Business owners need to stick to what they're good at to grow

Hayley Conick, country manager for Elance-oDesk, argues that successful business builders must be able to begin delegating.

Business confidence has reached a record high this year, according to the ICAEW UK Business Confidence Monitor.

This is of course good news. However, as a business owner you need more than just stats about renewed confidence – you need that confidence to translate into tangible growth.

But how do you concentrate on growth when you are constantly faced with an ever expanding to-do list that takes up more and more of your time? Most UK businesses start with just one or two people and, as a result, business owners get used to wearing many hats and doing everything themselves: from developing a new marketing partner (great for growing the business), to inputting invoices for their accountant (not so much).

To truly take advantage of a recovering economy, business owners need to prioritise the key levers that will help them grow – while keeping the day-to-day business running. As businesses get busier, this gets harder and harder for one (or even two) people to accomplish. In short – something’s got to give.

It’s natural to want to know everything that is going on across marketing, accounting, HR and operations. After all, it’s your business and you absolutely should have insight into every aspect of it.

However, this is not synonymous with doing it all yourself. Inevitably you will reach a point where you will have to relinquish some control as there is only so much you can do. It will not always be feasible (or indeed sensible) to spend hours on small tasks such as writing copy for an event invite or sorting through company expenses.

You may think that the little day-to-day tasks that crop up here and there — anything from organising calendars to sending weekly client reports — might only take a few minutes, but collectively they really add up.

These are tasks that don’t necessarily need a full time position to cover but do need people to do them properly. We’re already seeing smart business owners take advantage of the myriad of independent professionals available at the click of a mouse. These businesses are increasingly accessing what we call ‘online workers’ with specific skills in areas like data entry and calendar management as well as hiring more all-encompassing virtual assistant roles, which have seen an incredible 1,701 per cent rise in business spend on Elance-oDesk between 2013 and 2014.

One business that successfully adopted this method is UK based start-up, Project Bubble, the online project management software. When founder and CEO Stu Green first set up the business in 2010 it was run entirely by himself and his wife.

Two years in, the business was really beginning to grow and Green found himself overwhelmed by the amount of customer support required – replying to every email that came in was taking vast amounts of his time. While looking for a solution Stu admits, ‘I didn’t think that you could even hire a virtual assistant that would be any good at customer service, I thought they were just useful for things like “make me a spreadsheet”, or “create some backlinks”.’ After a friend suggested looking for a virtual assistant, Green has worked with the same customer support assistant for over two years.

If you’re trudging through your tax return or fiddling for hours with Photoshop, you’re definitely not making best use of your time and you’re probably not making a great job of it either. Don’t run your business doing lots of stuff averagely; do less stuff, but outstandingly. Just like Green, by delegating parts of your to-do list to people with specific skill sets, you can free up precious extra hours and allow yourself to focus on your number one goal: nurturing and growing a successful business.

See also: Virtual PAs – the lowdown

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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