This is a continuation of my 2020 review and of what worked. For reference, you can refer back to the first post in the series here.
Toward the end of 2020 I hired a client manager. I already had a bookkeeper who’s been with me for over a year, but as I continue to onboard more clients and attempt to stay true to only working part time, I knew I needed to duplicate myself.
I needed someone who could take over some client meetings and fill in the gaps where needed with bookkeeping.
Truthfully if I wanted to (or could) logistically work full time, I wouldn’t need a client manager.
But as you may know, I’m also trying to “clockwork” my businesses. This is impossible for a solopreneur to do without hiring.
So here’s what worked:
When you hire, you inherently have to start letting go of control and delegating. Otherwise there’s no point in hiring.
I’ve had various conversations with other entrepreneurs and bookkeepers and when I suggest hiring, there’s some major blocks around it.
And it usually has to do with
Let’s start with letting go of control.
This one definitely takes a mindset shift—as with most things business-development.
Mistakes will be made, but it’s how you communicate what you need done and the effort you put into training (and hiring) the right person.
I like to slowly give tasks as the person proves themselves—in Clockwork they call this “training wheels.”
I explain what the outcome of the task is, and give them responsibility. If they get stuck, I ask them to present me with what they think should be the next step and I either agree or ask them to try again. Or I’ll use that moment for more training.
YES it takes time! YES, you have to be ok with mistakes being made. But you don’t ever blame your employee for things going wrong—you should always reflect on how you could have trained them better.
Letting go of control will become easier the more you do it (it’s almost addictive to delegate things once you have a taste of not doing everything yourself). But it will help to build trust. So let’s tackle that one next.
I’m no stranger to managing—in fact, I built and led a team of 10 accountants and accounts payable bookkeepers. And some days it was definitely rough.
But it’s different when YOU get to set the vision for the company and hire and mentor according to YOUR vision. Hindsight, I could have created this same culture better in corporate, by setting a vision for my team. So if you’re still in corporate, this is still for you, too.
When you hire for your corporate job, you’re usually focused on filling a seat to carry some of the workload. Generally you’re hiring too late so you’re a little desperate. So you’re mostly focused on hiring for skills, not all around cultural fit.
Granted, this can happen in smaller businesses too (it does a lot—and that’s why I coach my clients around hiring when I start to notice certain trends. I don’t want them to be in this situation, but it definitely requires a leap of faith sometimes.)
But I want to show you that hiring before you feel you need it is actually better, starting with the trust factor.
This gives you time to build trust before the stakes are too high, allows for a less stressful onboarding and will set your new staff up for greater success.
And how do you deal with the mindset of sharing your profits?
Some people might say—it cuts into your profits. It’s all about how you look at it. I prefer to share my profits and add jobs to our economy. My business can also help more entrepreneurs by having a bigger team. It’s all about the ripple effect for me.
Sure, I could keep the 1,000 from two clients all to myself but I’d also be doing all the work myself, leaving less time to work on the Ambitious Bookkeeper™ (sort of my passion project) and of course with my kids.
Now I’m keeping 50% of what the business brings in after taxes but also working less.
Some might say it’s not worth the headache but that’s only if you don’t take your time making the right hire.
Which brings us back to hiring before you feel ready.
I hope you are starting to see that it’s ok (and even encouraged) to start looking to hire before you are 100% ready.
It’s sort of like quitting your 9-5. At a certain point, you know that you’ll have to take a leap of faith in order to continue to grow your business.
And what about that paycheck? Well, set aside about 3 months of salary before you hire them. And if you can’t afford to do that, you either need to raise your prices or get more clients first.
This is where it can be a catch 22. For me, full transparency—I did not have 3 months salary “saved” but I knew I had leads in the pipeline and could turn up the dial as soon as she was up to speed to start bringing on more clients. 2 more clients at my minimum fee covers her salary (again, part time).
I hope this all helps you realize that you can start hiring if you don’t want to be the only one doing everything. And you can start with contractors--you don’t have to go straight to employees. You also don’t have to hire full time. But all of these tips stand true with contractors as well.
Is hiring a team part of your 2021 plan? I’d love to hear—come join the conversation on IG!
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