Three things I wish I’d really understood when I decided to run my own business – Part 2

2. It’s all up to you!

This can be one of the most amazing parts of running your own business– you can choose what you do and when – but can also be challenging in terms of managing your time and prioritising tasks.

You would think that for most people escaping a 35 hour a week slog, the temptation would be to laze around – watching daytime TV and eating cake – but you would be wrong!

The most common scenario is that you end up working until midnight, or checking emails late in the evening and on weekends and struggle to take off anywhere near the 4 weeks of annual leave a year that you would provide to your employees. I for one tended to pop upstairs to the teeny home office for ‘5 minutes’ – which my family soon realised could be anything from 5 minutes to 3 hours.

Most of this comes from the drive to succeed – most entrepreneurs want their business to be a success, not just for their own sake, but to demonstrate to the naysayers that they are not completely nuts to go out into the world of business on their own. There is also the issue, that unlike an employed job, if you don’t work you don’t earn, or certainly not in the early days.

So you could say the problem is time-management… but is it really?

The real problem that many people find is the inability to delegate. It’s true that people buy people and that treating your clients fairly and well will lead to a brilliant business model – but we each only have 24 hours in a day.

Having some tasks delegated to an assistant, whether employed or on a freelance basis, can free up your time to do what you are good at – seeing clients, building relationships and networking. Being able to offload admin tasks, the design of your website or someone to receive deliveries in your absence, can free up time for you to do more profit-generating activities.

It took me having a melt-down over my husband doing an online grocery order without consulting me to discover that I had more control issues than I realised.

Really? Yes! – if you’d like to know the story, feel free to get in touch!

However the up-side to this was that it led me finally taking on a personal assistant, someone who shared my vision and was able to care for my clients the way I’d like them cared for. This in turn has boosted my business, as I can now focus on the 20% key tasks that generate 80% of my business.

The ideal personal assistant

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t just employ someone without serious consideration. Besides employment law issues- contracts / policies & procedures, you also need to arrange a payroll system and importantly ensure there is sufficient cash-flow to support your payroll. Failure to pay on time is a breach of contract, and to be fair is not going to be received well by your employee(s) in most cases!

You can currently get an allowance towards employer National Insurance Contributions, which reduces some of the costs – but you will also need an expert to help you arrange the correct employer’s liability insurance, and you may have to set up a Workplace pension if any of your employees are earning £10,000 a year or more and aged between 18 and State retirement age. You will also need to calculate their entitlement to statutory holiday and ensure that you allow them to take the (paid) time off at reasonable intervals.

If you choose to take on a contractor or freelancer, you do not necessarily need a payroll system, as they will invoice you directly for work done. You should take care that they don’t end up being categorised as a ‘worker’ giving them very similar rights to employees in terms of holidays etc. HMRC have really clamped down on businesses trying to circumnavigate the system, so take some specialist advice from someone like Mike at employment law 4U .

The most important consideration is that you should also select someone that shares your vision – what do you want for your clients? Does your potential candidate share your values?

As soon as you get to this point, it is worth starting a simple set of ‘operating procedures’ for your business so that you can streamline your processes. Many of the tasks that your business undertakes will be the same from week to week – and if you are to truly be able to step away from the business, you need to give your assistant the authority to make certain decisions (within the pre-agreed parameters that you have agreed) without you. If you are going to stand over their shoulder and need to sign off every task – you’re not gaining time, you’re creating work for yourself.

A useful book on managing the balance between your roles as worker, entrepreneur and manager is the E-myth – by Michael Gerber –  It will also help you take a look at how you see your business developing over the next 5-10 years, as some decisions you make now to do with staff and workforce structure can reap huge rewards later on.


Go back and read part 1

Continue to part 3


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