When you start a new company, you have to do it all. Yes, all of it.
No one else (well, aside from perhaps your co-founders) is going to take that little seed of an idea and turn it into something that makes sense to the rest of the world and attracts users.
But that "I can do it all" mentality will soon have to go--and it actually has to go pretty early on. You're going to have to learn to outsource, as soon as you can afford it. That doesn't mean you can wait until you are tired of doing certain things, or until you think someone else is "ready" to take them on for you.
Your company will be better--and stronger--the sooner you are not doing these four things:
1. Getting Through That Stack of Paperwork
Sure, you're an intelligent and highly capable individual, and you are learning a lot on the fly as you build your company. But you also need to come to terms with the fact that there are things you have chosen not to be an expert in.
How do you weed out these things? Identify the kinds of paperwork that are tedious or boring to you. These usually are the kinds of things you avoid in your personal life as well as at work. They are items you actively and regularly procrastinate on.
Though they will differ for everyone, the usual suspects are taxes, accounting, and legal incorporation.
Don't take chances with your legal documents, and definitely don't waste time reading the IRS's help site or trying to educate yourself to become an expert on corporate taxes or accounting. "For our start-up, the first outsourced job was an accountant," says A. Lauren Abele, COO of Pipeline Fellowship, which trains women philanthropists to be angel investors. "This was a must-do. However, I would suggest being choosy. A great accountant is also a patient one."
But, it should go without saying, further down the line you should consider hiring tax and legal experts internally. As Abele puts it: "Outsourcing was the most cost-effective way of integrating [these] professionals into our nimble start-up."
2. All of Your Own Writing
There's definitely something to be said for sharing your vision as CEO of your company with the world and putting your voice out there. Keeping a "CEO blog" or "founder's blog" can be a great platform for engaging your users in a nontraditional way, reaching people outside of your product pitch and building rapport without selling them anything except a belief in your ideas.
There's also broader thought leadership. Writing a column for a publication (like this one!) is also a fantastic way to build an external following and reputation as a leader in your space. And maybe you actually enjoy writing, too.
But creating content is easier--and more effective--with a great editor. It's no accident that I work with two. I often ask members of my team to help with topic ideas or even fleshing out outlines in their areas of expertise. Heck, even the anchors and reporters you see on the evening news write only a fraction of the words that come out of their mouths. So, do yourself--and your reputation--a favor, and get a hand with your messaging.
3. Your Company's Social Media
Just like writing, managing a community of active, engaged users takes time. It's fantastic to be known as a company that responds quickly to users, shares great resources and friendly banter with them over Twitter, and forges relationships on Pinterest, Facebook, and every other social media site out there.
But, again, it shouldn't be you doing it after a certain stage. As CEO, you're the face and voice of the company--but you're not the only voice behind every tweet, pin, and post that goes out. You don't have time to be.
You can handle your company's social media when it's at an early stage, but when it comes time to get serious about proactively building up a community, you need someone else who can focus on it, 24/7 (or whatever hours your nonfounder team members are working). Here, the solution may not be traditional outsourcing. It may mean hiring a community manager or social media manager on a contract or part-time basis until you have the resources to hire her full time. It may even mean carving the time out of one--or several--current team member's calendar and workload. But don't fool yourself into thinking you can do community management well on the side and still give the broader strategic and operational questions of your company the attention they deserve.
4. Managing Your Personal Insecurities
Finally, you shouldn't be trying to deal with all the tough issues yourself. Find someone who can be your coach and give you an outside perspective on the problems you encounter.
Tereza Nemessanyi of HonestlyNow says: "Every CEO should 'outsource' his insanity and insecurities to a coach. Find the right one for you, and establish the relationship early so he or she can have a baseline on you before you enter the roller coaster, rather than finding one when you're in panic mode."
The truth is, as a CEO, you'll encounter challenges you didn't even know could exist, and you'll want someone outside of your company to lean on and help you get back on top of the game when things are rough. Plus, the simple fact is, it's going to take you a whole lot longer to sort things out if you expect to come up with all the answers and the perspective yourself. "You're paying your coach to be brutally honest with you, but also to tell you when what you're experiencing is normal. Being CEO can be lonely, for sure," says Nemessanyi. "A great coach is worth her weight in gold in keeping your eyes on the prize for the marathon."