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Is It Time For Your Business To Hire?

 

If you’re like many small business owners, you started out as a  “solopreneur”—a one-person bands who does it all. However, as your client lists and product or service offerings grow, there comes a point where you can’t do it alone.

Some signs that may indicate it’s time to expand your team include:

  • Tasks are slipping through the cracks.
  • You’re missing deadlines.
  • You’re making silly mistakes.
  • You’re finding it difficult to stay organized.
  • Customers and vendors are getting frustrated because you don’t respond promptly.
  • You’re working constantly and beginning to feel burnt out.

If any combination of the above sounds familiar, consider delegating some work. Whether you decide to add employees to your payroll or work with independent contractors, by making others a part of your team you’ll be able to focus on what you do best and ensure other responsibilities don’t go undone.

So, should you hire employees or outsource work to independent contractors? Both have their advantages and potential disadvantages.

Pros Of Hiring Employees

  • Because they’re part of your business, they stand to gain a stronger understanding of your business’s internal processes, needs, and expectations than an independent contractor might have. Therefore, they will know how to do their work and understand how that work fits into the big picture.
  • The hourly rate you pay them will probably be less than you would pay to a contractor.
  • You have more control over the work. As an employer, you establish how you want tasks done, what technology and tools to use, office hours, etc.
  • When your workload increases, you have someone who is readily available to assist. Your work is their priority; they aren’t dividing their working hours between you and other clients.
  • If you need to step away for a day or go on a week-long vacation, you have someone you can rely on to keep the business operating while you’re gone.

Cons Of Hiring Employees

  • In addition to wages, you may also be required to provide certain benefits to employees. That can add additional cost to your bottom line.
  • You add the complexity of payroll to your business. Certain paperwork is legally required and you’ll need to withhold employees’ federal, state, and local taxes; social security; and Medicare from their paychecks.
  • Even if your business experiences a drop in sales or profitability, you still need to pay your employees their wages and salaries.
  • If you discover an employee isn’t a good match for your business, terminating that worker might not be a simple process.

 

Pros Of Hiring Independent Contractors

  • You don’t have to commit to paying them regular wages or a salary, nor are you required to provide benefits. So, even though you’ll likely pay them more per hour than you would employees, they could save you money overall.
  • If things aren’t working out with an independent contractor, you simply don’t have to work with them anymore (after any contractual obligations are met). You don’t have a termination process to adhere to as you would with an employee.
  • It brings in someone with the specialized skills you need for a particular area of your business. That may mean little to no training necessary.
  • They are responsible for their own permits and professional licenses.

 

Cons Of Hiring Independent Contractors

  • You lose some control over the work. Independent contractors typically have the autonomy to work from where they want, use the tools and technology they want, and work the hours they want.
  • Independent contractors often work remotely, so it may be difficult to know exactly how work is progressing.
  • Because they serve multiple clients, independent contractors may not be able to meet your deadlines as quickly as you would like.
  • Unless you have an agreement with an independent contractor that explicitly states it, you may not own the copyright for works that an independent contractor creates for you.

 

To make sure you make the right choice for your business, consider the type of work you need help with, the amount of work you need to delegate, whether the work is recurring or sporadic, how much control over the work process you’re comfortable with, and the legal and financial impact your choice will have on your business.

 

A SCORE mentor can serve as a valuable sounding board and source of insight as you begin working through all of that. Contact us today to schedule free counseling from our volunteer mentors who have knowledge and experience in all aspects of starting and running a small business.

Cultivate Your Leadership Skills

 

As a small business owner, strong leadership skills make or break your company’s chance of success. Without them, you risk missing your goals and not gaining the cooperation you need from employees and project partners.

Not everyone is a born leader but with some effort, you can develop essential and improve upon essential leadership skills.

Here are several leadership skills you’ll want to hone as you build your business:

 

  • Listening

As important as it is to share your guidance and thoughts, listening to what others have to say is equally—if not more—important. Your customers and the people who work with you have valuable insight that can help you make decisions that can improve your business. Want to learn how to be a better listener? Forbes has some helpful tips for strengthening your listening skills.

 

  • Communication

The importance of expressing your goals, guidance, and vision clearly and professionally should never be underestimated—whether through email, phone, face-to-face interactions, or in presentations. Improving communication skills requires a multi-focused effort involving attention to: organizing your thoughts, keeping emotions in check, refining grammar and spelling, and more. This list of 17 tips offers ways you can give your communications skills a boost.

 

  • Time management

Without a grasp on how to effectively manage your time, critical tasks and responsibilities can fall through the cracks. The keys to time management are being organized and knowing how to prioritize your to-do’s. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for managing time, these six tips provide a good foundation upon which to improve your ability to make the most of your time.

 

  • Delegation

Even if you’re a solopreneur, you can’t always do everything on your own. Whether you have employees or opt to use subcontractors, there will be tasks and responsibilities that should be done by someone other than yourself, so you have time to focus on critical business-building objectives.

While this Harvard Business Review article addresses delegation from the perspective of larger companies, it provides many takeaways that small business owners can consider for improving their delegation skills.

 

  • Motivation and self-discipline

Leading also requires maintaining enthusiasm and embodying the drive to accomplish what needs to be done. When you’re the boss, you’re responsible for motivating yourself and staying on track. Contributing editor Geoffrey James at Inc.com has shared an interesting perspective and helpful tips to help entrepreneurs strengthen self-motivation skills. This thought from his article might help motivate you to become more self-motivated: “Use self-motivation to make yourself successful at life rather than just at work.”

 

Don’t believe “leaders are born not made.” While leadership is easier for some small business owners than others, you can get better at it with effort and practice. If you need guidance on ways to become a stronger leader, contact us about talking with a SCORE mentor. Our volunteers have a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of starting and growing a business.

Blog Brainstorming Tips

 

Ask nearly any small business owner and you’ll find that most struggle with keeping their company blog up to date. Although it may be tempting to forgo maintaining your blog in the midst of all else you need to do in running your business, research shows blogs boost business. Companies that blog regularly experience 97% more inbound links to their websites, and, according to HubSpot, marketers who have made blogging a priority are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment.

 

While writing and publishing posts requires time, half the battle of blogging consistently is finding ideas for what to write about.

 

Here are some quick tips to help you land winning blog topic ideas:

 

Tap into FAQs

What types of questions do you often field from prospects and customers? Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can be a virtual goldmine of potential topics because they’re undeniably centered on services, products, and processes your audience has interest in.

Check out what’s trending on Twitter

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account or actively engage with customers on the social network, you can still use it as a resource for discovering what’s hot in your industry. Search various hashtags related to the products and services you provide to see what others are writing about. Of course, you never want to steal anyone else’s content, but you can get inspiration and ideas for what you might give a fresh perspective on.

Think about how industry-related news affects you and your customers

Whether your industry is undergoing regulatory changes, supplier difficulties, or other developments that affect your company, you have a prime opportunity to share your insight to inform, educate, and sometimes put customers’ minds at ease if they’re worried about how the changes might affect them.

Talk up technological advances

Readers love to know what’s new and cutting edge. As with other industry-related news, improvements in technology that make your products, services, or processes better serve as worthy blog post topics.

Go behind the scenes

Prospects and customers love to get the inside scoop. Consider sharing an insider view about how you create your product or deliver your services.

Get personal

Brands that connect with prospects on a personal level are generally more likely to gain customers when all things otherwise are equal with competitors. To create stronger customer relationships, allow readers an opportunity to get to know the people in your business. Consider sharing about their unique interests or hobbies (with their permission, of course!), their volunteerism efforts, or distinctive aspects of their professional credentials.

 

There’s plenty to draw from as you brainstorm topics for your blog. The key is to become more attuned to recognizing ideas when they present themselves—and taking the initiative to write them down before they escape your memory.

If you struggle with thinking of creative and relevant blog topics, we have SCORE mentors with marketing know-how and a broad range of industry experience who can help. Contact us to schedule a free mentoring appointment today.

 

 

Perks and Pitfalls: Running a Home-Based Business

 

For many new small business owners, running a business from home is a no-brainer (and often a financial necessity!). With a commute measured in feet rather than miles, you can be ready to work anytime. Without the worry of renting office space, your overhead will be far less than that of traditional business owners. Plus, you’ll get to join the pantheon of other businesses that began in a humble home, such as Apple, Mary Kay, Hershey’s, and Ford.

It’s no wonder more than half of all small businesses in the U.S. are home-based. However, working from home brings its share of challenges. Here are several home office pitfalls that accompany the perks:

  • Prospects might not take you seriously – Some potential clients might view you as less professional or possibly not serious about your business because you don’t have a “real” office.

Suggestion: Maintain the same work ethic and hours that you would if you had an office elsewhere. Treat your in-home business like a bona fide business—because it is!

  • Interruptions from family and friends who don’t quite get it – Especially in the start-up phase, you’ll likely find some of your relatives and friends won’t understand the concept of “working” from home. They’ll think you’re free to meet for coffee or entertain them when they drop by unannounced.

Suggestion: Set expectations from the start. Make sure your friends and family know when you will and won’t be available for socializing.

  • Lack of socialization – Working independently without face-to-face interaction with colleagues can leave you feeling alone and isolated.

Suggestion: Periodically take your work to another location such as a coffee shop or co-working space. When appropriate, consider scheduling video conference calls or in-person meetings with clients and project partners rather than only communicating via phone or email.

  • Endless distractions – Your personal “to do” list at home can be difficult to ignore when tasks are staring you in the face. Tending to them when you should be focused on your business is a sure-fire way to thwart your productivity.

Suggestion: Have a dedicated space for your home office where you can physically shut the door and leave behind your laundry piles and dirty dishes. Schedule time on evenings and weekends (or whenever your out-of-office hours are) for your personal tasks so you’re not tempted to tackle them when you should be working on your business.

  • Inability to get away from your work – On the flip side, you may never feel able to take a break from your business when you work from home. There’s always more to do!

Suggestion: Establish a cut-off time each day for when you will no longer check work emails, business social media accounts, and take calls from clients. Although you may need to bend your rules now and then, you’ll be more likely to give yourself a mental break and your family members the time they deserve if you set  boundaries.

To find out more about the realities of starting and growing a small business, reach out to SCORE Maine to get expert guidance from one of our mentors.

Further Reading and Resources: Starting a Business in Your Home: Weighing the Pros and Cons