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ShmoozBiz (shmooz-biz) n. 1. the business network for crowdfunding, startups, investors, and service providers focused on building relationships that take your business to the next level.

How many hats are too many? Perfecting the hat trick

Business Development. Accounting. Marketing. Operations. Customer Service. Payroll. All essential parts of a business that require systems and human capital to operate. Established businesses have the resources to hire capable people to lead initiatives in each category.

But what about a startup company? How many hats are too many for the startup Founder and/or Co-Founder to handle on their own? At what point will the startup have to scale up their operations in order to continue to acquire customers while at the same time delivering high quality service?

These are the questions that startups begin to have to ask themselves when they have had early success and realize that 18 hour work days for months on end will eventually lead to burn out and failure. This is exactly the moment when a startup company must innovate and find ways to solve the complex problem of wearing too many hats.

Scenario: Your company is acquiring customers. You are working on every part of the business, but slowly you realize that your main concern should be providing amazing customer service to retain the customers you have. You shift focus slightly and provide that service, but now something else happens...new leads stop coming in because you stopped marketing / prospecting in order to service your existing customers. What do you do?

Options 1: In this scenario, the first step would be to ask empowering questions of yourself. Some such questions can be, can the process of servicing clients or generating leads be automated by existing technologies in order to free up capacity to acquire additional customers? This will take you down a path of discovering what part of your business is a commodity and thus should be automated and what part of your business is the true unique value proposition.

Options 2: Review your customer base and determine if the customer is a good customer to have. At times, we do not clearly measure the cost of a customer. They may be paying us to service them, but some customers are easier to work with than others. Determine which customer is your ideal customer and focus entirely on acquiring them for the most profitable use of your time.

Options 3: Work longer days initially until you reach a tipping point when hiring an additional employee makes financial sense. Hiring should be done as the last possible moment where you are close to saying "I can't take it anymore". Ensure that as you have been servicing your clients, you have been documenting how the work is done to ensure a quick on-board of the new hire.

Employees and human capital bring on a whole new level of challenges. When you hire an employee, it means that you are letting go of a piece of your baby. You begin to think to yourself, how can someone possibly replicate the work and service that I provide the way that I do? You feel as though your name and reputation is on the line, and it is, and suddenly you get scared. This is an exciting time in your company, but also a time where a new unknown comes into play. Are you a leader that people will want to follow? Can you inspire a workforce to care about your customers as much as you do? The answers to those questions will undoubtedly be the result of your ability to lead your team through the unknowns, but also listen to them and realize that they just might be able to service your clients better than you can.

Summary: If you are as committed to your people as your are to your business, you will find a way to scale an operation. It will not be easy. Mistakes will be made. It is only the natural progression of a startup that eventually, you have to let your baby grow, walk, and run, and the only way your baby will ever grow up into an established business is by inspiring others to care as much as you do for what your baby will become.

Kind Regards,

Manolis Sfinarolakis

Founder & Producer

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