Earlier this year I kicked off a brand new, deluxe coaching program … called The Biz & Life Accelerator(applications now complete for this year). It is a 9-month Elite Mastermind of solo entrepreneurs and small business owners in the 50-300K range. We apply both outer and inner work models to growing our businesses and ourselves.
One of the topics of great interest is ‘how to build an appropriate team’ — and the answer morphs depending on what your goals are and the quality of life you desire. I’ve just added another member to my own team (welcome Chris!) so this topic is really top of mind around my business as we go through another round of training and orientation. Soooo, I’ve opted to write this week’s article on "Build Your Team to Assist Your SHIFT".
When the Need for Help Becomes Apparent:
While some of the people I coach are currently employees, most are either self-employed or small business owners. Having made the leap recently or a while ago (and depending on their goals and level of business) … eventually they need to make some decisions about building a team to assist them with their endeavors.
When I made the leap to self-employment back in 2001, I did everything myself for the first couple of years. I fulfilled my graphic recording and graphic facilitation gigs, I marketed and networked, I did my own meeting reproduction, travel arrangements, invoicing and bookkeeping and office & graphic supply shopping. I found a web designer to help me build my first website. I was CEO and chief bottle washer as the saying goes.
Between university and grad school, I was an executive assistant for several years … so I knew how to do administrative work. In fact, I was quite skilled at it. However, with increasing growth in my business, I found it harder and harder to keep up with all the things that had to be done … at the level of professionalism that I was identified with.
I was in essence doing two jobs — a professional job and an administrative job. And, even with the amount of energy and drive that I had, I just couldn’t keep the pace up – especially when I created a new website and wanted to move into more of an online presence.
Virtual Assistant(s) As Possible First Step:
For me and for many of my clients, a "Virtual Assistant" is a logical next step. In the last decade a whole field of skilled support professionals has emerged in response to the growing numbers of people leaving corporate and joining the ‘free agent nation’.
Called "Virtual Assistants (VA)", "Online Business Managers (OBM)" and the like … these contractors assist you by performing outsourced tasks. Anything that another person living in a different geographical area can do (sometimes you can find someone local, so the range of tasks is even greater). VAs are entrepreneurs just like you are … their business is separate from yours and they often have multiple clients, in addition to the work they do for you.
Partnering with Virtual Assistants has pros and cons. The pros are that VA professionals are often flexible with the amount of hours that they will take you on for … my first VA started with just 10 hours a month and then progressively increased as my need did. They also can possess specialized knowledge.
My first VA was a whiz in online marketing … which was a perfect match given I was just entering that way of working. She helped me set up my blog, build my social networking profiles, hook up a backend shopping cart to enable online payments, handled customer service emails, etc.
While specialization of your VA can be a pro it can also be a con. VAs understandably like to work in the areas that they like to work in … so if you have a need that they don’t like to do, you may have to shop around for another VA to handle it. Also, they may not have room to grow with you or be able to respond in really quick turnarounds – given their client load – so they have split loyalties. You just aren’t their number one priority, their own business is.
In-Person Employees Vs Contractors:
VAs can be a wonderful beginning place to build your team and for some entrepreneurs, one or several VAs may be the perfect solution for your needs. You do not need to build further. However, if your workload continues to increase and you start to find the virtual way of working a bit of a hindrance (have things that you could really use an in-the-flesh person for), then a ‘real employee’ may be your next step.
This is where my business is at: I have two Virtual Assistants who I adore (thank you Theresa and Pat! … plus two Designers, one bookkeeper and my Accountant) – however I’ve been craving someone who can put in more hours (my business be their only client) and who can become my right-hand person for the next stage of my business expansion. So I’ve added Chris, my new Operations Manager, who works in a desk right beside mine and lives right down the street (he likes his quick commute and is adjusting to a much more laid back corporate culture than his last job!). We coordinate with our virtual teammates via conference calls, email and project management software.
Breakdowns as Breakthroughs:
Whether you build your team virtually or in-person, you should be prepared that there will be breakdowns. And in the big picture I would invite you to see these as breakthroughs. Really!
Entrepreneurs are a certain breed of people – we aren’t always the easiest people to get along with. We are driven, hard workers, particular and opinionated. Those qualities enable us to survive and thrive in our own ventures. In order to create a bigger business, beyond what we can do ourselves, it is imperative that we learn how to lead and communicate effectively. Nothing like a growing business to also grow you as a human being … such an opportunity!
In the course of building your team, you may have some bumps … I certainly have. However, each bump can make you (and your team member) clearer about what you want. If what you both want is no longer a fit, then it is totally fine for you to part ways. Your VA, OBM or employee goes onto where they are next being pulled and you attract the next person to fill the emerging needs that you now have. And you can do it amicably and wish each other well – even refer and support each other in your new ventures.
That is evolution. And as an entrepreneur you have to get used to your business and your team morphing and shifting as it goes along … nothing ever stays the same … that is just business and life!
Keep Your Vision Bright & Strong:
Each celebration and bump in your business helps you move to the next level because through these forms you get clearer about what you like, what feels good and what you next want to accomplish. Like a path of golden lights lightening up your way — step-by-step. I am learning more and more to trust my process … that it has inherent wisdom. That when I launch a vision, life has a way of responding to that vision and bringing me what I need each step of the way … in service of my Vision.
To help this process along, it behooves us to do regular Visioning. To set our sights on what we think/feel we now want and to ‘find the feeling place’ of it. Work through our resistance to having it and learn new skills and attitudes as we go along.
Rather than focusing on your ideal client, focus instead on your Ideal Team Member. And then use the Wouldn’t It Be Nice If map to gain clarity about what you want to occur with and through this special person. Have fun with it … in both cases you are doing powerful energy and alignment work. Both exercises will help you warm up your thoughts and feelings on the topic of building your team …and help you attract them through the amazing power of Law of Attraction. Simultaneously you will also receive insights and guidance about your next logical steps and action to build your team. I look forward to hearing of your successes and manifestations … viva your team!