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Marketing Today

Do you need the help?

Business is booming. You&

re running out of hours in the day. Customer service is slipping. Sleep is becoming a precious commodity. Leisure is a four-letter word. It&

s high time to find some good help.

Or is it?

Many entrepreneurs open their businesses only to discover that the goods or services they provide are almost an afterthought compared to the many tasks required to keep the business open. For example, making and selling candy at a candy store is only a tiny fraction of the many things that have to happen on a daily weekly, and monthly basis to keep the doors open. Overwhelmed, the proprietor hires someone and heaves a huge sigh of relief. This person is a marvel who tackles all assignments with a smile. Over time, the employee&

s task list grows and grows until one day she can&

t take any more and quits. In this situation, the business&

s demise is usually not far off. Burnout is one of the leading causes of business failure, above and beyond money issues.

On the other extreme, growing companies sometimes hire far too many people due, once again, to poor planning or to basing their work estimates on the slowest person on the team. Idle employees are a tremendous waste of time and money.

The first example typically applies to smaller businesses, while the latter more often applies to larger businesses such as growing corporations. Some of the dot-com companies I worked at were shining examples of runaway growth.

What should you do if you&

re contemplating growth?

Begin by taking a long hard look at your business and examining every single process that takes place therein. For each process, ask yourself if it&

s truly necessary or if your business can survive (or even thrive) without it. Next, ask yourself how you can streamline your business-critical processes. The goal here is to tune your business up to peak efficiency and profitability before growing it. Having a solid foundation will help you identify whether you do, in fact, need the help and, if so, where exactly you need it.

Having ascertained that you do need help and where you need it, your next task is to create a job description against which you can screen potential employees and measure their performance once they come aboard. This description must be detailed enough to give you and your employee a very clear idea of what&

s expected, yet not so comprehensive as to be stifling.

Keep in mind that planning your growth, selecting your new employee and training that person will require an investment of time and money. These resources may be in short supply, and you may be tempted to sidestep the preliminaries. Don&

t succumb to this temptation. Instead, think of the process like a vaccine &

a short, possibly painful experience that will prevent much larger problems in the future.

One of two things will happen as a result of your self-examination: You may find that you can shave so much time off your schedule that you really don&

t need the help. If so, your business will be far healthier and you&

ll be saving tens of thousands of dollars per year, money that can go right to the dear old bottom line.

If you do need help, you will have an excellent idea of where you need to grow. You will be able to select, hire, and manage someone with a clear purpose. Even better, your new employee will know exactly where he fits in and how he is contributing to the overall effort. That knowledge is one of the biggest motivators there is, one that is many times more powerful than a mere paycheck.

Either way, your business will be on a solid foundation. You wouldn&

t dream of adding another floor to a building with a crumbling foundation, so why grow your business on an equally shaky footing? Any problems that exist with your business today will grow with every new employee and will become harder and harder to correct.

Prune the deadwood from your business and plan for intelligent growth, and your business will on the path for long-term health and vibrancy. Fail to plan and you are sowing the seeds of your business&

s eventual demise. Which outcome do you want for your business?

OK, so you&

ve done your planning and pruning and are itching to start interviewing people. Not so fast, because you haven&

t yet identified your ideal candidate &

a process that is very similar to identifying your ideal customer. But that&

s next week&

s topic. Meanwhile, here&

s a homework assignment for anyone considering expanding their payroll: If you have not done so, read &

The Emyth Revisited&

by Michael Gerber. While you&

re at it, read &

Nickeled and Dimed&

by Barbara Ehrenreich for some great ideas on how not to manage your employees.

I always welcome questions, feedback, and suggestions. Please e-mail me at anthony@coachanthony.com with your ideas and suggestions. My invitation for you to schedule a free session with me is always open and there is never any obligation. You may also visit me on the Web at www.coachanthony.com.

business consultant with more than 19 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland with his wife Robyn, son Logan, and their two dogs.