While many Canadians dream of owning a business, the task of running one can be quite daunting. Not only are you president and chief executive, you are also the finance department, marketing team, office administrator and IT support staff, just to name a few of your jobs.
Running a successful small business takes careful planning and management. However, the strategy of many entrepreneurs, is to roll up their sleeves and tackle all the tasks on their to-do list. What they may not realize is that spending their time doing chores that can be left to others can have a negative impact on the business. It is important to evaluate when to let go and pass off a task to an employee, contractor or other form of outsourced assistance.
First, appraise the value of your time. Entrepreneurs tend to undervalue it, often using something called backward math: taking a yearly salary and dividing it to get an hourly rate. This equation fails to factor in vacation time, stat holidays, time spent in meetings, training or travel.
Then there is something called “opportunity cost,” which is the value of opportunities you miss because you are doing something else. Perhaps you missed an important networking event because you were stuck doing year-end accounting. There are only 24 hours in a day so it is critical to properly evaluate your time. Running to the office supply store to get paper and ink seems like a simple task, but it may prevent you from getting other, more significant work achieved. For any given task, think about what it is taking you away from, it may be nothing but be honest?
Taking on tasks others can do faster, better and more efficiently can also negatively impact your business. Take for example, web design. While there are many templates available that make it easy to build your own website, the results are often far from spectacular. Your company’s website is often the first point of customer contact and you only have one chance to make a first impression. The same can hold true of advertising and marketing material.
Even if you can do the task at hand and do it well, there are other signs you should delegate to others. For example, are you working all hours of the day and night just to keep up? Excessive hours are understandable if you are experiencing substantial growth, but not if it’s just to maintain the status quo. As well, missing deadlines and deliverables is a sure sign you have too much on your plate. Finally, if you find yourself missing out on time with family and friends because you are working, it may be time to call in outside help.
It can be frightening to rely on others. However, there are many resources available to help you find the right person. For example, networking events are great places to get referrals for the best lawyer, accountant, web designer or marketer to work with. Additionally, there are many online companies (oDesk and getacoder.com, to name just two) that help connect business owners with reliable experts. Of course, don’t overlook your network of friends, business partners and associates — they may know just the person you are looking for.
While “outsourcing” often has negative connotations, it doesn’t necessarily mean sending work outside the country. For the small business owner it should mean drawing on your network of contacts, using outside resources and your employees to achieve your goals. Being honest with yourself regarding your expertise and the true value of your time is an important step to building your business and your success is Canada’s success.
Statistics show that small businesses have quite a positive impact on our economy. Last year CBC.ca listed 10 surprising stats about small business in Canada, three of which illustrate their value: in 2009, 28% of the country’s total GDP came from businesses with fewer than 50 employees. These companies also accounted for 25% of Canada’s total export value. Perhaps even more important is that nearly half of the workforce (48%) is employed by small businesses.
Bringing in outside expert help not only can increase your likelihood of success but it may even help you get back a little bit of free time – and that’s something that is hard to put a value on.
— Sean Harris is general manager of small business sales for Grand & Toy
– Article provided by Financial Post