Having a successful business is great. Being that successful business … is not so great. You don’t work; you don’t get paid. And the better the work you do, the more people want you to do the work. For early-stage business owners, especially those of us who earn a living through service-based work, turning down new business is not an option. Turn a job down and you risk closing a door. Yet keeping that door wide open is impractical, exhausting and ultimately, I think, a roadmap to failure. Sooner or later you’ll burn out. Deadlines will slide, quality may not be as high … it becomes an exercise in self-sabotage.
When you hit that point, you’ve got two choices: get bigger or get smaller. Either way, you can’t stay where you are. Here’s an update on how I’m getting bigger.
A few months ago I blogged about making a leap of faith this year in my business. First up was finding office space and hiring an assistant to free up some of my time. Of course the first Catch-22 here is that these things take time, and as busy as things have been for me, time is what I absolutely didn’t have. Compound that with some travel, a bad bout with pneumonia, a personal loss and what feels like a jet stream of new business, and I was going nowhere fast.
Then came the Advanced Pre-Emptive Tax Strategies seminar about a month ago. The funny thing about Diane’s seminars is that those of us at the back of the room are still learning and experiencing much of the same things as those of you sitting in the seats. This seminar was absolutely phenomenal in the amount of energy and ideas it generated, not to mention kick-starting the 40 or so people who were there. My take-home lesson was that it didn’t matter how busy I was – I had to find the time to get bigger, or plan to get smaller.
So with the help of Craigslist I started looking for space and people. The space wasn’t too hard. There are quite a few executive office buildings in Reno, where you can get a couple of hundred square feet with utilities, shared common spaces and wi-fi for a good deal. Course you never know who your neighbors will be from month to month, but that’s another story. It’s like a frat house for businesses, in that sense. We’re currently sharing a floor with a very loud counselor (“Well [Bob], your problem is that you’re a CPA and a [bleep] drunk!” was shouted through the wall the other day) as well as an employee drug/alcohol testing facility, (“Ma’am, if you can’t see the large sign that says “Drug and alcohol testing this way” you may want to hold off for another day”), and a medical office with really bad taste in music (Air Supply? Really??). But the space is clean, serviceable, cheap, fast wi-fi, and I feel much the same way I did with my very first apartment – kind of excited to be growing up!
People was the next step. This one was more frightening. My field is relatively specialized – this is not a corporation mill, and I need more than someone who can send out forms. That means training, which means time, and so on. Again, I went with the Craigslist option and got a huge response. It was nice to think that all these people thought I was worth responding to, but sad to see so many people had none of the qualifications I had specified. Then an email came in from another paralegal looking for some extra work. We got together and something clicked. Her background is different, but having paralegal training is a huge bonus. She already knows why it’s important for paperwork to be drawn up correctly and for everything to be properly spelled! Plus her background in Wills and Trusts will allow us to begin offering estate planning services; something I’ve been wanting to do. And she was up for the challenge of helping me to sort things out do we could grow. We made a deal and went shopping the next day for office furniture (hey, girls bond over shopping, what can I say).
This past week we got into the nuts and bolts of how my business works and how to make it better. There was lots of training, lots of mistakes, and lots of explaining. But towards the end of the week, two things happened. The first was that I realized on Thursday that even with all the delays, re-dos, etc., we had gotten more done together than I could have done on my own that day. The second was that when I left Friday afternoon, my desk was clear. For the first time in a long time I didn’t just get tired and go home. The hard work’s not over though. I’ll be putting in quite a few more weekends. But knowing that we’re already accomplishing more together than I could on my own tells me that it’s working. And that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
(P.S. If you would like to know more about our new Estate Planning package, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.