Secrets of Small Business Success: You Can’t Do Everything

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The same spirit that drives us to become independent professionals often is our own worst enemy when it comes to task performance. Our ambition and our recognition “if anything is going to get done I’m going to have to do it myself” leads us to take on important functions we are neither qualified for nor prepared to handle. In the end it may, put some emphasis on may, turn out fine but even then at what cost?

Are you really the super hero you’re trying to be? Probably not but don’t sweat it – you don’t need to be!

My First Audit

Back in 1985 I had my first IRS audit of a business. I had done all of my own bookkeeping and taxes throughout the years and kept my own record. The visit from the agent was not as frightening as I had expected but the follow up was quite intense. In the end it did turn out fine but the very real stress and anxiety I faced as we went through to process was in no way worth the $750 it would have cost me (back then) to have had the part I did done by a professional. From that point on I never did my own.

Tasks Like SEO or Web Content

Or maybe they are not really less crucial but less well know. At that same business I took quotes on having a 4’x32′ sign painted with my logo and some text. The total cost would have been $900 not including installation. Of course I could do it myself and I sat out to prove it. My final cash investment was $230 including installation. How’d the sign look? Well, it wasn’t bad as they say. It also wasn’t the professional, sleek look I wanted for my business.

Things We Never Think of Doing

Most of us never think of installing our own alarm system, doing our own electrical work or building our own office furniture. What is the difference between the two functions I mentioned performing on my own earlier and these? Why not just go ahead and build my own executive chairs? If you answered like I did, “because I can buy one already professionally built that looks and works much better than mine”, you’d be on the thought track I was searching for.

So if there are things we simply never consider doing what is the line and how do we cross it to do things we “can” do but should not? I mean it’s almost common place for people to take on their own taxes, bookkeeping, advertising, web mastering, and other functions. Trust me, I’ve seen the websites that look like they came with the server for free and have all those free themes and plugins. Your clients and competitors see them too.

When you listen to the radio or watch cable it’s not very difficult on some ad spots to tell which ones were written by the business owner. Likewise for print ads with generic clip art you see in a dozen other ads throughout the year. Does performing these tasks save you money? What about that old “long run” view – do you win or lose over the term?

Get Some Advice

Perhaps one of the most crucial steps in the life, both business and personal, for the Independent Professional is finding a worthy go-to adviser. Without the few I have it would have been impossible to reach the levels of success I have enjoyed. Some may come from family, some from the community and some from your existing roster of close friends. When choosing and adviser make sure it is someone you can trust for the type of advice you’ll be needing.

Whatever you do take time to pause and think then spend a little time investigating the cost and benefit of paying a professional to perform the tasks with which you are faced. Not all tasks may have the dire consequences associated with doing your own business taxes (and I understand some of you are fully capable of handling that task) but their may be farther reaching, more fiscally damaging results from some of them.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • AmyMccTobin

    My greatest life’s challenge has been to stop being Jack of all Trades and master of none. Great reminder.

    • davethackeray

      Amy, bravo for having the guts and saying what we all think. So true – not only do we do everything in our business, we try and do everyone else’s, too. How many times as the fledgling entrepreneur have we taken on work way outside our skillsets just to pay the bills? Crazy!

      • http://thekencook.com/ Ken Cook

        And don’t we pay the price with big learning curves to perform a task we may never face again? On the other hand the very experience has rounded many of us. Still, best left for the novice and not the niche professional. Thanks for chiming in.

      • AmyMccTobin

        It WAS my biggest challenge running my agency, especially in the early days. Now I am very frank with my clients: I create the recipe, but I am not the sous chef (s).

    • http://thekencook.com/ Ken Cook

      Thanks Amy. I am the chief offender. Though I have learned to curb a few my first, automatic reaction still tends to be “I can do that myself”.