Most entrepreneurs are sole proprietors. In fact, sole proprietorships are the most common business structure in the United States: accounting for 73% of all businesses and including more than 23 million people. Sole proprietorships can vary in size, but they come down to this essential structure: one person owns, operates, and pays taxes on the business.
This doesn’t mean that the business only consists of the owner, but that may be the case! Freelancing, solopreneurship, sole props…regardless of the term, many businesses start out with a single person shouldering all the work.
But how do you scale up from solopreneur and being in business on your own to being a team leader, a boss, and a CEO in charge of a growing team?
These are the essential steps.
Go into this guide with the assumption that your business is profitable, has developed a positive reputation in the community, and is ready to expand based on your capacity, client/consumer demand, and overarching business goals.
Step 1: Identify Value-Added Roles & Services
First things first, you need to know two things: where your time is best utilized and where your services must expand. If you’ve been doing it all yourself, you know that some things are a waste of your time. You can do it, sure, but your time is better spent on high-level strategy or work within your expertise. In the same way, you’ve got to identify where there’s growth potential.
Should your business have more services available to clients? More products for consumers? Dedicated customer service? This is how you determine the position you’ll need to fill, either with employees or independent contractors.
Step 2: Establish Clear Systems & Procedures
When you’re working on your own, you have your way of doing things. That way probably isn’t written down. You’ve got to develop proper guidelines, procedures, and expectations for your growing team before they get there. They’re not going to be mind-readers! Give your team the tools to succeed by solidifying your metrics of success and systems for finishing, checking, and delivering your product and services to the client.
Step 3: Make the Mental Transition from Doer to Delegator
Giving up control is harder than most expect. As a solopreneur, you always know what’s going on. You know the quality of the work being done, where projects are in the pipeline, and what the next steps are. It can be hard to give up that level of security, but you must do it.
Owners, bosses, CEOs – they’re delegators. You can’t shoulder every responsibility and expect your business to grow. Identify where you’re less experienced, then hire people that have mastery. Identify where your time is best spent, then spend it there. It might be as simple as getting a personal assistant to handle administrative duties!
Step 4: Determine Appropriate, Sustainable Expansion
Entrepreneurs put their businesses in danger when they try to grow too much too soon. The growing pains may have you yearning for more room, more time, and more productivity. You sense your potential but struggle with the pace it takes to reach it.
But don’t bite off more than you can chew. Any expansion must be sustainable. If you hire someone, you need to be able to pay them and still turn a profit. If you increase production, there needs to be consumer demand to meet it.
Evaluate your finances, get a sense of where you’ll get the most value in expanding, and act accordingly. You can’t go from being a solopreneur to suddenly managing a team of a dozen people overnight. Scale slowly. Be patient. Your time will come!
Step 5: Start Vetting Your Dream Team
Lastly, prepare to hire your team. There are advantages to employees – both full and part-time – but you may just need to hire contractors on an as-needed basis until your business sustains enough added demand.
Familiarize yourself with labor laws and your legal responsibilities as an employer. You want to be sure you’re on the up and up. Consult a lawyer and figure out proper contracts and documentation, both for your hires and for the IRS.
Then, start searching out candidates. You need to know not just the position you want to fill but what success in that role looks like, what sort of company culture you want to develop, and the skills you value most. From there, you can better evaluate candidates and move forward with interviews, hiring, and contracts.