Who will follow you?

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on June 30, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple

This blog is directed to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs – basically anyone who works alone right now. You’ve started a business and the intention is to grow it. For the first few years, it might seem like a battle to get the ball rolling but, if your business is to survive, it will eventually pass some invisible line and start to pick up momentum and require more than just you to make it work.

That’s right, eventually you’ll need to have other people join you. While your hope may be that your business prospers beyond your wildest dreams, and you picture yourself sipping margaritas on a sunny Caribbean island, many of you haven’t given any thought to who will help get you there.

Guess what: your enviable success might be months or years away but you need to put things in place now for someone to step in and take over. And the sooner you start doing that, the smoother, more efficient (and more profitable) the transition will be.

Now, I realize that some of you are countering with the objection that things might change between now and then. My response? If you keep thinking about who you’ll need to follow you (and you redefine it as necessary) you will still be better off than if you were to wait until you wake up one day with the realization that you should have hired someone a couple of months ago. (Believe me, it happens a lot that way).

So here’s what to do: Think about what you will need most when your business hits the big time. Are you a visionary CEO who will need a detail-oriented COO to get keep things going? Are you an effective sales person who will need a CFO to keep you grounded in real numbers? Are you currently manufacturing things in your spare bedroom and you think you need someone who is skilled at getting a factory floor running? Are you a craftsperson who needs an admin assistant to manage your time and a salesperson to win more customers? Are you an artist who will need a booking agent and a publicity rep?

If your business is successful today, and you’re continuing to focus on the right things, you’ll eventually get to the point where you need to add someone else in some role. Don’t get intimidated by the process or by the sense of “losing control” over the thing you’ve built. Those are natural feelings that every entrepreneur feels but they must be fought.

So the first thing you should do is set up structures that will allow for that new person (whoever they are and whenever they join you) to step into the role. This might mean learning a bit about bookkeeping (or hiring a bookkeeper) to file your papers in a way that make sense for the financial person you’ll bring on board. Or, this might mean thinking about your sales funnel now and charting it out (perhaps with the help of an expert) so that a salesperson who eventually joins your staff will be able to integrate themselves quickly.

And, don’t think that a person has to come on board full-time right away. There are a number of really workable interim solutions (outsourcing or part-time or freelance or high school coop placements, etc.) that are good “middle ground” steps to help you make the transition.

Heather Recommends:

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