4 Steps From Solo-Preneur To Manager

When you first start a business all of your attention will be focussed squarely on getting done what needs doing in order to get your business off the ground. You have to manage everything yourself, you are a solo-preneur. As a solo-preneur you are a marketer, financial manager, logistics manager and customer services rep.

But there comes a point when your job changes, when you have to stop being a multi-tasker and start being a business manager. If you want to grow your small business to the next level, you need to become an effective manager.

It’s not an easy process, but here are a few tips to help you along:

Design Processes

One critical part of building your business is growing your revenue by getting more customers and more orders. Unfortunately you can’t increase your revenue until you have a stable and scalable business model in place. Right now you might be coping fine, but if your order book suddenly doubled would you be able to cope?

Don’t over think this – pencil and paper are fine for this process, and maybe even superior in the beginning. Later, if you’d like to refine it or prefer a more visual approach, online tools like Wrike offer an interesting and approachable project management solution.

Here’s a real-world example:

Let’s say you have a web development business. Your first task is to write down your work process, step by step: how do you approach each task? Currently you are doing all of this yourself, so you may not even realize that you have a process, and the places where your process is changeable.

Supposing you will be hiring staff soon, you need to break your business into tasks in order to make it possible to hand over roles to other people. This preparation can often result in a much more efficient workflow too, even while it’s just you. So for your web dev business your main jobs might be:

  • Marketing – finding clients
    • Email outreach
    • Guest posting on web dev blogs
    • Managing your own blog
    • Phoning existing clients for new work or referrals
    • Web development – your core competence
      • Discussing requirements with client
      • Writing out a specification
      • Writing a quote
      • Wire-framing
      • Researching and mood boarding
      • Design and styling
      • First approval from client
      • Finishing
      • Tracking billable events
      • Invoicing and cash flow management
        • Invoicing clients
        • Tracking outstanding debts
        • Tracking quotes and quotes accepted
        • Chasing late payments

This is pretty simplistic, but for your own business you would go into more detail and think about which tasks can be broken up and potentially handed over to an employee. Any tasks that “need” to be done by you, should be refined or optimized so that they take less of your time.

Design A Marketing Strategy

Once your business is scalable, you will be ready to take on more work. But first you need to find that work, which means that you need to figure out how you will draw in more customers. Is it as simple as doubling your advertising spend?

Chances are that you will need to analyse your current marketing and figure out where your customers are coming from and how you can find more. Also, how will you ensure that you retain your customers?

If there are areas in your marketing that you are not good at, it is worth considering outsourcing. The best way to do this depends on your business model, but here are a few ideas:

Hiring a sales person:

This is an expensive option, but sales people usually work for a low wage plus commission, so if you get the right person the results can be good. Of course you need to ensure that your business is ready to handle the extra work.

Using Freelancers:

Finding freelance marketers who will work on commission only is tricky, but freelance hiring is a relatively cheap way to outsource the management of things like social media campaigns and PR. Sites like people per hour are ideal for finding talent. Use the process design that you have already done to outline exactly what you need and set some key performance indicators so that you can assess how effect your freelancers are.

Hiring someone better than yourself:

The first thoughts of hiring additional help usually begin from the perspective of “I can’t do all this – I need help, if only I could clone myself”.  But regardless of whom you bring on and what the arrangement you have with them is, chances are they will be better than you at some things – and this is a good thing. This can be a very beneficial boost to your business, and it’s not always something you can expect or plan for – because often you don’t know what you don’t know.

Sometimes purposefully hiring someone to do a step you are not very good at is the perfect way to grow, rather than trying to clone yourself.  To expand your thinking in this area, a great place to scout for high-level talent and get business growth advisors (paid by the minute), is to explore clarity.fm.  You can get great ideas from the free answers section there as well, including ideas for talent you’d like to add to your team, even if you don’t hire any experts by the minute.

Your First Employees

Once you have a strategy in place you will need to think about hiring your first employees (after all, to be a manager you need someone to manage). You will of course need an office, although if you’re lucky a home office might be workable at first – either way, here is some advice on finding an office.

Before you hire your first employee it is hard to know exactly what you can expect of them, how productive they might be and even what to pay them.

Hopefully you can use the process design that you did earlier to outline what jobs can be handed over to a member of staff, and you can use your own knowledge of the jobs to judge what skills your employees will need.

If you can, get a friend or family member to come in and help you for a week. This will help you to test your processes and to better judge what you can expect your employee to do. Your family member might not have the same skill set as the person you eventually hire, but it will help you define the job parameters and develop expectations.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the time it will take to get an employee up to speed. Things may seem obvious to you, but remember that you have been living and breathing this business on your own up to now and things that seem obvious to you probably won’t be to them.

Holding It Together

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges as you grow will be holding your business together. As soon as you hand over important tasks your job role will change to that of a manager and it will be up to you to maintain your business’s brand and quality.

You will inevitably hit bumps along the way and many entrepreneurs struggle when letting go of responsibility. It is important to avoid micro-managing, and instead try to give your employees autonomy (so long as they can earn it).

Here’s some helpful advice on keeping your employees happy (and productive) and another on conflict resolution.

The key thing to remember is that problems will happen, but the better you plan and the better you manage your staff the better you will be able to deal with issues as they arise.

About George Peters

George Peters is a maintenance technician for Andrew’s Airconditioning. George loves business and entrepreneurship and enjoys working with businesses of all sizes as part of his job. Outside of work he enjoys reading and writing about business.

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