. What I’m talking about is a paid intern who has an opportunity to learn on the job while helping your business. While there may be some training involved to get your intern up to speed on the business, the potential to bring him or her back after graduation as an employee can provide your business with long-term support. Keep in mind that internships work best when you set up a learning plan in advance, are dedicated to providing the training and mentorship required, and have seasonal or low level work that needs to be completed throughout the year.
Outsourcing to Independent Contractors
Independent contractors are self-employed specialists or experts in specific areas and can take on some your work overflow. You generally pay independent contractors on an hourly or project basis (which almost always ends up being less than hiring a full-time employee), and because they are self-employed, they handle their own tax obligations. One of the biggest benefits of hiring contractors is that they already have the training, equipment and experience needed to complete the job, so you can expect them to get up and running quickly.
For me, hiring independent contractors was the best option, and at one point, I had seven contractors supporting my business. I was able to limit the costs of expanding my team by working with contractors who were setup for remote working, and by using a number of digital collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Skype and Office 365. I haven’t needed to expand to full-time staff yet, but have always kept that as an option for the future. The key is knowing what your specific needs are and being able to grow at a pace that eases the business’ growing pains without causing new challenges.