For the owner of a small business, having and maintaining control is an important task. With the hours, effort and risks invested, it is no wonder that small business owners are often reluctant to enlist the help of others. There can, however, be benefits to loosening the reins a little and allowing a select group of trusted helpers to assist you in developing your business. Asking for help can not only give you more time to focus on other areas, but can also help develop strong business relationships with your team.
Identify areas of need
A small business owner generally knows their business inside out. They’ve not only been the manager, but also the accountant, recruiter, receptionist and even cleaner at one time or another. It is sometimes necessary to wear different hats, be it due to financial constraints or simply a learning experience. However, as your business develops, you may be able to allocate specific tasks to others.
The first step is identifying the areas in which you require assistance and determining the pros and cons of allowing someone else to take the lead. Ask yourself some honest questions. Could someone else do this task more effectively? Am I maintaining control of this task only for the sake of it? What other tasks could I be doing instead?
Consider the existing relationships
It may seem an obvious choice to enlist the help of friends and family members, as they would have your best interests at heart. However, you must consider the risks and potential impact on the existing relationship, as well as the ability of all parties involved to keep the business relationship separate from the personal. Will they be willing to follow instructions? How will you resolve conflicts?
This doesn’t mean you can’t have family or friends assisting you, but ensure that ability, experience and expertise of the candidate are the main driving forces behind your decision.
Make roles clear
It is important that when we ask for help we outline exactly what we want. This helps to minimise the chance of boundaries being overstepped or assumptions being made. Some owners, for example, are happy to recruit helpers in certain areas, but insist that financial matters are handled only by them. It is your business and, as the owner, you can specify what areas are and aren’t open to the influence of others.
The last thing you want when you have people helping you is for issues to go unresolved or concerns unheard. Aim to maintain transparency wherever possible and ensure you make it possible for others to air their own concerns.
Look within the business
We often feel that in order to grow a business we must enlist the help of external parties. It can be useful, however, to look within the business to people who are already familiar with it and with whom you have already developed a relationship. Increasing responsibility of existing staff can also boost motivation and acknowledge their contributions.
Help is a two-way street
While the desire to maintain control is a strong influence in the reluctance of small business owners to enlist help, another one is financial restrictions. If you are unable to pay for assistance, there are other ways of receiving at least some of the help you require. Offering your own services in exchange for another’s is not only a good way of getting what you need, but also useful for building relationships with other business colleagues.
Asking for assistance is one of the best things you can do as a small business owner if you are looking to expand. By familiarising yourself with all of the options, and seeking out the best candidates, you can boost your business comfortable in the knowledge that the right people are working alongside you.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.