Scaling up sustainably: Grow your team without overcommitting

Scaling up your business

Growing your small business into a team enterprise can be daunting. The amount of work coming in will tend to surge and retreat, leaving you alternately overworked and underworked – you don’t want to commit to an employee when you’re not certain of your workflow.

How can you manage workflow surges and get the help you need, without overcommitting to staff costs?

Start with on-demand assistance

The first step might be to outsource some of the jobs you least like doing, or during your busiest periods. That might mean using a local freelancer or finding an offshore service to take over your social media, for instance, or your invoicing. Those services can be an affordable way to get on-demand help when you need it, giving you the ability to drop that cost at any time if your workflow drops away.

Can you take on an apprentice?

An apprentice can be an extremely cost-effective way to get an extra pair of hands. A wide range of trades can participate in apprenticeship schemes, including construction, engineering, beauty, farming, tourism and sports. Apprenticeships are currently free for apprentices and subsidised for employers by the Apprenticeship Boost. You’ll need to train them and pay them at least the minimum wage.

For those who aren’t in a trade, an intern could be an option to help over the summer or uni holidays.

Contractors and part-timers

Using contractors and part-timers also gives you some flexibility when it comes to growing your workforce. Contractors are usually more expensive, because they need to pay their own employment costs of ACC, holiday pay, sick pay and so on. The advantage of contractors is that you can pay for the expertise you need, when you need it.

Part-time employees are more of a commitment, but you can build in some seasonal or work-based flexibility on their hours – and they’re less expensive than contractors.

Once you are successfully managing contractors or part-timers, you’ll have a better understanding of when you can make that jump to a full-time employee.

Managing the team as you grow

When you’re responsible for a team, particularly when they’re working on diverse projects for a range of clients, you’ll need a way to manage them effectively. SME is partnered with simPRO project management software, which is designed in New Zealand to meet the needs of local businesses, and lets you do your invoicing, quotes, field management and project management all in one place.

If you need some advice about sustainably building your team, we’re here to help. Get in touch and we can run the numbers, consider the pros and cons, and give you the information you need to make the best decisions for your business.

Growing pains: expanding a one-person business can be a challenge

Expanding a Business

Awesome, your business is growing! You have more clients, or your clients are spending more. Maybe you’re offering more products or services; hopefully you’re also making more money. It all sounds like you’re moving in the right direction.

 

But with growth comes growing pains. You might also be working longer hours, struggling with cashflow, losing track of invoicing and starting to occasionally drop the ball on jobs because you’re so busy. This is a critical point: how can you manage your business so you don’t lose control of your growing workload?

 

These are some of the challenges we often see facing our clients. One-person businesses that expand too quickly can seriously struggle. Wages and taxes must be paid, while outstanding debts can pile up rapidly. The business owner is stressed out and overworked, invoicing gets forgotten, clients start complaining and the quality of work begins to deteriorate. All this adds up to leave the owner short of cash and scrambling to survive.

 

However, with some planning, a little research and a bit of investment, you can grow a one-person business into a thriving enterprise with a happy team.

 

Our client Bruce is a great example; he’s an electrician who decided to go out on his own in mid-2020 as the demand for electricians (or any tradie for that matter) ramped up. There’s no shortage of work out there for Bruce – he’s reliable, friendly and reasonably priced, so he’s hugely in demand (we’ve changed his name to protect his privacy). In fact, he’s so popular that he’s busy all the time. He doesn’t even have time to reply to queries he gets from new clients and his phone rings all day. He’s trying to manage three new contractors and a couple of employees (including an apprentice) across up to 20 different job sites each day. He doesn’t always manage them as well as he could, so Bruce often ends up back on the tools doing basic work.

 

We’ve been working with Bruce to try to help him get things back under control. He’s identified some of his strengths: dealing with customers and council, quoting, and onsite problem-solving. Those are the jobs we want him to keep doing, while handing off the jobs he likes less to other people and systems. We’ve helped him sign up for simPRO field management software so he can keep track of his team, progress on jobs, and generating quotes and invoices. Bruce has hired a part-time bookkeeper to send and chase up invoices and quotes. He’s come up with a system of pre-written reply emails to keep new enquiries under control.

 

You can grow sustainably and successfully – just don’t be afraid to ask for help. Investing in the right advice will almost always pay dividends; you’ll have the support you need to build a thriving team and a valuable business.