Smart expansion of your small business
What does success look like when you’re just starting out? If you've launched a small business, you’re selling your skills and services, and you have so much business, you can't handle it on your own anymore, you’re experiencing success. So how do you grow your business while still assuring clients that they will get what they're paying for: your personal expertise?
There are two ways to expand your business – hiring someone full-time or hiring one or more contractors whose work you can trust and who can help you as needed to handle peak periods.
Choosing an employee who can represent you and your brand requires careful consideration. In the beginning, all your clients know and the only person they are comfortable with is you, so anyone you hire needs to be able to represent you. If you’re comfortable with the person’s communication style, skill set and potential, talk to him or her about your business and make sure it’s understood that what the client is buying is essentially you. For your new employee’s first assignments, choose projects with short turnaround times so that you can gauge the quality of their work.
Sometimes the overhead involved in a full-time hire outweighs the benefit. It can be easier to go from a one-person business to a one-person business that hires contractors on an as-needed basis. The advantage to this solution is that you stay in control about who serves the client, while managing costs.
As you select contractors, it’s important to ensure the client still gets your expertise. Any contractor you hire should be someone you’ve seen in action or whose work you like and admire. Be available to oversee the contractor’s work, at least for the first project, and make sure that the person you bring on board offers the same skills and expertise you would expect in a full-time employee. If you hire more than one team member, be sure to match the strengths of each team member to each client, considering both hard and soft skills. How they will relate to a client is often just as important as the work they will do on the client’s behalf.
Ensuring client confidence
Whether you choose employees or contractors, don't worry that your clients will be disturbed to see someone else working on their project. Talk about your team and the work that you do as a company, so that clients know you're involved and they're getting the results of your work and standards. This is also the point where you’ll need to let go of any guilt that you’re not personally doing the work. The client cares about results, and wants the results your work – including your team members’ work – will give them.
Help the client see that you remain involved and in charge. Take steps to let the client know you are part of the process and you are going to have frequent communication and follow-up with your employee or contractor. You're not just going to disappear.
As you continue working with new employees or contractors, keep the lines of communication open and be sure to address challenges and problems head-on. If an employee isn’t performing, intervene and come to a resolution before it damages your relationship with the client. Similarly, if a contractor isn’t working out, let him or her go. Your business is too important.
Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.