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Dividing up business tasks

Have you ever looked at how you divide up the work in your business?

Last November, I wrote about looking at tasks rather than entire jobs when deciding on who is needed in a team (or who does what in an existing team).

Look at tasks not roles

Tasks interconnect like branches

As a sole trader it can be overwhelming how many things you have to do.

It can also be overwhelming to think about what you could outsource or employ someone for to gain more control.

I know if I look at what I’d like to get someone else to do (and already do so for some tasks), it seems like a mix of tasks that wouldn’t be easy to give to one role. Or would require a lot of training if I did give it to one person.

However, by taking it one task at a time I was able to see what could be done by others.

So I outsourced the data entry of my accounts to a bookkeeper. Later, I also got her to compile some quarterly stats reports for me.

I got someone else to manage sending out email messages – I write the content but someone else gets it into the email system, manages the email list and sends them for me.

Hiring one person or handing out many tasks at once would obviously free up more time instantly (excluding training time anyway). But if it is too hard to set that up, it won’t happen so a series of small improvements was much more effective for me.

Would you find it easier to look at tasks than jobs, too?

Why outsource a manager?

Last week I posted that it is possible to outsource managerial roles as well as specific skill roles. But maybe you’re wondering why someone would outsource a manager so here’s my list of ideas – can you add to it?

  •  you only have to pay for the hours you need them to work – not a set number of hours each week
  • you may be able to access greater skills within your budget if they are not full time
  • if they work remotely, it saves you providing space, desk, computer and services for an extra person
  • it may give you more options such as having a manager in another state may open more face-to-face opportunities for your business as well as local contacts in that state
  • it can be a good way to trial what roles you need a manager for – you can outsource for 6 months to assess the situation as it is easier to end a short term contract than an employment contract
  • an outside manager may provide a different perspective and not be as involved in internal issues

Outsourcing in between jobs

Not every job or business is suited to outsourcing and using contractors – for various reasons that we won’t go into right now. But what happens if no one is able to do the job in-house for a while?

Recently I did some work for a company while they were searching for a full-time technical writer. Being in the wrong city and unavailable for full-time work, I wasn’t going to apply for the job but I was able to help them while they looked for a new person for the role.

In this case, I set up some procedure templates and introductory documents (including standard emails for the team to use when sending information to the new writer), as well as editing the rough procedures the programmers had written down.

So don’t assume you can’t use outsource a project temporarily while you find the right person to work in-house – hiring an outsider can reduce a lot of the pressure to hire which can result in choosing the first possibility rather than waiting for the right person.

Even if a contractor can’t do the full job, especially if working remotely is an issue, you may find they can help with the following aspects of a role:

  •  preparation work for a new project or role – whether that is to set up the accounts, write the procedures, set up a schedule, organise physical requirements or do some initial research
  • some mundane aspects of the role, such as data entry, editing existing materials and reviewing older materials are compliant/consistent
  • doing tasks for other team members so they can cover for the empty position (for example, preapring newsletter content could be outsourced to a writer so the admin manager is free to prepare invoices until a new bookkeeper is appointed)

What else could be outsourced as an interim measure in your business?

Can you outsource a manager?

blue question markThe general answer is yes, you can outsource a managerial role but there are some exceptions and industry-specific challenges.

By outsourcing I simply mean having someone take on a managerial role as a contractor rather than an employee. Often this means they work remotely (ie not in the business premises) but that is not always the case.

For example, I do the Communications Manager role (including being listed on an org chart) for some companies who don’t need a full time person – I write their materials and manage the relevant suppliers (designers and printers mostly) from a distance.

Outsourcing a manager role may not be effective in every case of course:

  • a remote manager will be challenged to oversee staff in many situations
  • a retail manger needs to be in the shop to deal with customer issues
  • a production manager would need to be near the production line to ensure it is working and for any problem solving
  • a senior manager (eg general manager) who is not an employee may be less effective because they are not as invested in the business they are managing

So next time you are considering a full time employee manager, think about whether or not you could outsource that role effectively.

If you have outsourced a managerial role, even on a short term basis, how did it go? Woud you do it again?

6 reasons to use a professional

As a business owner or manager, there are always many tasks to do, and often not enough time for them!

Yet many people hesitate in getting outside, professional help for things like writing, design, website updates and bookkeeping; for some, they don’t think they can afford help, others like to maintain complete control, some think it will take longer to find someone than to just do it themselves and another group just wouldn’t know where to start looking for help.

Whatever your reason for putting off getting help, here are my reasons to look and ask for help…

  1. a professional will do the job well – so might you, of course, but at what cost in time? Sure, I could design a website – it  would look horrible and cheap, but it would be done! So for things out of my skill set, it is worth looking for an expert
  2. it saves you time – even if it only takes you an hour a week to maintain your blog or two hours a month to update your accounts, think what else you could do (and how much money you could earn) in that four to eight hours a month…
  3. it clears your head as you don’t have to worry about fitting in that task anymore nor the details of how to do it. A clear head lets you be more productive, creative and relaxed
  4. a professional will probably do it much faster than you – meaning the job will be done and potentially increasing your profits much sooner, especially if you factor in that you would do the task around all your other responsibilities
  5. a professional may be more objective which can lead to better results. For example, I write very concisely and to the relevant point so often cut out a lot of information the business owner includes because he or she is passionate about the topic
  6. the professional can offer an outside opinion and fresh ideas. I don’t know how many times designers I have worked with have taken my outline and come up with something perfect and totally unlike what I had envisaged – in fact, I often ask designers for their input rather than giving them rigid briefs

I know it can take time to find the right professionals to work with. I know it may seem out of budget (but factor in time savings and better results and you may be surprised at the affordability). And I know building trust in others to care as much as you can be hard. Yet I believe it is often worth talking to a professional to find out how they could help.

Do you have any stories about an outside professional helping your business?