No Startup is an Island

no startup is an islandStarting your own business can be a lonely, lonely time. Often you’ll spend long hours brainstorming your idea, creating the first prototype (physical or virtual) and if you’re lucky you’ll meet a business soul mate who becomes a partner or co-founder.

For most of my work-for-myself career I’ve been alone, no co-founder, no partners and it was always difficult.

Not only has it taken an emotional toll (we really are social creatures) but I did everything in my business from the highest level (like forming a new marketing campaign) to the lowest level (like researching spam filters for my email account).

Even early on I knew there had to be a better way…

Then one day I discovered outsourcing and slowly began adapting to delegation as a way of life. Two years later I switched gears from a social marketing business to building a company that connects busy people with virtual assistants.

I can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t learned to let go of the unimportant “reigns” and focus on the 20% of my day that really matters. I’m just too spastic and ADD to be able to focus on boring crap for any period of time (unfortunately this crap has to be done regardless).

Anyways, this post has been a long time coming. In it I will do three things:

A) I’ll try and convince you why no matter how small of a startup you are, you need some help

B) I will break down all the ways you can un-island-ize (my word) your business

C) I will try and get you to let us at Zirtual find you that perfect assistant who will make all your worldly cares go away.

People often ask me “how I make money online”, well I can tell you one thing – it’s not this blog, it’s my business. Support me, support my business. It’s as simple as that – or you can just send me lovely notes, I also love that. Regardless, this is a lesson that every would-be entrepreneur and full blown business owner needs to hear… no startup is an island.

Outsource (it’s like building bridges to your island)

Even if you’re desperately poor and a very early stage business you can use some clever tactics to grow your business faster, with help and without breaking the bank. I have employed these tactics since day one (I was REALLY broke, straight out of college w/ no $) and they have saved me every time:

  1. Outsource offshore at first. First off outsourcing and offshoring are two different things, you can read more about them here. You want to outsource early on and do it offshore because if you live in the US, Canada or Europe it’s going to be gobs cheaper to send your work to the Philippines, Eastern Europe or South America versus getting it done in the homeland.
  2. But don’t outsource your core competency. This should go without saying, but I’ve flubbed this a few times so hopefully this warning will save you some pain. If you are a tech company, don’t outsource your technical person. If you are a design company, don’t outsource your design. If you are a cake company don’t buy cakes from Wal Mart and expect the quality to be the same.
  3. Just outsource everything else. Early on do you need a full time support person? No. Unless support is your core competency (think Zappos). Instead you could outsource your support team needs to my friend Chris’ company who provides call center assistance here. Do you need a website, but won’t need a designer on for the long term? Outsource it, the team that did Zirtual’s beautiful design is on Elance and you can hire them to make you a killer website too for far less than it would cost to hire a firm in the U.S. Do you need an assistant to help you for a few hours a day but can’t afford a full time secretary? Hire a virtual assistant (through us!) and watch your productivity skyrocket while your stress levels plummets.

Ask (it’s like inviting people to live on your island)

The art of asking seems to be a lost and/or abused art, depending on who approaches it. Asking people for help, advice or feedback is actually one of the best things you can do for your fledgeling startup and the relationships you build will benefit you exponentially in the future.

Ask for help, advice, favors, press but remember that asking is a two way street. You’ll get much farther if you have something to give back or at least try to provide value to the other person first.

Think of it like trading mangos from your Island for coconuts from your neighbor’s.

Learn (it’s like bringing books to a deserted island)

Imagine if you washed up on a beautiful, deserted island but you’d fortunately lugged a big trunk of books with you (or a water-proof iPad) and could learn everything there was to know about fishing, building a shelter, starting fires and desalinizing salt water. You’d be in much better shape.

You’re new business is like a lush, massive, untouched new world. You can destroy it through ineptness and making simple, silly mistakes or you can get really smart and learn from others who have settled new territory before by reading every good book you can get your hands on, listening to every business interview and in general becoming a sponge for knowledge.

Prepare for a community

Whether you only plan on building a 3 person company or a 3,000 person conglomerate – it’s important to set the stage for a strong company culture early on. A great book to read on the topic is Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness”, in it Hsieh talks at length about the importance of building a business that’s focuses on both customers and employee’s happiness.

Preparing for a community in your startup or small business can be as simple as writing down what core values you hold and what core values future team members need to agree on. Over time you’re values and core beliefs will refine and as you add team members but at least you’ll always have something solid to point to.

Last but not least, hire an assistant

It’s vital that even early on you get into the habit of delegating tasks, managing someone other than yourself and focusing on the big picture items that will make your startup succeed versus booking hotels, scheduling meetings or researching keywords for your website. The best way to do this is to start a long term relationship with a quality virtual assistant, this person will save you gobs of time and money.

If they’re good they’ll also become like your second self, allowing your productivity to skyrocket as they take care of more and more of the little stuff.

The biggest problem with hiring an assistant online is that it’s hard to find quality people in the sea of unqualified leads and “assistants” who have no experience but just know how to b.s. the system on major job boards. That’s why Zirtual takes all the hassle out of finding a high quality assistant and does the match-making for you.

We also give you access to our membership area which is chock full of all the tips, tools and tricks you need to know when working with a VA and we partner you up with a savvy customer care rep who will hold your hand through the whole process – ensuring that you get off to the right start with your assistant.

Bonus

If you purchase one of 25 special packages I’m offering through this blog I’ll throw in a 30 minute consulting call on the topic of your choice (note: I don’t even offer consulting for $ anymore because I got too swamped). We can talk about startups, delegation, outsourcing, heck anything you like that’s business centric. I will help you get the most out of your new VA relationship in record time and throw in some (hopefully) helpful ideas for your business.

Simply purchase a recruitment package here and then email me at maren@zirtual.com to tell me you bought a package through my blog and I’ll give you priority service + the free consulting call.

Get ready, get set, go! because they’ll likely sell fast!

*photo credit