I once had a client I’ll call Joe – whose business consisted of scanning a lot of documents and compiling them on DVDs. Joe, being a small business owner, used his own scanner – a single-page-at-a-time scanner – which required eight or more hours per job. I suggested that Joe could be using those eight or more hours to actually add value that only Joe could provide = and have someone else do the scanning more efficiently. I sent him to FedEX Kinkos and a few other places in the local market to get cost estimates for the work he had been doing.

The result? The scanning could be done in a couple of hours for a cost of less than $300. Joe could actually take on more jobs, pass the cost of scanning onto his customers, and deliver the products faster. He immediately implemented this strategy.

I wrote about eating rotten fish earlier. Joe’s rotten fish was thinking that he had to personally scan all his clients’ documents HIMSELF. Like many small business people, Joe thinks that he has to do everything HIMSELF. But like many beliefs of small business, it’s wrong.

 Here are five reasons you should get help:

1. You simply can’t do it all yourself.

One of the great discoveries of modern manufacturing that a lot can be accomplished if the work is divided between specialists. Trying to be an expert in everything means that you’re an expert in nothing. And there are some things that are needed so infrequently that it doesn’t make sense to get special tools, software or training to be able to do them. Instead, find the specialist in your area that can do what needs to be done and let them do it!

2. You can do it,
 but you don’t have the time to do it.

Time is the business owner’s most precious commodity – once spent it never can be recovered. I have seen accounting systems that were little more than a shoebox that all receipts are thrown in requiring a massive block of time to sort – usually when something else is demanding your attention – who really has time in April to make everything neat for taxes? Hiring a bookkeeper to collect, sort and record all your receipts on a weekly, bi-weekly or even month basis eases the burden.

3. You can do it, you have time, 
but you have to give up something else.

There are always those things that you, and only you, can do and then there is all the things that others can do. One of the greatest conflicts for a business owner is that between doing the things that the business needs and what the family or even you need. Yes, you could enter all those receipts into QuickBooks yourself, but you would then miss the bedtime routine of your children. This calls for a discernment that only the individual can make – and the consequences of your decision may not be known for years.

I recently spoke with a former client who had a job that required a lot of travel. He recently had been spending some time with his daughter who was acting up. When asked why she was acting up she said, “I need a dad.” Two days later, my former client gave a two month notice to his employer. Several months later he feels that was the right move. Every person has to decide what’s important to them.

4. It costs more for you to do it 
than it does to have someone else do it.

When I speak of costs, I mean more than just money. However, to make comparison easier, I have my clients put a dollar value on their time. This is a trick I learned from my professor in graduate school. He suggested I value my time at $20 per hour (in the mid 70’s this was a HUGE pay rate) and then evaluate if what I was doing was worth spending $20/hr on it. This is the technique I used with Joe in the story at the beginning of this blog post and is also based on work I did in the late 90’s on a technique known as Cost of Delay Analysis which puts a dollar value on time. It’s highly effective in getting people to see what the real cost is of time.

To use this technique you must first decide what your time is worth to you. You can just pick a number ($20/hr) or calculate it by a variety of means. Once you have determine the value per hour, the next step is to determine how much time, materials, tools, software, etc. are needed for you to do the job. You add up the one-time costs (to get started) and the costs of doing the job. Now you have the information to calculate the cost of a particular job and compare it to the alternatives.

5. Someone else can do the job better than you.

No one is great at everything, but we are often good enough for most things. Sometimes, however, you need to have someone else do something simply because they are better than you. For instance, I wanted to recreate a poster I saw when my older daughter was born (I described the poster here.) Now I’m decidedly NOT an artist – I’m challenged by drawing straight lines, but I found a local artist so I asked him to create the drawing for the poster. It’s a win-win situation.

The same is true for our clients. Meredith and I are very good at dealing with messes and cleaning them up – we have clients that will testify to how we’ve helped them. We are emotionally detached where our clients aren’t; we have more experience dealing with messes; we have more tools that can be used than most business owners have; and we know more people that can be called upon to help. Whereas a business owner can likely figure out how to solve the mess eventually, Meredith and I can usually identify and execute a plan of action within an hour or less with less expense and effort, so it makes sense to call us when a crisis happens.

There is, however, one more requirement for any of this to work – the business owner has to be humble enough to let go. Micro-managing is not a cure for anything and usually results in the business owner lying to themselves, saying “I can do it myself faster!” The problem will only continue and likely get worst.

 Oliver Cromwell said it best, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” And trust me, Oliver knew what he was talking about. He beheaded his king and didn’t take his place – and the whole world got something different.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.