When To Hire An Assistant
For small entrepreneurs, one of the biggest leaps to take is the decision to hire an assistant or manager to take on some of their work. It is easier to justify hiring another salesman or an additional shop worker for it is a simple task to determine if they are needed to increase sales or production output. However, hiring someone to do what you are currently doing is a totally different matter. This time, it’s personal and all sorts of fears come into play.
The most common reason entrepreneurs fear passing on some of their work is the belief that only they can do it right. This is, at least, partly true; no one cares as much about the company than its owner. Usually, too, the proprietor knows more how to best operate his business.
Fear of trade secrets being known or clients pirated is another common deterrent. Unlike large corporations, a small business is easier to duplicate, all the more if you know its trade secrets. It is possible that an employee could eventually run off to a competitor or set up a competing business.
Entrepreneurs, who are used to carefully watching every peso, may also think that they could save a lot of money if they do it themselves. As a result of this belief, some businessmen do the work of three people. For a small business, the payroll saved is indeed substantial and may in fact amount to almost the entire profits for some.
While all of the above reasons for not getting an assistant are true to some extent, there comes a point when it is obvious that help is needed. Here are some of the signs that you definitely need an assistant:
•Work is piling up even if you are already working overtime daily. When you can no longer do the work that you must do, you have no choice but to get some help.
•You no longer have time for your family. If you are sacrificing too much family time, you have to reassess if the cost is worth it.
•You no longer have time for your health. When you can no longer find the time to have sufficient sleep, regular exercise or medical check-ups, then you are foregoing things that are more critical.
•Errors due to fatigue are becoming common. When blunders are committed due to overwork, it is a strong signal that you can no longer cope with the load.
•You do not have time to do long-term planning. With so much to do, virtually all hours are spent doing daily routines or putting out fires.
•It has been too long since your last vacation. You must look at the big picture and recall what the purpose of making money is. Having enough spare time to recharge and enjoy life is one of the most important considerations to working hard.
When you have decided that hiring someone to help you is the right thing to do, the next thing to learn is how to go about this wisely:
•Learn to delegate. Patience and proper communication are needed to delegate. It is recommended that you list down the procedures in detail to minimize errors. Read a couple of books on delegation to hone your skills. Delegation takes time to master. Do not be frustrated if it is not done as well as you would be able to do it. Remember the lesson of comparative advantage— you may be able to type faster than your assistant, for example, but you have more valuable things to do with your time than to type.
•Have a non-compete and nondisclosure contract. To counter the risk of losing your trade secrets, there are many possible measures you can take. One is to have a non-compete contract. This contract forbids your employee from competing with you or going to a competitor for a limited amount of time (often two years). A non-disclosure contract, on the other hand, forbids revealing company information or data to others. There are certain legalities you must know to implement these contracts; consulting a labor lawyer would be a wise investment. You should also disclose only the information needed. Be extra careful in protecting your databases of clients and key suppliers.
•Maintain control. You need not give up total control even if you have assigned a function. Since it is your business, you set the rules. Establish control points to minimize the risks of abuse. You can also retain for yourself the most important clients
and final authority on some crucial items. It is also a must to do both regular and random checks to make sure things are going right.
Be aware of the pros and cons of hiring an assistant or manager for your work. It is not always the right path. Indeed, the cost may be too much for a small business to bear. You may also be doing this for the wrong reasons. Remember the time freed up by delegating to your assistant must be put to better use and not just as an excuse for laziness.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.