Hewlett-Packard was started by two guys in a garage. Michael Dell started his company in his dorm room. Of course thousands of online businesses (such as Mark Zuckerberg starting Facebook) were started with just one or more folks in a dorm room, shared housing, Starbucks, incubator or elsewhere. These businesses are rare and far between. Most of us can’t program an iPhone app and have it downloaded by millions of people.
Many "solo entrepreneurs" are toiling, laboring and trying to "get ahead" all by themselves. This isn't necessary, and in fact is a liability to the growth of your business.
If you want to grow your business you need to create and nurture a support team of trusted professionals. Growing your business does not mean that you have to go from five people to 500, but it means that you can grow financially. You can remain a “small business” but have the capacity to do more for your community, pay higher wages to employees and other things that only a financially thriving company—a growing company—can do.
Recently, I was at Inc. magazine’s GrowCo event in Las Vegas and one of the panels was by Bo Burlingham and Paul Spiegelman’s Small Giants group. During this discussion it was refreshing to hear that very small businesses don’t have to feel bad that they don’t want to accept venture capital or grow to be the next Panera; instead they can be "small giants" thriving and financially strong businesses.
If you want your solo enterprise to grow there’s three rings of support you need to firmly establish.
Ring 1: Support and networking groups
This group of support networks includes your local chamber of commerce, Meetup groups and other professional groups you may belong to. It could also include national events and online forums, such as OPEN Forum.
These groups will keep you in touch with your local community, provide you with fresh ideas and give you access to new talent, new customers and more.
Ring 2: Professionals and experts
The second ring consists of the professionals you rely on for the day-to-day running of your business operations. This group includes experts in PR, marketing, design, accounting, law, administrative support, video editing and more. You’re probably thinking to yourself that you already have these folks in your business—virtual or otherwise. However, are they considered a part of your TEAM? Do you speak to them on a regular basis and update them on your business? It’s important that these team members aren't just “transactional opportunists” who you call upon as needed. Instead this team should be a virtual extension of you and your company not just merely called on for specific projects.
I've found that Elance and local recommendations from my networks are a great resource to find team members.
This second ring is also important to enable YOU to focus on the growth of your business. You’ll need to still manage the minutiae of your business, but this team can help you get more done in less time. A second benefit is that this team will provide the expertise that you might not have. You’re not a lawyer, so stop drafting legal documents. You’re not a Web designer, so stop creating websites.
Ring 3: Senior manager and/or partner
The smaller your business is, the more that every decision comes to your desk and the more that all the thinking and planning is yours alone. Having a senior manager who can help strategize on the growth of your business can help.
Having someone who can fill the role of senior manager or partner takes a lot of trust, which must grow over time. However, it will be well worth the investment in time and money as these key team members help take some of the burden off of your shoulders. This person is NOT your administrative assistant. Instead they are working with you, with shared goals and vision to grow the business.