How many successful entrepreneurs do you know who have managed to scale their businesses without a team? None. That's how many. Steven Bartlett, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson, all have one thing in common, their team.
Some people start businesses by themselves, with a view to expanding as they grow. However, most of them quickly fall into a trap of trying to hold on to every penny they can as they struggle to bring in clients or sell products, and end up doing so much themselves, that they never have enough free time to grow their business to bring in the extra income they need, to pay someone to help them.
I understand this scenario all too well, it's a mistake I made in my first business. I wore myself out after 10 years of trying to do it all myself, and I never grew the business. It's almost a chicken and egg situation, which comes first? How can you delegate early on, if you don't have the income to do it? Hopefully today, I can answer that question for you.
One of the first mistakes business owners make, is not taking a wage out of the business from the start. It's very admirable, and I completely understand why especially if you're developing a new product and need every penny you can scrape together to invest in it. However, at what point do you start taking a wage from the business? Taking a wage, even if it's small, small enough so that you fall below the tax threshold, helps you to truly see how profitable your business is becoming. Are you left with more or less after wages each month? Are you struggling to pay yourself? If you are, how long can you really continue like that? At what point do you plan to stand back and ask yourself if your business is viable?
I didn't take a wage in my first business and whenever I needed money from the business, which inevitably I did, I felt terribly guilty about it. This time around, I took a wage from day one. I employed the services of an accountant who set up the payroll and I took a nominal wage that allowed me to live. I wasn't left with anything extra, just real-living costs that had to be spent. By taking a profit first, I could plow everything else back into the business, and increase my wage as the business grew.
Having a starting point like this I think, is essential. It's almost a benchmark for your success. It's too easy to not take a wage, and end up never taking a wage. It's much harder to fall into this sort of habit if you've taken money from the beginning. You have to be able to live first and foremost, if your business isn't able to pay you long-term, it might not be the success you want it to be. I'm not saying that a business that can't pay you isn't going to work out. There were some months I would have to delay paying myself or spread the cost, to make sure staff costs were paid first, but I always knew I would have to come back to it, I had the payroll payslips in black and white as a handy reminder. I firmly believe this approach helps push you harder, knowing that you have to make these payments each and every month.
Working From Finish to Start
What does this mean I hear you ask? Quite simply, it means looking ahead, to perhaps 6-12 months into the future, and setting your business up how you envisage it to be then. The reason for this is that you will put your end-goal processes in place from the start, rather than having to change everything further down the line.
Let's take software subscriptions for example. Inevitably you will need to sign up to subscriptions, whether that's accounting software or graphic design apps like Canva. In the early days, it's very tempting to go for free apps and sign up for as many free trials using as many email addresses as you can manage. This, however, is just going to cost you time. I would encourage you to imagine you already have a team in place and work as though they are there. How do they know your processes or the login information to your software? Will you have time to explain everything to them by the time you get to the point of recruiting them?
One of the first things I did was pay for a Google Workspace account and I immediately set up two email addresses, one for me and one for firstname.lastname@example.org This wasn't a free alias email, but an email address that I knew I would need for lead magnets, and one I knew one day, someone else would be taking care of. Therefore, I started as I meant to go on. Going forward, if I had to sign up for anything, or if I composed newsletter campaigns or set up bookings through Calendly, everything would come to the email address that would eventually be managed by an assistant. I didn't want the hassle of using that email address as my personal one for my own clients and then having to change it later down the line.
In my 1Password vault, I set up an 'Admin Assistant' vault ready for when the day would come I would need to share access to login information. Imagine how time-consuming that would be further down the line.
The other thing that I did was write a company workbook as I went along. For example, how to onboard new clients, the process for storing information, and even a pictorial workflow of our automation processes for lead magnets, Calendly bookings, and service purchases. I didn't want to slowly create something that became so huge when the time came to take on help and I needed somebody to understand everything, I would need to take time out to write it all out and explain it to them.
Start as you mean to go on, you can't of course, imagine yourself in five years' time as a millionaire and buy yourself a company Ferrari from the first day, but you can think about how things will look a year from now, and work your way back.
Delegate Within the First 3 Months
This is one of the hardest things business owners have to deal with. Developing a business is such a personal thing to do, letting somebody else into your world, particularly if you don't know them, can be terribly daunting. But it is important to remember that you will not have all the skills you need to run your business no matter how good you think you are. You will end up wearing more hats than you intended to and there will be people who can wear them better than you.
It is important to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. What do you find difficult? Which tasks do you procrastinate over the most? As soon as you spot those weaknesses, you can identify who you need to delegate to. One of the top tasks we get asked to help with is social media support. More often than not, this is because business owners know they need to be consistent with their social media marketing, but they don't have the time to do it, or they just aren't very good at their messaging.
Handing over this work to us, it frees the business owner up to put themselves where they are needed most in their business and leaves them feeling less stressed knowing that side of things is taken care of.
It's so easy to just see pound signs, to see the money coming in and wanting to hold onto it. This is where paying that wage to yourself from day one pays off. You have no excuse, you already have your nominal wage, and by now you should be bringing in enough to break even, it's at this point, that you delegate. It might feel counterintuitive because surely the most important thing is to make more money? But you will only ever make a small amount of money if you don't delegate. There will be a limit on how much you can do by yourself and you will very quickly reach that limit. If you delegate before you're making a profit, it will free you up to grow your business, and, knowing you have that person to pay each month, will push you even harder.
You might be thinking, it makes more sense to wait until you do reach that limit, and then take someone on, but this hardly ever happens. By that point, business owners have usually ingrained themselves so much into the fabric of the business, they struggle to find a way out. Either that, or they are so swamped with all the work they have taken on, they don't have time to stand back to see what they need to do, or how to train someone to help them.
In the early days, taking on a virtual assistant is one of the most cost-effective routes you can go down. You don't have to struggle to find someone who won't work for just a few hours each month, and you won't have to tie yourself into employing someone full-time. Infact, you won't have to employ anyone at all. With a Virtual Assistant, you can take out a small plan to suit you, and dip in and out as and when you need help. You aren't tied in, and as a bonus, most virtual assistant's come with a wealth of knowledge and experience, everything from invoicing and data entry to social media management, website building and all the admin you can think of.
To give you an example, we offer ad-hoc plans and our basic monthly support plan starts at 5 hours per month at £145. This is an affordable option which allows you flexibility and the opportunity to concentrate on growing your business whilst utilising the help you have in any way you need. You can ask your VA to do just about anything as long as it's remote, rather than having to take on different individuals who specialise in their own fields.
The Botton Line
The bottom line is, if you don't set your stall out early doors, you will find yourself struggling for years. You might still grow, but probably at a snails pace and in that time, you will feel overworked and underpaid. You might even grow to resent your business. The fastest way to scale is by implementing your team as early as possible. You don't need to be profitable to do that, you just need to have the strength and determination to become profitable on the back of the time you're going to get back from outsourcing. Make sure you choose the right people, the people that are the strength to your weakness. Download our free Outsourcing Opportunity Template and see where you're struggling the most. Good luck!