An email came in from an on-again, off-again small business client, asking a common “quick question.” This is someone I work with on an as-needed basis, which is not unusual for really small businesses still boot-strapping, still building their cash flow to a place where they can sustain a regular “subscription” to what we do here at Do Your Thing. There are always a few of these in our orbit, start-ups and micro-enterprises that we’re helping to nurture in any way we can.
Should I hire more people so I can keep expanding my business? Or should I hire no one, keep things small, just me?
It’s the classic crossroads so many small businesses find themselves contemplating, a marker of success, truly, that you’ve come this far, that people want what you do, value it, demand more of it. More of it than you can reasonably, humanely deliver on your own.
So then the question: Do I hire or do I stay just me?
It’s a weighty decision-point that we all come to eventually, with varying degrees of ease.
I’m thinking in particular of a very successful entrepreneur I’ve worked with a long time who for years resisted adding to their team because of a bad former experience of managing people and being stressed by the challenges that presented. The memory of that previous bad experience was very strong; they resisted adding overhead, adding bureaucracy, adding complexity. And at the same time, they were almost crippled by the load, by the emails, the client calls and visits, the pressure to keep up when they knew there was almost certainly no way they weren’t going to smash one of the plates they were juggling alone while keeping an eye on the stack of plates just waiting to take flight.
Ugh, as I write those words, I remember standing there, too, realizing I could spend all day and night, seven days a week, working and never being done, never being able to put down my burden and just breathe, you know? It’s a good problem (demand!). It’s a bad problem (supply!).
And that fear of what comes along with expanding, hiring more people, is big for some. For some of us who start our small businesses because we want to do our thing, introducing other people into the mix potentially introduces new problems. Will our vision get diluted? Will our authority be challenged? What if it doesn’t, they don’t, work out?
Aaaaah, the unknown! And the possibility that it might work out, it might surprise us, it might exceed our expectations.
The truth is that the answer to that question — more people or just me? — is totally individual. For the very successful entrepreneur I mentioned earlier, they ended up finally realizing that this current experience didn’t necessarily have to replicate the last and bad one. Finally adding people added to their reach, amplified and enriched their vision, and grew their profit margin on top of that. Yes, of course it was work to train people, it took time and patience. Takes time and patience.
You know that quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”? There’s definitely truth there. To figure out whether to add people or not, you need to get clear on where you’re going, and why, what you want the journey to be like.
In the case of that very successful entrepreneur, the pain of doing everything themselves got so big, that the nerves around re-creating a miserable past receded. Are there times when they perhaps miss the old simple days of Just Me? Probably. But is their work enlivened by the addition of these other perspectives, these other skill-sets, not just an extension of them but others, who bring their own contribution to the table? Yes.
For myself, I knew that the kind of life I wanted for myself, and the kind of ease I wanted for other small business owners, wouldn’t happen if I stayed Just Me. And it’s not truly an Either/Or, not just a binary toggle-switch where you’re either tiny or giant — there’s so much room in between. It’s possible to add staff thoughtfully, slowly, to test, to evolve your sense of what’s needed. If it doesn’t work, change it. I think it’s worth the risk, but again that’s personal.
Should You Stay Or Should You Grow Now? Ultimately only you can decide.
If I can help you sort through the possibilities, let me know. All ears!