Business Owner. Diagnose Thyself.
There's a reason I have a bookkeeper and a CPA. I suck at math. I don't enjoy keeping abreast of IRS requirements nor relish my Quicken reports beyond the P&L.
It was necessary in the early years of my business to do everything myself, but not without a lot of tears and cursing. Fortunately, one of the measures of success is profitability and hiring a competent financial professional was one of my first investments. Unlike that fabulous pair of Prada sandals I also got, my CPA has continued to pay-off in dividends not calluses.
The economy has taught a humbling lesson to our pocketbooks. Things aren't as dismal as they were a year ago, but it's hardly robust. The discussions my colleagues and I have reveal a collective reticence to splurge on anything deemed impractical. While the parameters of practicality vary amongst my brethren, they're also rooted in best business practices. And best practices exist to save us the bother of making particular mistakes in lieu of those we're already making.
That's why I took note when a client had me review a job posting. She wanted me to edit it for completeness, but she got introduced to some of our wisdom.
My client is concerned with her business' bottom line. Good. With our help she's making positive progress growing her medical spa, but she, like many entrepreneurs, has developed a few peculiar habits based on fear and hearsay so she thought she'd feed two birds with one paycheck by hiring one person to serve as both marketing director and bookkeeper.
Bad idea. Poor practice for sure.
There are many candidates who could undoubtedly wear both hats, but that doesn't mean they should. Would your first choice for heart surgeon be your family doctor? I mean, they've got the education and the licensure, but that doesn't mean they have the ability. Even if your primary is skilled at cracking chests, aren't you in better hands with the surgeon who does ten cases a week instead of a cumulative of ten in their practice? Your business' health merits the same consideration if it's going to be vital. Marketing and financial management are largely mutually exclusive.
Having owned my marketing agency for 20 years I understand innovation requires some avant-garde thinking, but it also comes with a responsibility to understand the foundation blocks of business. You don't have to be the expert in marketing, but you do need to understand its function. I've seen plenty small businesses sunk by placing the wrong person in the wrong position. An individual who might be brilliant at diagnosing and fixing a car's fuel injection problem, but miserable articulating the issue to the client. The same client who stands to tell others of their experience—good or bad—in the swift torrent of social media streams. These spheres of influence have the capacity to cripple a small business which further illustrates why making your marketing person process payroll during a Twitter crisis is foolish. It can also put you out of business.
If you're only looking at only the financial burden of hiring, pause. Take a little more time even if that means you alone will be administering to this task. Pause until you have a better understanding of operations, HR, finance/accounting, marketing/sales, product/service, and IT. You will never be an expert in all of them, but you should be able to discern the unique demands of each area. You may be able to have your customer service representative make an accounting collections call, but I caution you against hap-hazard recruiting to save money since it will end up costing more than money. Choose key personnel like you would select the person you'd marry.
Tight budgets are a reality. Creativity allows focus on scalable, sensible growth:
• Take the abundance of free, online courses in small business management from some of the world's finest institutions through coursera.org and EDX.org. You may not necessarily get college credit, but you will get valuable and practical information.
• Seek the expertise of folks who've been-there-done-that through SCORE organizations. Retired business folks share their expertise for free and you get to network with others in similar situations.
• Reach out to the department chairs of your local universities and colleges to partake in free labor also known as interns. You provide a structured environment for students to gain practical experience and you enjoy additional help and expertise. Interns are also a great way to refine your talent acquisition skills.
• Amend your operating hours to accommodate your periods of greatest demand or consider sharing resources in a collective of business owners. With the latter you may not only be able to enjoy high quality personnel, but you may be able to mine new and complementary clients from the other businesses.
• Consider the pros and cons of a physical versus a virtual office. Besides payroll, the costs of maintaining an office with rent and utilities can stymie any profitability. You may do better having a virtual presence thus saving you money that can instead be invested in a great marketing person or agency who can guide you to greater growth!
Remember, these are guidelines. You need to consult with your legal or business professional to determine the appropriateness of these suggestions.
As for our client, we're pleased to report that with a little TLC and presenting her with alternative methods of achieving her goals, she hired a CPA. Once she realized she had all the marketing expertise she needed with us right beside her, she felt confident that outsourcing the bookkeeping function would free up cashflow for expansion. Sometimes all you need is a fresh look at your existing resources to determine what you need.
ChayraCom's philosophy is we're not successful until our clients are successful, so don't be afraid to rely on your marketing firm to find creative ways to get you there. Besides, I'm not the only one who sucks at math.