I have been grappling with how to be in several places at the same time. I don’t think this makes me unique, I think this is just one of those ‘mom’ things. Recently it dawned on me that I didn’t have to be doing things alone. I could still spend time with my daughter, and get work done at the same time. Ok. It didn’t really ‘dawn’ on my per say. It was more directly related to me listening to to Timothy Ferriss’s ‘4- Hour Workweek’ on audiobook. He was talking about virtual assistants, and the concept got stuck in my head. Once Vee was down for the night I went on-line and did a ton of research. I was pretty excited about all the different tasks I could get done by an MBA level graduate in India while I slept.
It took a long time to commit to the idea. Could it be that perhaps I didn’t want to give up control of my tasks? Hmm.. My heart was hammering in my chest as I typed out the request for proposal. Finally after reading and re-reading a million times I hit ‘Send’ and watched my form disappear. I approached 3 different companies, and the next morning, one of them had already contacted me. I could have waited and just started with one project for a term of engagement, but instead I went with a full-time hire for 2 weeks. I really think I’ll be able to get a ton done with this new VA in my life. Having a few more worry-free moments with Veronica is so worth it. And what I love about the idea is that I am still handling all quality control and art direction. So we’ll see how things go.
At first I was so excited to share my news with other moms. ‘I’m outsourcing some of my work to a virtual assistant in India!’ My best friends were relieved for me and thought it was cool. Other moms sort of looked at me blankly. I understand why. It sounds weird to me too. And India just seems so far away. And of course the word ‘outsourcing’ in general has somewhat of a multinational corporate stigma to it. Like I’m making a group of 5 year olds develop web sites for me in exchange for stale bread crusts and the promise of a better tomorrow. Um, nope.
It sounds strange, but I’m looking at this like hiring a nanny. Except that this is like having an Au Pair for my business. I need someone to look after certain tasks (personal tasks too) while I spend worry free (yet revenue generating) time being a mom. I guess I could have hired an assistant here in Canada, but frankly, it takes up too many resources. And because I’ve worked on international virtual teams before, I’m just not really phased by the whole ‘on the other side of the world’ thing. Plus, I do feel good about a few things. I can ensure that work is being done to my standard (while I catch up on some much-needed sleep), pay my VA well in Rupees, and still keep some of my CDN Dollars to spend on my daughter and husband, and of course, the ongoing renovations.
Outsourcing is a difficult concept to embrace for a Type A personality though. It’s true. I guess it’s just the need to ensure that every single detail is carried out to our specs. My graduate class once had someone come and speak from the Harvard School of Business, and one of the nuggets I gleaned was this. Most entrepreneurs fail because they suffer from role confusion. I’m paraphrasing here, but generally there are 3 main driving roles in small business.
1. The Visionary (the CEO, the leader, the captain of the ship so to speak.)
2. The Manager (the delegator, the task master, the head-planner and organizer of workflow)
3. The Technician (the do-er, the manual skill, etc.)
Everyone who has ever started a small business (ok, most people) have started off as The Technician. Then, as business grows, they might expand their management skills.. or they might be wearing all 3 hats at the same time. But there comes a time when it becomes detrimental to the business to have all three roles assigned to one person. You need to let go, to delegate, and to entrust someone else with the technical skills that are at the root of the company, while you lead in a visionary position. Or maybe you stay happy as the technician, and hire supporting management and vision to lead you. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but you inevitably do. When no move is made to change course the result can be devastating. Supply and demand scenarios can squash a company. Sustainability and business continuity become issues, as does responding to change in any kind of competitive market.
I have thought on this for years. I am a perfectionist, and there are aspects of every role that I love, especially being in a creative field. But now, adding ‘The Mother’ to the list means no contest: I could easily learn how to do without the controlling impulse of perfection, if it meant more time with my daughter. Ok maybe not easily. But I think it’s enough to juggle 2 roles right now, as a business owner and a mom, so I’ll take my lumps.. and my chances.
I’ll let you know how it works out.