10 Ways to Identify Whether You Need Outside Help
“Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it only means that you’re wise.” – Unknown
Businesses always need help. Whether they are small, mid-size, or large, they all need help on occasion and that help or expertise is not always available in-house. If you’re a small business, you will probably need more help, and in more areas than mid-size or large companies, because small businesses have only a few people managing many different areas.
For example, the business owner/CEO may also be the Marketing Manager and the IT Manager. The Office Manager may also be the HR Manager, Recruiting Manager, Compliance Manager, etc. The Sales Manager may also be the Product Manager and they may all be part Customer Service Manager. And because these managers were given the additional responsibilities and functions without training or even much thought, they are not very good at these parts of their jobs.
As the company grows, many of these functions will be separated, but until then, the managers need to be able to address the day-to-day duties, problems, and issues associated with these functions. So if you are one of these multi-function, multi-tasking, jack-of-all-trades managers, here are 10 ways to identify whether and when it’s time to look for some outside help:
You are experiencing pain – This is the most obvious, and unfortunately the worst time to seek outside help. This means that something has gotten to the point where you are in serious trouble. For example, some companies roll the dice when it comes to HR compliance. They do nothing and hope nothing goes wrong, until something does go wrong. Unfortunately, by then it may be a legal situation and it generally means that whatever the solution, it will be costly.
You’re about to experience pain – You can see it coming, you just can’t find a way to avoid it. This could be good pain or bad pain. For example, good pain is running a marketing or web campaign that results in more calls than you can handle. Good pain for a while. Bad pain if you can’t fulfill the orders or satisfy the customer. An example of bad pain could be when you don’t keep up on your server or desktop security patches and end up with a companywide virus. This happens when you are filling multiple roles where you know something about the function, but not enough to always avoid oncoming pain.
You wish to avoid pain – Someone with good foresight may look at a specific project, plan, or upcoming event and want to ensure that it goes well so they will bring in the outside expertise to manage or consult. This may cost some money up front, but it avoids the cost of fixing problems and the unquantifiable costs such as customer dissatisfaction and lost opportunities.
You don’t have the knowledge or experience in-house – This is a decision that every business owner will make at some point. Do you train someone who is already in-house, hire the expertise, or bring in a consultant to help with the specific project or implementation? Many things go into such decisions, such as whether the experience and knowledge is going to be needed on an ongoing basis. Can it be taught in a reasonable amount of time? Also, how soon do you need the expertise and how much time do you have to interview and select a new employee? Finally, in the long run is it going to cost more to train, to hire, or bring in a consultant on an as needed basis?
You are planning on doing something new – All companies have to re-invent themselves in some way, shape, or form in order to stay in business. Look at how many times MacDonald’s has changed! At some point, your company will make a decision to offer a new product or service and you may not have or fully trust your in-house personnel to be able to launch the new offering. In that case, you may have to make the same decisions as mentioned in the previous section – whether it’s better to train, hire, or bring in a consultant.
Your business is stagnant – Many times, businesses are happy to stay as they are. They are happy with sales and revenue and even though they are not growing, they are not losing business either. The business is stable. It’s important, though, to ensure that the business is truly stable and not stagnant. This is the time to review your strategy and business operations. It’s time to review your processes, vendors, metrics, and personnel to ensure that you have what you need to remain stable. Since you are very close to your forest, you may not see the trees, meaning that you may need to have an outside, objective presence to look at your business, ask the pertinent questions, and assess your stability.
You are experiencing uncontrolled growth – So many things fall through the cracks when businesses grow quickly. It’s great to have a product or service that everyone wants, but the processes, procedures, people, and systems you put in place can only handle the uncontrolled growth for so long. You can only work so many hours, only have so many unfulfilled orders, only have so many customer complaints, and only handle so much stress and employee turnover before the growing business runs itself out of business. At times it’s good to have someone outside concentrate on ensuring the business stays in business while you run the business.
Your stack of hats is becoming too heavy – As the company grows, those employees who are wearing multiple hats will soon find that not only do the hats not fit very well, they are getting very heavy. Each function has its own set of problems and as the company grows, the issues within each function grow as well. The point will come when the decision must be made to hire more employees or to outsource specific functions. Examples of outsourced functions might be IT, Human Resources, and Payroll along with getting help with sales training, product development, etc.
You have no time for strategic planning – As the CEO or owner of the company, you need to be able to spend time “on” the business. Many business owners find that almost all of their time is taken up by putting out fires and making sure the day-to-day operations are running smoothly. In other words, “in” the business. Companies will grow, sometimes in spite of decisions that are made, but if you want to avoid many of the growth problems I mentioned above, you must have a strategic plan for where you want to be. Many times, getting an outsider’s objective opinion and expertise can help you grow your business so that you avoid or at least mitigate potential threats.
You are ignoring glaring symptoms – Have you ever seen something that you thought might become a problem, but you decided to do nothing about it and hoped it would go away? That’s ignoring a glaring symptom. Ignoring customer complaints, ignoring upgrading computer hardware or software, ignoring potential HR compliance issues, ignoring rising costs, and ignoring employee issues are examples of glaring symptoms that will turn into glaring problems. If you can’t take the time to address the glaring symptoms, consider an outside source to address them for you. The cost will be much lower than if you let them become problems.
Asking for help shows strength. Admitting you don’t know everything shows wisdom. Getting the professional help you need regardless of whether it is internal or external, shows leadership.
About the Author — Ron Feher is the Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions whose mission is to help make small businesses better by making their people better. He concentrates on the people aspects of business through his Executive Coaching and Manager Mentoring Programs, Job Benchmarking, Staff Development, and meeting facilitation and motivational speaking. Ron does Career Coaching as an outreach (#givingback) and is a certified consultant through Career Direct, an assessment that helps people identify careers that fit their personality, interests, talents, and values. Ron is also a certified professional analyst with TTI Success Insights®. He utilizes their assessments to help hire and retain top talent and improve team effectiveness and efficiency. WhiteRock is located in Orange County, California and can be found at www.whiterockbusiness.net; or contact Ron directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (949-466-0943). @RonFeher