The entrepreneur’s guide to driving growth and getting more done with less

By June 16, 2017Company
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Statistically speaking, your entrepreneurial business was in trouble before you even got it off the ground. Depending on who you ask, you’ll be told that anywhere between 50 and 90% of startups fail.

Why are the numbers so grim? Most businesses face similar hurdles to growth: they lack the talent, focus, and resources they need to scale. And as an entrepreneur, you have to find the time to get both the day-to-day work done and build strategies that will help you overcome those hurdles. It can be a lot to balance.

Successful entrepreneurs have the passion and drive to not only start a business, but find ways to overcome these hurdles and get more done with less, nurturing their businesses to something incredible. Here’s how:

Growth hurdle 1: Short-term resource gaps

There are few situations that stress entrepreneurs out more than unexpectedly losing a valued team member. If your company finds itself short-staffed and struggling to manage workloads due to a sudden departure, it can quickly derail your progress and stunt your growth.

Of course, staff turnover isn’t the only thing that can negatively impact your company’s ability to get things done. A big new business win or product partnership can also temporarily max out your company’s bandwidth. While lean startups are very effective, by their nature these companies lack the extra human capital resources necessary to handle demand peaks.

Unfortunately, without the right support, sometimes it’s necessary to say no to an opportunity, as Beth Monaghan, principal and cofounder of PR Firm InkHouse, knows all too well. When an opportunity to do in-kind pro bono work for an organization arose, Monaghan’s business goal of “doing good in the world by donating time and expertise” had to be put aside due to lack of current team resources.

In a situation like this, it can be tempting to make a new hire as quickly as possible so that your company doesn’t fall behind on work and can take on a new opportunity, but that’s not the answer. Failing to take your time to find the right fit might address your short-term needs, but it will create more problems than it solves in the long-term.

How career launchers can help

Instead of stretching your existing employees too thin or rushing to hire someone to patch up your team, you can engage highly motivated college students and recent graduates on a project basis. These “micro-internships” can help fill your company’s resource gaps and ensure you’re able to scale up seamlessly–with no unnecessary expense–in response to staffing vacancies or business needs. Engagements like these ensure you always have the resources you need to get the work done at the ready, and you won’t get stuck in a vicious circle of turnover and short-staffing.

That said, you may even find that these off-loaded projects demonstrate the benefits of having a full-time resource. For example, a company who used a micro-intern to assist in a one-time social media effort saw an immediate increase in inbound leads. This allowed them to see the positive ROI they could have from employing someone full-time on this effort. Even better, when they were ready to make that hire, the company already had a pipeline of career launchers who could fill that gap, all of whom had completed similar types of assignments for the company.

Growth hurdle 2: No time to explore new offerings and opportunities

As an entrepreneur, your most important job is to innovate. Your time must be spent exploring new opportunities and enhancing your offerings to remain competitive, seeing the big picture without getting trapped in the quagmire. But when your team is at capacity and there’s too much work to go around, this can feel next to impossible.

Every time you think to yourself “We should…” and don’t act on it because you and your team are too busy with day-to-day work, that’s a lost opportunity for your business.

How career launchers can help

Career launchers can take on the work that is holding you and other team members back from exploring new offerings and opportunities that are critical to your company’s growth.

If you have a new idea you want to research or an approach you want to experiment with, but you’re not yet sure if it’s worthy of your own time, micro-interns can help. Many career launchers are talented researchers who can help quickly and affordably validate your new ideas or test out new approaches before you invest your time on them.

Career launchers can also handle some of your more “in the weeds” projects so you can focus on more valuable opportunities like new offerings, partnerships, client development, and thought leadership. Sometimes, you just need someone to help you do your day-to-day work so you can focus on bigger strategic priorities, and career launchers and micro-internships are the perfect solution.

Growth hurdle 3: Employee burnout

Burnout is a huge problem in today’s workforce. Human resource professionals attribute the majority of turnover to burnout, and that stat is likely even higher in entrepreneurial companies where employees are particularly prone to wearing a lot of hats.

Burnout not only increases turnover, but it also reduces productivity, both of which are detrimental to growth and scalability. You can prevent turnover by ensuring your employees feel happy and fulfilled at work. This can be as easy as getting tasks they don’t enjoy or that don’t maximize their skills (but that still have to get done) off their plates. Every time you or your employees think, “I shouldn’t…,” it puts your business at risk and limits opportunities for growth.

How career launchers can help

Bringing on career launchers for assistance through project-based work allows your team members to focus on the work they want to be doing and should be doing. In fact, a frequently cited study indicated that 40% of an entrepreneur’s or employee’s time was being spent on things that were not important to them or their companies. Even if your full-time team members are still working long hours, they’ll be far happier when they feel that their time is being optimized.

As career launchers start helping your company get work done, your team members may even find they have time to take on “passion projects” that not only make them feel more productive and fulfilled, but also contribute important strategic insights and drive innovation at your company.

Growth hurdle 4: Poor talent fit

You need to have the right people in the right seats to grow your business, but appropriately filling roles can be a major challenge with disastrous results if handled incorrectly (especially for growing companies). Many businesses end up with at least a few team members who are aren’t properly suited for their positions or are a poor cultural fit. And by the time you recognize that the quality of work isn’t up to par or the fit is wrong, it’s often too late.  

The poor talent fit problem can have many root causes. Perhaps you’ve ended up with the wrong people in certain roles because you were blinded by a great academic pedigree. Or maybe you simply focused too much on skills and too little on cultural fit in the recruitment process. You’re not alone–it’s hard for companies to truly assess fit (even with interviews) until they’ve seen someone do the work or interact with the rest of a team. Whatever the cause, this problem can be avoided.

How career launchers can help

More companies are integrating trial periods ranging from 30 to 90 days into their hiring processes. The benefits can be significant, but these engagements require meaningful upfront commitment by both sides and have a real cost–especially if it doesn’t work out. As a result, micro-internships have emerged as an increasingly popular alternative, allowing both companies and candidates to “test drive” without the commitment, costs, and risks of traditional probationary periods. These short-term projects require no on-boarding by the company, and typically involve between 5 and 40 hours of work by the candidate, allowing career launchers to execute a project even if otherwise employed.

Through micro-internships, you can test out career launchers before making a full-time offer, which will help you ensure culture and skill fit (and get work done at the same time). And since there is a much lower cost and commitment, many of the companies that use micro-internships test a variety of career launchers on a set of one-off projects similar to the ones that will need to be completed in a full-time role. This helps employers get a read on the wide range of ways in which different candidates approach the same projects, while confirming what they really need from a role.

For example, a company utilizing micro-internships recently engaged three career launchers for a business development project in which each identified 50 prospects based upon given criteria. They selected and assigned each a different geographic target, and upon completion paid each micro-intern $150, a price set by the client prior to posting the project. Through this project, the client not only generated 150 leads at just $1 each, but they were also able to see how the candidates compared, helping determine who would be the best fit for a full-time role. As a bonus, each of the three candidates brought their own unique perspective and creativity to the assignment, identifying new lead generation best practices that have since been integrated into the company’s overall business development processes.

Growth hurdle 5: A lack of diversity

Diversity is about more than just checking off a box. There are clear business benefits to having a diverse team. McKinsey research found that companies with diverse teams perform better financially.

When you don’t prioritize diversity and everyone you hire comes from similar backgrounds, your company’s growth will be stunted. Without new perspectives, you’ll never get new ideas.

The tech industry is infamous for its lack of diversity and as a result, in the last 20 years, there’s been a 64% decline in women pursuing computer science degrees and a decline in minorities pursuing STEM degrees.

If you don’t hire for diversity from the bottom up, your company will never achieve its diversity goals. Junior employees are your company’s future leaders, and if they don’t come from different backgrounds, your leadership team’s diversity will be limited as well.

How career launchers can help

Through micro-internship engagements, you have access to a huge network of career launchers from a wide variety of backgrounds and schools. This allows you to build a far more diverse entry-level talent pool than you could by attending the same college career fairs over and over again and only recruiting from your typical networks. Given the short-term nature of micro-internship assignments, they are also a great way to get other team members comfortable with new employees that don’t come from the same set of schools, majors, or networks. And as an added bonus, you’ll get important work done while you foster entry-level diversity.

Growth hurdle 6: Money

Cash is king at every company. We don’t need to tell you that the way you manage your company’s cash flow can make or break your business.

But controlling cash flow can be difficult, especially if payroll makes up a large percentage of your total expenses. Staff needs change quickly at any growing business, which makes payroll expenses difficult to optimize. Overstaff, and you’ll spend more on staff salaries than you get back in results. Understaff, and you’ll stretch your team too thin while limiting your ability to say yes to new growth opportunities.

How career launchers can help

The solution to this challenge is simple: engage career launchers who are available to work on your professional projects on an on-demand basis. This way, you can seamlessly scale your talent spend up and down based on current business conditions and opportunities, and save cash when your needs are lighter. And if you do decide to make a full-time hire, you can do so with confidence in fit and without having to compete with every other company still using the traditional (but flawed) hiring metrics tied to academic pedigree and network.

And if you find someone you’d like to hire full-time through Parker Dewey, we’ll never charge you to do so. We encourage companies to test out multiple career launchers through our platform to find the right fit for full-time positions.

Even if you have no immediate intention of making a full-time hire, you’ll still have made a connection with a career launcher who is excited to work on your company’s assignments because they provide real experience, allow them to demonstrate skills, and support their exploration of different career paths. That said, at Parker Dewey, we have also seen many companies create new roles for these individuals once they see the immediate return and opportunities for growth.

 

Growth isn’t easy, but tapping career launchers through Parker Dewey can be a game-changer for your company. Post a project on Parker Dewey today to see how our career launchers can help you get more done with less and overcome the hurdles that are holding your company back from achieving its full potential.

Career launchers through Parker Dewey can be a game-changer for your company. Ready to get more done with less and overcome the hurdles that might be holding your company back? Schedule a meeting today.

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