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Episode 24: What Comes Before Hiring Help? (This Before That Series - Part 2 of 3)

In this second episode of our "This Before That" series, Carmen Reed-Gilkison and Deirdre Harter are discussing what you need to have in place before you consider hiring help. The purpose of this series is to give you guidance on what to focus on and when in your business. Many entrepreneurs believe that they should hire help as soon as possible, and that's simply not the case. Listen in to learn why.

Episode Transcript:

[01:06] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: In this second episode of our this before that series, we're discussing what you need to have in place before you consider hiring help. The purpose of this series is to give you guidance on what to focus on and when in your business. Many entrepreneurs believe that they should hire help as soon as possible, and that's simply not the case. Keep listening to learn why.

[01:31] Deirdre Harter: So, Carmen, we have gone down this road for ourselves and with our clients, and there's this little bit of confusion about what should you hire help, when should you hire help? Should you do it right out of the gate, no matter what stage of business that you're at? So I know that we have talked about this for ourselves, and we've talked about it with our clients. So let's talk a little bit about that for everyone here in the audience about what does come before you're hiring your help. So one of the things I know that is really important and probably the first thing that you should be thinking about is developing the proven processes that you're using in your business. There's a couple of reasons for this, I think, and it's number one, you need to be able to pass those on, right? Like, you need to bring somebody in, but they need to know what to do, and they need to be able to do it in the way in which you do it. So you really have to have these processes figured out ahead of time because if you don't, then someone is going to come in, and they're going to be confused, and it's going to take you a whole lot of time to explain it. And the other part of this is that you don't want them doing things just in the way that they think it should be done. It really has to be done in a way that, you know, works and not just the way they've done it before, the way they think it might have worked.

[02:55] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, and I think that's the key right there: “The way that you know that it works.” And all too often, entrepreneurs get caught up in the whole thing that we talked about in the last session - the first episode in this before that series - that a lot of times entrepreneurs think, well, I need a website because that means that I'm in business. I think the second thing they do is think, well, as soon as I have a team, I'm a “real entrepreneur,” and you could go years without having a team and you could still be a real entrepreneur. But what we're trying to get across here is that when you are ready to hire for a team, first of all, how do you know you're ready? We kind of want to break that down a little bit, but you cannot bring someone on to just fix something you've never solved in the first place. And that's what we're talking about, these proven processes. If you are hiring someone just because you're disorganized and you can't keep things in order, or you forget things fall out of sequence, or you forget to do things, that's a completely different problem than something that a VA or a hired help could handle. You could hire an expert to help you with that for sure. Like you need help in that instance with creating and developing your processes, not having someone do them for you because you don't have them yet, right? I think that's what we're kind of talking about there, Deirdre. 

[04:25] Deirdre Harter: Yes, I agree with you. And a lot of times it's what kind of starts this whole thing is we get this idea that, well, we are so busy, there's so many things to do, and as you bring on more and more clients and you're increasing your revenue, which that's the goal, we end up getting to this place of pushing off the process part. You're not building it as you go. Then we tend to kind of push that aside. And I think that's really the first stumbling block is that this building of processes. And we like to call them SOPs standard operating procedures. It feels like something you do when you're bigger. But really, it starts when you start your business because each process that you're putting together is kind of like building this asset and also verifying that you have some testing and trying to do to make sure it's actually going to work that way. And then when you finally do, then you're like, okay, I know how that works, and we've got that. And then you can kind of focus on the other thing. And I think we skip that step and we get so busy with the sales and the marketing, which we definitely have to focus there. But this has got to be done along the way because you'll find yourself painted into a corner, and all of a sudden, you have got way too much on your plate, and you can't handle it, and you're like, oh my gosh, I need help now. So then you, like, okay, I got to get a VA in here. But then what happens for a lot of people is that they bring them in, and then it just adds more to your plate if you don't have these processes already figured out.

[06:07] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Exactly. And they think that, oh, my gosh, they're pulling their hair out. I need help with this. Oh, it's going to feel so good to hand this off to a VA. But when you're in that kind of a situation, all you're doing is handing off a mess to a perfect stranger, basically. So we want to develop a relationship with the VA. We have to test the VA. This is another issue that comes up, is they'll be like, here the passing of the baton. Here's all the stuff that I do, and I'm hiring you to do it now. And then they kind of wash their hands of it, and they say, “thank goodness, I feel so much better.” And then what happens? What happens is the VA is just like, oh, my gosh, they're overwhelmed. They're overloaded. They have no guidance because the person who handed it off to them didn't have guidance. And it's so important, what you were just saying, Deirdre to develop your processes and put them in writing from day one. If you haven't done that yet, then start this coming Monday or start tomorrow, whatever you're going to do. And as you do things through your day, write down the steps or even speak them into your phone or into a transcription software so that it's writing them down for you. And you need this because there's so many things we do in our businesses, from daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. But there are also some things that we only do, like quarterly or semi-annually or once a year. And I know that I've done this before in the past where I have something to do once in a while. I have to update something, or I have to go in and work in an app or something. And if I have not written down the process, then what have I done? I come back six months to a year later, and it's like, oh, gosh, I don't remember how I did this. And then you're just wasting time trying to figure it out again. So the standard operating procedures seem like they slow you down, right? It seems like it's taking all this time in the beginning. “I don't have time to sit here and write down every step that I do and blah, blah, blah.” It seems that way, but it is the number one key to streamlining everything in your business.

[08:20] Deirdre Harter: Yeah, that is such a good point, Carmen. And that's the benefit, right? It's a benefit you can reap, not just for when you're ready to hire a VA, but like you said, you're saving yourself time because your future self is going to thank you for the time that you put in when you are writing those things down in the very beginning.

[08:44] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Encore Empire was made by women like you for women like you, online business owners in the 40-plus crowd ready to put their expertise to work for them and create the freedom and impact they know is waiting for them. Encore Empire is the place where women who believe that entrepreneurship is the most exhilarating and satisfying way to reach financial security and freedom translate their experience into impact and income while making a difference in the world and leaving a legacy. It's where these women get the support they need to grow and scale. We bring together our backgrounds in business with the financial savvy of a CPA and the insights of a certified online business manager and a whole-person coach to totally transform online businesses and the lives of the women who run them. We call this The Encore Advantage. Learn how we can help you by going to https://encoreempire.com/success.

[09:54] Deirdre Harter: And I think another big part of this is to define the role that you need to be filled based on knowing which tasks that you can hand off to someone else because we all want to get more time. And that's the whole idea because, as the CEO of your company, you are front facing. You should be spending the majority of your time in the sales and marketing area because that's where you're generating revenue. That, along with serving your clients. I think a lot of times, it's easy to hand things off that seem simple. Like. Okay. Email is a problem, and so I'm just going to let somebody else deal with that, or I'm going to let somebody go in and fix my calendar or set appointments for me, or I'm going to let someone go through all of our reference material in our Google Drive and have them organize it. But what happened, and I know this happened when we were working with the VA, this happened to me, is that because I wasn't really ready from a time perspective, I didn't have the time block to onboard this virtual assistant as I needed to. So what was happening is I was throwing out projects, right? Like, go organize this, go reorganize this thing. Because I was trying to keep them busy while trying to get together the things that I want them to do on the regular. And so it became that catch-22, but I also realized that they were doing things that really weren't a good use of time.

[11:34] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, well, and that was a big.. we've had this lesson a couple of times, so we're speaking from experience here because there is a lot that needs to be done, and we do have SOPs in place and we put them in place. I think the first time that we hired VAs, we did not have very many at all, and they were pretty handy with what we gave them. But I think something that people don't think about as well is what you just talked about. You didn't have the time blocked to be able to bring this person on and really onboard them. And now we know the difference, and we've done that several times where we sit, and you've taken the lead on this as onboarding the new hire, right? And they're always contractors, so it's a VA. Onboarding the VA and then setting up weekly meetings. So everybody has a different personality and a different threshold of understanding of how they pick up information, how they work, how many touch points do they need. But when you're bringing someone in, you have to take the lead. And the other thing to remember is everything - the results of the work that person does are on you. And we've helped clients through this before. They're like, oh my gosh, my VA, I'm ready to pull my hair out. It's just not working. And it's like, well, have you set them up for success? And that's kind of what we're talking about here, too. It's like someone's not going to come in like a night in shining armor and be able to just swoosh everything away, like the Calgon lady or any of those things - Calgon take me away! Well, your VA is not going to come and be able to do that. You are responsible. And even when you give a task away, the VA is doing this task, whether it's posting on social media or handling your messages in your inbox, or replying on behalf of the company. They're putting a forward-facing thing out there, depending on the task you give them. But the result of that and the quality of that is up to you, not to them. And I think a lot of people think when you're not preparing ahead of time, you're thinking, I'm hiring this professional to come in. And they do this for other clients, so they'll just be able to do this for me. But that goes back to what you said earlier, Deirdre, which is you have to know that the process works before you can hand it off, and you don't want someone to come in - and this is another thing we've seen - where then the VA has too much power because they have created the process and then the client, the owner of the business, has no idea what that process is. That's a huge no-no.

[14:19] Deirdre Harter: It is. And another reason that getting these processes down and understanding what they are and creating them is because I can't tell you how many times I've talked to clients and women in my networking groups and I hear my VA ghosted me, and they're gone. And it can either be maybe they ghosted them for an event, or they ghosted them for a week, and some of them ghosted them for the rest of their life. They just disappeared.

[14:50] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah.

[14:50] Deirdre Harter: And one thing when I started hearing this, I thought, well, gosh, you should maybe go through an agency, right, because there's different ways to get VA's. You can go to Upwork and hire them. That way, as a contractor, you can hire someone who's a solopreneur, and then there's agency. And in my mind, I'm thinking, okay, agency sounds good because somebody else is watching what they're doing, right? So that means I don't have to do that. And it's true to an extent. Like they're making sure that they log in and do their work and fill out their time cards and all that. However, even on the agency side, there can be problems there because then they're dealing with the schedules and people not showing up, and then they go, oh well, we've got you covered; we'll give you somebody else. Well, guess what? If you don't have those processes and now all of a sudden you've got a brand new VA coming in, how is that going to work out?

[15:45] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, that is such a good point. I think that we're talking about right now the things when you're bringing a VA on for menial tasks or an entry-level VA maybe, or even maybe intermediate. And what you need first is to develop the SOPs, right? You have to have your standard operating procedure. So if you have not done that, we highly encourage you to start, and we will give you a download of a template for an SOP in the show notes of this episode to help you get started. And what you're going to want to do with that is for every single thing that you do in your business, you want to write out who does it. It's a who, what, where, when, why, and how. And you have to answer that question for every step. And I know that sounds extremely daunting, but you are going to thank yourself and hopefully us after you do that. So it's got to be who is going to do it, what are they doing? When are they doing it? Where do they get the resources? Where is it in the email system? Is there already pre-written copy? Is there this, that, and the other thing? So the where and then the how and then you have to write down the steps so that template should help you. And we hope that that gives you a good starting point. So if you have not done this, please start doing that in your own business with your own SOPs starting tomorrow before you try to hire someone else. And if you already have someone doing something for you, have them start writing the SOPs for you and for your business because it is just what Deirdre said earlier, where it's an asset in your business. Your SOP is as much of an asset as is any product or download or anything that you have. The SOPs are extremely valuable. So those are assets. So you first want to develop your SOP, and then you want to ask yourself a couple of questions. Can you automate it? So before you hire anyone, you've got your SOPs, and then you ask, can you automate it? Sometimes automation can take care of the problem, right? Or take something off your plate and streamline and so that you might not have to hire someone. And then can you delegate it? That obviously comes into play when you're hiring someone. But then the other question is, can you delete it? Does it even need to be done right?

[18:05] Deirdre Harter: And I always remember this. I call it the A-D-D method because I have ADD myself. So I always have to come up with these little ways to get myself to do what I need to do and the way in which I need to do it. And so this method has always been helpful for me because I can easily remember it. So every time I'm planning what I'm going to be focused on, what I'm going to be doing, these are the questions I ask myself on a regular basis. Like, is there a way to automate this? Because automation, it's like it's some work upfront, but once you have it, then it's reliable. And then the delegation piece, when you're in this process of thinking about what is the role, what is this person going to be doing? We suggest, because we've done this ourselves, is to conduct a time audit. And what that means is that you're going to write down all the things and the tasks that you do in a week or in a two-week period. Carmen and I did this for the very first time after our first experience with the VA. And we were debriefing that experience and going, okay, that didn't go as well as we had hoped. So we're like, how can we do better with this? And so we did this time audit for ourselves. And it was really an interesting exercise because when you think about something that maybe you kind of dread, you know, maybe it's like not your favorite thing to do in your business, but you know you have to do it. And then there are things that we love to do and the things that we love to do, the time flies by, right? And then the things we are kind of procrastinating or a little resistant to are like, oh, I wish I didn't have to do that. It feels like it's going to take forever. And I know I've experienced this in my personal life as well as in business. But one example I always remember is that one of the things I really dislike doing is the dishes. I love to cook, and my husband usually does the dishes. It's kind of our agreement, but sometimes I have to do the dishes, and I just do not like it. And so I always resist it. And I keep telling myself, I just don't have time. It's going to take me like a half an hour. I just don't have time. Well, one day, I decided to call myself out, and I timed myself, like, I'm going to see exactly how long this really does take me. It took six minutes. I was like, well, unload the dishwasher and load it back up. And interestingly enough, after that, I didn't have the resistance that I used to have to it six minutes. I can do that. And I think it's the same thing in our business. So it helps you kind of in two ways. You kind of get a reality check on it really doesn't take as much time. Or maybe it's like, this takes way more time than I expected. And then it allows you to really decide, is this something I should be doing? Is it a priority? Is it something I could add, automate, delegate, or delete?

[21:03] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: And I think also what the time audit will do for you as well, and the SOPs combined. So let's look at this from two perspectives. If you don't have any SOPs in place and you audit your time, so you track your time for two weeks, and then for the next two weeks, you write up the SOPs, like, maybe for the tasks that you did those first two weeks. And then you go back through with the SOPs; is it any faster? And this is huge because the time audit is going to show you how long it takes you to do something. Well, maybe you've been doing something for the entirety of your business, and you know it like the back of your hand, and you can get in there and do it for, like, in 30 minutes. But a new person might come in, and it might take them an hour. Being able to follow the SOP and time it out is going to help. It's going to help reduce the time that a new person would take. And we always write an SOP out as if someone coming off the street who doesn't know anything about you or your business or whatever the operating procedure is about can come in and follow it from beginning to end and complete the task. That's how detailed we want it to be. So the SOP is going to help you when you do hire. It's going to help you save money because if someone's going through and you don't have an SOP, and they have to figure it out, even if you do like a video to show them. Or maybe you have step one, step two, step three; people learn in different ways. That's another thing I think we learned, Deirdre, too when working with different people. Some people pick things up really easily, and some people need to watch the video more than one time, or others need to read the step-by-step. So you've got to have this written down in a way, and it's got to be laid out so that someone can come in and implement it as quickly as possible. So when you hire them, you're not spending twice as much because it takes them twice as much time.

[23:05] Deirdre Harter: That's a really good point, too, that it is different learning styles. Some people are visual, some are auditory, and some want to read. And the nice thing about SOPs, especially with all the technology that we have that's easy to use, is that you can get all three in one shot. You can shoot a video, and you can get the transcript off of the video, and you can download the audio from the video. So it gives you all three things that you need and just recording it one time. And then you can pull from there and fill in the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

[23:41] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah. And then so what we're talking about here is like basic. Maybe you're bringing in a VA. They're coming in, and they're doing the basic stuff. But what happens when you're ready to scale? When you're ready to scale with help, you need to know what your strategies for your business are. Where are you going to focus your efforts? What are your goals? Do you have your metrics and your KPIs? And I know all of this might sound overwhelming if you are not tracking anything. This is something we help our clients understand how to track is how to track your metrics to know what's working. Right. Deirdre, you're the metrics queen, so I'll let you take it from here.

[24:20] Deirdre Harter: Yeah. And metrics is a very broad term, right? And every business has different metrics that they should be tracking. And honestly, there's so many metrics you can track, you'll drive yourself crazy trying to track them all, and you don't need to track them all. And that's why we say it's important to have your strategy outlined because it's really about what are you focused on right now? I know that we just work with a coach, and we have our marketing and content strategy laid out. And when we look at it, I told Carmen, I said, well, this is like a six-month implementation because it's going to take a long time. It was great suggestions, and she even said, what you're doing is awesome already. But if you want to go to the next level, here's what to do. And so it's like that with every part of our business. We get to a certain level, and we optimize, but then we are looking at what is the next level. That's what scaling is all about. And you need help along the way. And that's going to require different levels of assistance, different team members, and different experts. And in all of this, it's going to begin to cost money because you have to hire these people to help you. And so if you don't have your strategy and you aren't certain it's the right strategy to be following, and you're trying to follow a bunch of strategies, or you're trying to piece them all together, what's going to end up happening is that you're not going to get the result that you're looking for. And it's going to be very costly for you because, at this point of scale is we need to be very intentional about where our time goes and where we are investing. And so that's really what Carmen and I are so passionate about. There is a strategy at every single stage of your business, and we love to help our clients do that because it is different at every stage of business.

[26:19] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: And even when we're talking about hiring, you should have a hiring strategy, right? And I think that's the point of this before that. So we're trying to help lay out the things that you need to have in place before you even look for someone to help you out. It's got to be a strategy. So you've got to figure out those things that we talked about. Do you have your SOP? Can you automate some of the things that you do? Can you delegate? And delegating typically means that you're going to hire someone, but before you delegate, can you delete it? So maybe if we switch automate, delete and then delegate, you want to ask yourself these questions, and you want to make sure that you're ready and you know what you're going to give. And I think that's another thing we didn't really touch on. I think you did a little bit, Deirdre talking about is email management really the thing that's driving you crazy? Is posting on social media really the thing that's taking all your time? And how are you going to know what are the most impactful things to hand off to someone if you haven't done something like a time audit where you track your time, and you saw exactly how much time goes to something? Because think back to Deirdre’s story about the dishes, right? She was like, it's going to take me a half an hour. And it's funny, I've timed myself on the dishes too. And it does; it takes like five or six minutes. But if you don't time it, it always seems like it's taking longer because it's not anyone's favorite thing, I don't think. But that happens in business as well. You might be thinking, oh my gosh, I spent 7 hours working on this thing, and then you find that it was really just an hour. The other thing that happened when we were doing our time tracking is so that initially we did it for two weeks so that we could identify where our time was going and how can we best delegate to someone else? Well, then, life gets in the way. Day-to-day gets in the way. And we kind of dropped off the time tracking bandwagon, and a month or two went by, and we were like talking one day going, you know, I was so busy this week, but I have no idea what I did. And we use our calendar really well. I think we block. The calendar with our time. And I think, for the most part, we keep we keep to that schedule so we can look back on the calendar and see, but you still end up going, I feel like I was working so hard, and I can't put my finger on exactly what we did. So now we've implemented time tracking all the time because it is so rewarding to be able to look back at my week and say, this is what I did. New things come, and new things go, and you will always be able to refer back to your timesheets, essentially, which I don't know if that sounds too like you got into business to do something that isn't where someone is not controlling your work, someone's not controlling every aspect. And now we're telling you the time track. But some of these things, the slow-down-to-speed up things, time tracking is a slow-down-to-speed-up thing. Writing out SOPs is a slow-down-to-speed-up thing. It's the things that allow you to identify what's really going on in your business. And if you don't take the time to do it, you're just wasting time going forward in everything that you do.

[29:40] Deirdre Harter: One final thought on that before we wrap up here is the time tracking piece. There is freedom in it, and it may feel in the beginning like it's another thing you have to do. And at first, it's kind of difficult. It's no different than if you guys have ever done a food journal, if you're looking at your nutrition or an exercise journal, if you're trying to get in better health, if you've heard anyone that's an expert give you advice, that's what they tell you to do, right? You got to have a journal, you got to write it down. And it's the same idea here. And the thing I loved most about the whole time tracking thing is, first of all, it didn't take that long. Like you get in a rhythm. And what I love is that as you get further and further in your business, there's more and more to do all the time. And this allows you to look at things and go. Instead of just saying, let's just pile more on, let me do everything I was doing last week in 40 hours, let me add ten more hours on this week. Like, that's what happened. This way, you can look at it, and you can say, well, there's more to do now. So that means if I'm going to add more on, something's got to go. And this allows you to look at that and decide and make a very strategic decision on what has to go. It's really an exercise of prioritizing. And for me, that was so helpful because I didn't constantly feel like, well, how am I going to fit this into my schedule?

[31:03] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That reminds me, too; we're talking about when I said some things come and some things go I guess what I'm talking about is project work. So recently, we've had a lot of project work with our rebrand, and some other things that we're doing that are brand new. Well, now if we're going back, let's say next year, we decide to implement something new, and it's similar, and we can go back and say, well, you know what? Last year we did X, Y and Z. Let's go look at our time logs and see how much time we spent on that. And that way, we know on a project-by-project basis how much time was spent implementing that. And then, if we want to hire help for that project, we have a better idea. So if we get quotes, then we can know essentially this is how much time it took us. It does give you freedom. It gives you time freedom going forward, and it gives you financial freedom because you're saving time.

[31:52] Deirdre Harter: Be sure to download that template, that SOP template. And we challenge each one of you to download it and just get started. It's not something that you've got to clear the decks and get a week off in order to do it. It really is about deciding that this is important, number one, and that this is what you're going to do. And you just begin taking small steps. It's the small, consistent steps that really get us where we want to go. It's not the giant leaps that we take always.

[32:27] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And you can download that at https://vip.encoreempire.com/sop, and the link will be in the show notes.

[32:40] Deirdre Harter: Thank you for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Encore Entrepreneur. Can you do us a favor? It will help us if you would please subscribe to the show, leave a review, and share it with your friends.

[32:57] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Our goal with this podcast is to bring you the real talk about how to be successful without compromising your values. And we need your help to spread the word.



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