When my brother-in-law started his landscaping business in 2007, he didn’t expect his part-time operation to escalate to 50 hours of work per week within two months. And it was a big commitment for him to employ his first staff member six months in, but was necessary for him to meet demand. As soon as he was aware of the demand for the service he was offering, he prepared himself for growth and this planning quickly paid dividends.

2016_MAR_ALL_PRODUCTIVITY - Growing it alone: expanding your solo operation

Accounting for 15% of the UK’s total workforce, there are now more than 4.6 million self-employed people in the UK – an all-time high. A growing number of people in the USA are earning six figures in solo businesses and GenXers and Baby Boomers are finding they can do more on their own and make more money, so it’s definitely the “era of the self-employed”. However, for some solo operations it can be slow grind to grow your business. Here are a few tips that could help you fast track the process.

Is it viable?

Your business idea might seem like a good one to begin with, but if you’re two years down the track and still struggling to make it work then it’s possible you’d regret not researching the viability before getting started.

‘The biggest mistake I see these days is thinking that a business idea will automatically turn into a viable business model,’ says solo working consultant and author Terri Lonier to Inc. Magazine. Start your journey with some research and survey if there is actually a need for your idea. If there is in fact a need, then celebrate – with planning your business! Set out your main goals and roadmap your aspirations for success.

Don’t doubt yourself, but it’s best to make informed choices about your idea before making a commitment to it.

Make it scalable

You may be a solo operation now but it’s likely you have aspirations of growing your customer base large enough to have your own staff – Account Managers, Customer Service Representatives, your own Assistant; the sky’s the limit! You might not have the cash flow or the demand for staff at this, but it’s a great idea to set the foundations for growth now. “If a company acquires two or three new clients and then realizes it can’t fulfil their demands, their scaling efforts are likely too little and too late”, says Centric Digital CEO Jason Albanese.

Invest in infrastructure that is ready for expansion when you need it; whether it be an IT platform or your manufacturing equipment. See if you can enter into supply agreements where costs decrease with the more you purchase. Create enough recurring revenue that ensures you can be cash flow positive each month; the remainder can be invested into more growth. Being proactive could save you a bit of money and reduce stress when expanding.

Surround yourself with advisors

You might be alone in running your business, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone! In fact, it’s best to get advice from the experts whenever you can. Engaging an accountant that is interested in helping you with more than just tax or finding a business mentor can set you up for success. You can also look online for experienced business professionals looking to help people like you if you need quick answers or advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!="#361693e3c7a3;">

Delegate

Believe it or not, you can delegate tasks even when you don’t have any staff. You can outsource your accounts to a bookkeeper, or hire a virtual assistant to do the things you don’t like doing or don’t have the time for. Websites likeFiverr are also great for finding people who can do the tasks you need completed quickly. Consider the opportunity cost of every admin task you do and the time it takes for you to complete; it could be cheaper to outsource.

Satisfy customers

I don’t need to tell you that your customers are your livelihood and that they equal food on your table. Keep them happy. Meet deadlines, and if you’re going to run past the deadline then explain why and when they can expect completion. Referrals from your current customers are your biggest marketing resource, so make sure you sustain satisfaction.

Automate

Automation isn’t just for big companies who are looking to improve their bottom line, it’s also for small businesseswho need to save time and mental energy by removing repetitive and tedious tasks from their to-do lists. You can automate marketing with tools like Infusionsoft or Hubspot, your appointment schedule with Timely, or your unpaid receivables with Debtor Daddy.

Harness the power of technology to make the most of your day and focus on what you need to.

Make time for life

Small business owners are some of the hardest working people in the world. It is unfortunate to note that work-life balance is a struggle for your average entrepreneur. A recent survey by a business coaching organization found that about half of all U.S. business owners work 50 or more hours per week, and 20 percent work 60 or more hours. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they feel they work too much, and many would prefer to work fewer than 40 hours a week.

Being overworked can become counterproductive and leave you feeling unhappy. Symptoms of being overworked include:

  • Increased stress levels, which can lead to more serious health issues;

  • Reduced productivity

  • Unhealthy relationships – an overworked person can struggle to keep their temper with family and colleagues.

Do yourself a favour and take some time out for yourself – block out time in your diary for family time, exercise, or just relaxation. It’s best to look after your business’ most important aspect – you!

Travis Gordon Debtor Daddy

Debtor Daddy works with your existing online accounting software proactively reducing your debtors and increasing cash flow