Don’t stop belie- sorry, learning.
A few weeks ago, I had Sunday lunch with my family in a gastropub in East London. There was an open plan kitchen set up and an argument broke out between the Head Chef and his Sous. After a very heated (and very public) exchange, the head chef slammed down his apron, picked up his bag and walked out. Mid-service. More importantly, my family and I had not been fed. The rather young and seemingly inexperienced gastropub manager flapped about like a headless chicken as the entire lunchtime service collapsed with patrons commenting loudly in that passive-aggressive manner we English are known for. Now, this mess was salvageable but time was a factor so the manager needed to make one of two decisions very quickly. She didn’t. Everything went to shit.
I am going to write another post about being able to make decisions quickly, this one isn’t it. This post is about understanding every facet of your business, so if your Head Chef walks, you’re confident in your ability to either a) run after him/her and talk them back within 90 seconds, or more importantly b) promote your Sous Chef on the spot, don an apron yourself and start peeling potatoes. Service resumes — albeit not the service you had in mind but you can deliver on your promise to your customers and everyone leaves with what they came for.
Channel your inner potato peeler
To be that potato peeler you need to understand every angle of your business. You don’t need to be an expert in any of these areas, but if necessary you do need to be willing (and capable) of getting stuck in, if and, when you need to. Similarly, if you start a business solo you’re going to need to be able to wear many hats to cover all the required roles before you can afford to hire a team.
The good news is, these days it’s possible to teach yourself pretty much anything online for either low or no cost, and it’s important that you dedicate specific time to personal development within your business, whether that’s understanding something you’re currently paying someone else to do, or learning something brand new that you can apply to your business down the line. In this digital era markets and capabilities are constantly changing and rapidly so, if your business is to thrive in such a climate it’s important to never stop learning.
“If your business is to thrive, it’s important to never stop learning.”
It’s also important to understand what you’re asking (or will be asking) of your team, and a great way to get a feel for this is to try that aspect of the job yourself. Similarly, if you are hiring freelancers for smaller project-based work (i.e. design or development), you will gain an appreciation for their skills and have a better idea on how to direct them so that they can meet your expectations and you can support them in doing so for a great result.
With the help of my library card, iTunes U, Podcasts, YouTube, Google and other online learning platforms I taught myself the basics of graphic design, HTML and WordPress, digital marketing, project management, recruitment, business operations and administration, Inbound Sales, Book Keeping/Accounts, events management, music production, film editing and of course, animation….and breathe…
I have loads of digital certificates for the completion of online courses, but to be honest they’re not worth the PDF they’re layered on. However, the process of getting them has been invaluable and the skills I’ve learned have allowed me to build a business I love.
Taking half an hour a day out to focus on learning something small to enhance your business can make a huge difference. Maybe it’s learning another language, or how to update a WordPress site, understanding how SEO works, the basics of Photoshop or Illustrator for graphic design, how to write sales copy, how to be more social media savvy or how to do basic bookkeeping for your accounts. Think you don’t have the time? Make the time. Feeding your grey matter is important and a vital part of you becoming the business owner you need to be.
Now, find your specialist…
Once you’ve got a fair idea of how to do something and the budget permits, it’s time to get a specialist in. Specialists cost money, but their expertise will save (and probably make) you more money in the long term as they can do things faster (remember, time is currency!) and to a higher level in their chosen field than you can.
Having a basic idea of how the magic happens means you can have a more in-depth conversation in the first place about how you’d like it done before you officially delegate upwards (click for more on how to delegate). Once you have delegated the task or the project, your small amount of newfound knowledge will help you to communicate and feedback with said freelancer or specialist to ensure that you’re getting what you require.
They’ll also feel good because you have some idea of what it takes for them to do their job well, and if it’s particularly labour intensive (i.e. animation), you’ll understand what the limitations might be. This keeps everyone’s sanity in check and makes for a much happier client/freelancer relationship.
And, nurture your own specialists…
Got a team? Upskill them too. Some of the more insecure of us might think “wait, if I teach them everything I know, they might up and leave me!”
You’re right, they might. One thing’s for sure though, if you don’t provide your team with learning and development opportunities that allow them to progress, they’re definitely going to up and leave you. When you make a new hire your energetic and optimistic new team member is thinking about the exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth and development that lie ahead. Yes, being paid is great too, but everyone is excited to learn and grow — and by not offering these kinds of opportunities you run the risk of losing your new team member quickly, and recruitment is a costly process (even if you’re doing it all yourself…once again, time is currency).
You can help your team develop by teaching them about other areas of the business. This helps you if you do ever find yourself short staffed as the pool of people capable of stepping into that role is increasing. One of my DoodleDirect team members asked to learn animation the other day. She’s a project manager and should never need to animate, but it gives her much more insight into the often-misunderstood process of animation and design, and if something needs a quick edit in future, who knows, maybe she could fill those rather large boots.
So, in summary…
· Be a boss that gets stuck in.
· Be experienced in every facet of your business (even if it’s just a small amount of experience), so you know what you’re asking others to do
· Take the time to expand your knowledge, then share it wherever you can. And where possible give your team the opportunity to expand their knowledge too.
· Trust your specialists and your team.