Last week on Startup Talk, I had posed the question, Are You Building a Company or Side Hustle? The essence of that post was to make you shake off complacency and reach for the full potential of your business. But, most importantly is that as a Startup, you might have little to no funding. This lack of financing, unfortunately, will make it difficult for you to hire the staff you need from the onset.
I also struggled in the early days of starting my business. I was the one sweeping, opening and closing the office for the day. I became the accountant, salesgirl and front desk staff. I was everything in my business. As you might guess, the proverbial one-man squad. This situation was an exhausting and demoralising experience, especially for a new startup with little or no funding. I had a choice, to either quit and see the cup as half empty or to see the situation as an opportunity to get intimately connected with every aspect of my business from bottom-up. I chose the latter. I decided to see the glass as half full. This dose of optimism helped me create the system and structure that worked for my business. To this end, I want to show you the three things you can start doing from today to cope when you are the only staff in your company.
Set realistic timelines
Being the only staff in your company implies that you will be the one that will implement your service delivery system from beginning to the end—or at least be in charge of the process. The downside is that if for health reasons or unforeseen circumstances, you are unable to meet up, you will disappoint your clients.
Disappointing your customers is not the best practice. It erodes credibility and the trust customers have in your business. This lack of trust will affect future jobs from the customers you disappointed. Therefore, you need to find a way to ensure you don’t disappoint your customers.
One way to do this is to give realistic timelines for project closeout or delivery date. If you know you can deliver a job within three days, the wise thing to do would be to extend this by 48hrs to cover for any incidentals or unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, if everything goes well as you have planned, you will register your name as the organisation that delivers ahead of projected time, which will be a bonus for your business.
But then, some customers will come to you and tell you that they are time-strapped and would compel you to agree to unrealistic delivery time. This rushed briefs usually happen to service organizations, that is, printers, advertising agencies, experiential marketing firms etcetera. As a startup, I would not advise you to reject any opportunity. However, be sure that you have made contingency plans to meet the deadline and are willing to pull in an all-nighter by making the required sacrifice. Otherwise don’t agree to the time. You can charge them extra for express service delivery. The additional charge is not about being greedy; it is to make up for all the adjustments and extra cost you will incur to be able to deliver quality products or service in record time.
However, there are times where the challenge is not about delivering on time; but executing a specific task which you do not have the technical know-how to deliver. What you do at such point is to outsource.
Outsourcing your service is one way to satisfy your customers, even when you are the only staff without the risk of losing them to your competitor.
For example, while working for an experiential firm, we had extreme deadlines to submit briefs. There was no way we would meet the stipulated time without outsourcing some of the work. We did this all the time, and this method helped us win many accounts with minimal mistakes. The rush of it, the adrenaline while you are working. The uncertainty and intensity of brainstorming and ideating under pressure can negatively affect your output if you do not have the right expertise in-house or on the table. In the manufacturing sector, take the fashion industry, for instance, as a designer, you can partner with several tailoring outfits to produce your designs along the value chain. A protégé of mine runs a publishing company, but, he doesn’t own a printing press. However, this is not a deterrent to him. What he does is to partner with a print house to handle all the heavy lifting, while he does all the design, editing and ISBN.
Therefore, when you get a contract to do a job, and you know that all the skillset required for the timely delivery of that job is not available. The wise thing to do is to outsource the work to your partners. This method is cheaper than hiring a full-time staff whom you may not be able to sustain due to the sporadic nature of jobs coming into your business.
A caveat: Do not just outsource to anybody. It is your name that is on your final product. So, be thorough when selecting your outsourcing partner. Your name is important, and as a startup, you do not want it associated with poor quality and missed deadlines. You want to do jobs and create products that will attract more customers. So, do not compromise on quality!
One of the realities of outsourcing is that you may experience loss of time between job commissioning and delivery. To save time and increase your income, you may need to acquire ancillary skills.
Acquire ancillary skills
There are times when you may need to finish specific tasks at the same time. A case in point is that if you run a digital marketing startup, you may not be able to hire a graphic designer full time to augment your content development strength. If you have to wait for a graphic designer to do a design and send back to you each time a job comes in, you might not meet up with your deadlines. In such a situation, what you need is to acquire ancillary skills.
To be clear, it is not every skill you can acquire. For instance, I cannot tell that protégé of mine whom I spoke of earlier who owns a publishing firm to learn how to operate a press machine. Asking him to acquire this skill may distract him from his core. But assuming he is a skilled writer but does not know how to do graphic design, I will advise him to learn graphic design skill or use Apps such as Canva or Designrr to augment. This skill will help him finish his work in record time without suffering the delay of having to call a graphic designer and the ensuing back and forth that would inevitably follow.
So, as you run your business, do not allow your limited staff strength to keep you from soaring. Give your customers a realistic job delivery time, outsource certain services and acquire any skill or machinery you can combine with your core to make you consistently meet your timelines.
To your continued success.
The Startup Doctor.