Entrepreneurs, You Can't Handle Everything at Your Startup
Founding a successful startup comes with numerous challenges, but the most difficult obstacle to overcome isn’t coming up with funding or finding the right space to rent for the office. According to a survey completed jointly by CoFounder magazine and ArcticStartup, 37 percent of startup founders believe the biggest hurdle when creating a company is finding the right people to run the startup.
The right startup team needs to include people with a broad range of skill sets who are trustworthy enough to help the company grow. And even as business plans adapt to company growth or changing markets, the right people can keep a startup strong.
When I started my first company, it seemed as though I could do everything -- other startup leaders who weren’t doing everything themselves must not be trying as hard as they should be to be successful. This is common for entrepreneurs; we want to take control of as many aspects of the business as possible, which can make it hard for us to feel comfortable sharing responsibility.
Related: How to Avoid Entrepreneur Overload
I learned the hard way that it’s actually impossible to do everything alone. Asking for and hiring help almost always gives the necessary push to make every day more productive than flying solo. While some responsibilities can be handled by one person, here are some ways you can avoid biting off more than you can chew:
1. Get an outside perspective -- outsource company audits.
It’s impossible for you to be unbiased when conducting an audit on your own startup. An outside perspective is crucial. For example, bringing in an accountant with no ties to the startup can open up new possibilities. He or she might observe patterns that aren’t apparent to in-house employees or spot ways to improve processes.
And companies agree -- according to an EY report conducted from 2012 to 2016, 73 percent of companies surveyed agreed that selecting external auditors is in the best interest of any company. Their observations don’t have to be turned into immediate action, but learning where improvements can be made will help you plan out how and when to make changes.
2. Trust your team.
Employees were hired for a reason, so let them do what they are skilled at -- their jobs. Stick to management tasks, and stop constantly checking on the team. Trusting them to fulfill their roles without watching their every move shows faith and allows the team to grow. Leadership is certainly important, but it’s also important to give every team member space to develop his or her talents and contribute to the company. And when one part of the team suffers, the operation -- and other team members -- suffer, too. As an example, when it comes to transcription services for, say, a government entity, every moving part must flow in sync; otherwise, operations will slow and expectations won't be met.
Consider a Colorado city we've worked with and its hiccups regarding a judicial appeal: An appellate case requires the order and shipment of transcripts from its original trial and hearings for review. If an appeal is rushed and time frames are shortened, issues can arise with whoever is leading the legal transcription contract, and the city could potentially lose a contract and cause thousands of dollars in court expenses due to moving dates back. Long story short: It would be impossible to do all that work alone. If all the wheels aren't in proper motion, teams fall apart and mistakes prevail. Ensure your team can handle the curveballs, and trust that they do.
3. Focus on the company's big picture.
Avoid becoming distracted by small “maybes” that take attention away from the company’s original goals and focus on the team's true objective. Being focused on the minutiae of the moment can distract any entrepreneur from his or her overall business plan. Entrepreneurs have so much to take care of that multitasking can be the ultimate drain on productivity. Making a schedule and sticking to it is a simple, time-tested way to ensure the whole team stays on track toward achieving the overall objective of the company.
4. Outsource to reduce your 100-hour weeks.
In theory, the longer the workweek, the more work gets accomplished. However, the opposite is often the case. It’s much easier to burn out when the workweek more than doubles its typical length. This extended workweek is becoming unfortunately common. CreditLoan posits more than 85.8 percent of men and 66.5 percent of women in the United States work more than 40 work hours each week. The hours only go up for small business owners -- 19 percent work more than 60 hours a week, according to a survey by The Alternative Board.
Use your workweek more wisely by delegating and outsourcing tasks to the right people so you can focus on what's really important for your company. Just as finding the right help inside a startup is crucial, entrepreneurs must carefully choose the people they outsource tasks to. Communication is the key for interacting with all employees, both full-time and independent contractors. Being on the same page is the best way to ensure a successful partnership.
Try laying out all the details in person or on the phone, and then follow up with an email summarizing the information discussed. Embody the old saying “trust but verify”; make sure employees confirm that they have read and understood the follow-up.
Being an entrepreneur is stressful enough -- don’t create more stress by trying to do everything single-handedly. Follow these tips to ensure the whole team is poised for success.