So, you’ve decided you need to expand your pool of resources beyond just you but what’s the best way to do it?
Before I get stuck into answering that let’s just double check exactly what type of resource you need.
What resource do you need?
How efficiently are you currently working? Are you spending your time where you add the most value, which is either sales & marketing or your core delivery, or are you spending a fair amount of time on other stuff?
If you are spending time on non-value adding stuff such as bookkeeping, web updates, posting to social media and so on then you need a virtual assistant (VA).
VAs come in all shapes and sizes with different areas of expertise. Some are excellent at organising you and taking on your diary management, organising trips and meetings etc.
Some are great at marketing type activity such as creating your newsletters, posting to your social media channels.
You need to have a think about the type of assistance you need and then go shopping for it.
VAs tend to cost somewhere between £10 – £28 an hour. Ideally find one that is part of a team so they can always support you even if one of them is on holiday or poorly.
I love having a VA!
Two distinct options to create more delivery resource
If you are already outsourcing your non-value adding activity and you need more delivery capacity then you have 2 distinct options:
Outsource (sub-contract) to another business. This could be a one-man band or a larger business.
The upside of this option are:
- Depending on how you manage the contract, you’ll only have to pay for what you need.
- You should be able to arrange the contract so you will pay them when you get paid by your client so it greatly reduces the cashflow implications.
- You’ll be able to terminate the contract with one month’s notice.
- You can clearly set out the expectations in terms of deliverables and timescales.
- You can shop around to find the exact combination of skills you require as they might not exist in one person but hopefully they will exist in one business. If they don’t exist in one business then split the work and place it with two people/businesses.
The downsides are:
- You might not be their number one priority. This shouldn’t matter if you’ve clearly laid out the deliverables and timescales
- Their fee per hour will be more expensive than if you were employing someone but training should be minimal, you don’t have to increase any of your overheads to support them (other than paying their monthly invoice).
The upside of this option is:
- You are their number one priority
The downside is:
- You need to fill 100% of their time
- They will take up a lot more of your time just to check they are OK
- You have to pay for 100% of their time including holidays and sick leave
With either option you will need to actively manage them and their performance. An outsourced option should require less management but that’s not always the case.
My overwhelming preference is to outsource. Once you are spending ~£1,500 a month on outsourcing then it’s worth looking at employing someone but only if all the skills do actually exist in one person.
But will they do it as well as me?
Regardless of whether you outsource or employ you need to put “things” in place to help them deliver to your clients in the same way you do. This tends to be the biggest challenge to getting it right.
We all have our little ways we like to do things that help us deliver a great service to our clients. The challenge here is to work out what they are so your new resource can do them to.
Think of your delivery as a stick of rock and the way you deliver it, all those special nuances, as the writing that goes through the rock. To be able to produce multiple sticks of rock all looking the same inside and out, you need to get that writing correct and reproducible.
- How do you start emails?
- How do you sign off emails?
- How chatty are you on the phone?
- What are your core values?
- What’s your definition of a “job well done”
- How are you perceived by your clients?
- What’s your level of customer service and what does it involve?
- How do you ensure everything is correct before you send it to a client?
- How do you like to follow-up on things?
- What tone do you use when you write emails, blogs, marketing and so on?
The list goes on and on, but knowing these answers and being able to successfully explain them to your new resource is key to a successful expansion of your delivery capability.
You could refer to this as your Brand Guidelines but I call it your ‘Rock Rules‘.
The practicalities of how to effectively outsource some of your delivery
You need to ask yourself some key questions:
Do I want to front all of the communication with the client?
You need to be careful that you don’t become a bottleneck in the process. It’s totally fine to be that single point of contact for your client but you need to be prepared to be constantly ferrying info between your resource and your client.
Do I want the client to believe this is my core resource or am I happy for them to know I outsource?
If you want the client to believe this is your resource then you need to create the resource an email address on your domain. This is easy to do and with systems like Office365 it’s incredibly easy to have access into their inbox so you can see what’s going on.
You also need to set up how you will share documents with your new resource. Again this is so easy with Dropbox and similar solutions. You need to make sure your resource saves everything into the shared access folder though so, should something happen, you have immediate access to everything.
One big concern when it comes to taking on resource, whether it’s employees or outsourcing, is how to protect yourself from them stealing your client.
You do this by ensuring you have some kind of anti-poaching clause.
If you are outsourcing you need a clause which says they cannot accept work from any client of your business while they are actively working with you or for a period of time afterwards, usually 6 months.
If you employ someone you need a clause which prohibits them from setting up in competition to you within a set time period, again usually 6 months, once their employment ceases. It’s also worth adding into your client agreements that they cannot poach your staff for a set time period after they have terminated their agreement with you.
Clauses in agreements only go so far, as they only have value if you are prepared to act on them, but they can be a great deterrent.
But no matter what you choose to do..
You must help them succeed. If they succeed, you succeed!
Give them as much support, direction and encouragement as you can to help get things off on the right foot but please do monitor their output and tweak things so you all get the best outcome.
Remember, it’s only as hard as you make it