Whether you are a solopreneur or an employer I think the following will be important to you.

One of my most important mentors always used the description of a "ticking time bomb" when referring to employees. This may be a little harsh but is in some ways an accurate description. I have an amazing team of 15 employees; they're all brilliant, committed and hard working people. The cost and effort to find this present group of 15 has been a daunting task spanning most of the last six years. And still, as much as I value each and every one of them, one of the biggest challenges and stresses of my business is managing people.

It's inherent by nature, no one will ever see your business as you do, no one will ever complete each task in the way you do and it's unrealistic for you to expect him or her to. However, all that being said, the goal for all of us is the same -- have a business or career that provides ample earnings and flexibility to provide the lifestyle we wish. What exactly that lifestyle is, is likely different for everyone reading this article. And I would think a fairly safe assumption would be that everyone reading desires a business that will require a little more than what they are presently capable of on their own.

You have a choice: delegate or automate.

Maybe I'm just getting old but I resist automation. It's kind of funny when I think about it. I hate self-checkouts the way my parents and grandparents dislike computers. I think business is about live interaction, positive emotion and service. As I've grown my business I've generated lists of tasks that I can pass to others. I've hired people, trained them and put them in place to complete a variety of tasks. The versatility of manpower is wonderful; as people we can teach each other to do most things, but unlike a machine the degree of proficiency by which we complete these tasks varies and is widely open to perception. The more complex the task is, or the more tasks there are, the more this varies. In the end emotions rule the day and you're constantly managing the parts and dealing with new situations in an effort to maintain consistent and improved performance. At times this can prove very frustrating.

On the other hand automation is rigid. The tasks must be very specific and by automating you lose the ability to immediately adapt or cater to individual needs. For the most part automation feels less personal and may limit the depth of service you provide. Yet automation is entirely consistent in it's performance, doesn't call in sick, doesn't require holidays, and leaves very little to perception.

In my fitness business, being a business based very much on emotion, I've feared automation. I see the rigidity of performance and as an emotional fear much like my fear of self-checkouts. I've seen my audience react similarly.

And this is where this get's really interesting. My business finally grew to a point that has allowed me to consider that growing a bigger business may now not be as fruitful as automating a number of components and reducing staffing costs. Even though in my opinion it will be a lesser product it will become a more manageable product with still a more consistent delivery making it a better product that costs less and as a result may be still more profitable.

If your reading this you may be thinking it's obvious, but then pick what you may think is a key component of your business and ponder what would happen if you gave it to someone else to do or automated it.

For instance, when I was a solo-trainer I met with every new prospective client to identify their goals and help them decide to pursue my services. In my present business I have passed this task to others with varied results. If I'd continued to meet with every prospect it would have generated tens of thousands more dollars yet I've also created more time for myself to pursue other tasks that have also created tens of thousands of more dollars. However, as a solo-trainer on my own I couldn't imagine the idea of hiring a salesperson. Similarly, my admin presently spends dozens of man-hours every week rescheduling client appointments. It's costing us thousands of dollars per month to provide this service. We're working to automate this function by providing our clients various points of accessibility to handle this task themselves while reducing the availability of our admin staff. This is a definite negative impact to service and will cost us customers yet likely not as many as we need to make up the cost of offering this service. I could never have imagined taking this service away just a couple years ago.

What this has now taught me is to consider manpower versus automation each step as I grow and to not let my emotional opinion of one or the other get in the way of my decision.


Cabel McElderry, now known as the Profitable Personal Trainer, struggled as a solo personal trainer for nearly eight years before learning the strategies he needed to transform his barely six-figure business to a seven-figure (and growing) training studio in just a couple years. His studio (One-to-1 Fitness), now 5 years old, has won multiple awards for business excellence. Cabel has been recognized as one of the top 100 fitness entrepreneurs in North America and is currently one of 50 nominees for Optimum Nutrition's Canadian Trainer of the Year. Cabel still trains a handful of clients as his passion to help others will never fade but has also evolved. Cabel now also mentors fitness professionals in an effort to help them achieve similar or better results than his own. www.ProfitablePersonalTrainer.com

Topic: Entrepreneur Web Column

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