My family loves watching Restaurant: Impossible. The show provides an extreme makeover for restaurant owners who have little or no prior experience. Most of them are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
In most episodes, Chef Robert Irvine decides that the restaurant leadership and expertise is out-of-whack. The auteur with the knife in the kitchen might not have the people skills necessary to manage the wait staff. The bubbly front-of-house staff might not be capable of ordering food deliveries or creating a menu. When people aren’t in the right role or are trying to do too much, they get frustrated and the entire enterprise suffers.
Starting and running a business, of any kind, is not something you should do alone. The best leaders know when to delegate or outsource, but some owners let years go by and delay critical business decisions because of arrogance, fear, or a lack of confidence.
I waited far too long to hire employees because I was afraid it’d take too long to train them and they’d never do things the way I wanted. Of course, the result was total suffocation and paralysis. Just like in the TV show, it wasn’t any fun being the owner, chef, server, host, accountant, marketer and dishwasher!
So when should you step back and let another cook in the kitchen?
1. Legal. The time to call an attorney isn’t when you’re forming your company or being sued. As your company grows and you hire employees, you need an employment attorney to keep you in compliance with state and federal laws. It’s also wise to have an attorney review your contracts with customers and suppliers.
2. Accounting. I have no desire to become an expert on taxes, and I really don’t look good in an orange jumpsuit. When my business started to grow I switched from a one-man tax preparer to the tax partner of a large accounting firm. It’s worth every penny to sleep well at night. Even though there are tools that automate accounting and bookkeeping tasks for small businesses, like QuickBooks Online, a seasoned bookkeeper or CPA can be invaluable. They can help you manage within a budget, watch out for potential tax hits, and even give you advice about long-term financial strategies.
3. Insurance. No business owner has time to shop around for the best business liability insurance. And if you have to add other policies, like errors and omissions, employee dishonesty and umbrella coverage, it’s critical to trust a seasoned broker who knows how to protect your business and provide insight into appropriate levels of coverage.
4. Benefits. Like legal support, I think it’s critical to have support for employee benefits. You might be trying to build a staff in a highly competitive environment, in which case a terrific benefit consultant will let you know what the table stakes are for health, vacation, etc. Or, you may just want to conform to the law and need a simple, cost-effective, legal plan. Either way, a benefits consultant can navigate the options and save you time and headaches.
5. Marketing. So many passionate entrepreneurs fail at marketing. That’s probably because a certain amount of distance is necessary to see the marketing challenge and surmount it. Do you really want to spend valuable business time picking out fonts, designing websites and writing a brochure? A website isn’t just good looking and easy to navigate. It needs to be a positive reflection of your brand. It needs to act as a resource for target customers, tell a compelling story, differentiate you from competitors, be optimized for search engines -- and it needs to be easy for your company to update. Want to spend weeks or months learning how to do this, or hire an experienced pro who does it better than you ever dreamed?
6. Tech Support. From the Geek Squad to the local nerd, small businesses have plenty of options for keeping their computers, software and network running smoothly. You can spend time and aggravation doing it yourself, but when technology changes so fast and there’s so much to lose, why risk it?
7. Mindless, time-consuming tasks. In many major metro areas, you can use services such as TaskRabbit or Exec.com to outsource all sorts of things, from picking up your laundry to addressing holiday cards. This frees you up to concentrate on the “big rocks”-- the important tasks most relevant to your business.
Are you spending your time in the right place, playing to your strengths, or is it Business:Impossible today? Look around and get some help. There’s usually room for more cooks in the kitchen.