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Advice needed - expanding business

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Post Wed Jun 01, 2011 6:53 pm

Advice needed - expanding business

any feedback would be much appreciated. Have come to a point where i need help. We are (I am) a digital printer offering large format printing, vinyl cutting and short run printing (xerox).
so I want to expand. I have a morning secretary who answers the phone, prepares invoices, and makes coffee, that sort of thing, and i would say she has the easiest job in the world, as her work load is light at best. Me on the other hand, my day ranges from stressed through to breaking point.
So whats the best way to go?, ideally i would want a designer, an installer, machine operator, sales person, the list goes on, but what do you think would be the best employee asset. Im even thinking of taking on a partner. I would like to hear from anyone, who has been in a similar position, ie starting off as a one man band and expanding slowly. Sometimes im so busy with quotes, picking up materials and so forth that i dont even have time to "work"
Please help me to solve this very big dilemma.
thank you - Chris
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Post Wed Jun 01, 2011 7:41 pm

You say you have a secretary with a very light work load so why don't you begin by giving her more work to do? I woul start off by teaching her to operate the cutter and weeding and taping. If she's not happy with the prospect then perhaps you should replace her with someone more productive. No point in paying someone to sit around most of the day doing nothing. Chances are she would probably prefer to be more involved and given more to do.
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Post Wed Jun 01, 2011 7:50 pm

cant imagine her getting her hands dirty, you are 100% right, but she answers the phone well, and is always polite :) btw, bought your book a few months ago, a great read, are you working on a part 2?
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Post Wed Jun 01, 2011 7:58 pm

I have no plans for a follow up Chris , thanks for your support :D
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Post Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:39 pm

I would look to go down the same route as Phill, have you ever discussed doing a bit more work with your secretary. Using the plotter and weeding/taping isn't going to get her hands dirty and you never know she might actually be happy to have something else to do as Phill says. You could always pay her a bit extra for this additional work.

As a one man band I don't think it is possible to employ a person to do just one job. You really need someone who is able to get on with things when you are out collecting materials or seeing a customer.
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:13 am

When I got big jobs in during a busy time I used someone else to do the design work, fortunately for me , I used to work for them so knew them well and they knew the local clients even though they then lived the other side of the world!

Good luck

Dave
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 1:22 am

I can so understand your predicament, I'm in exactly the same place... Some days I'm on the phone and email selling and taking orders, before I know it I have a dozen jobs that need doing and I have to drop everything to do them. Then no more orders get taken until they are done, it's a vicious circle, you often end up missing jobs.


The problem is you can't expand because you can't make enough money on your own to support a full time employee, but you can't do enough work on your to expand so you need an employee.... If you do take the plunge, do you go for an experienced person who will cost more, or take on someone without experience that you will have to take out valuable time from work to train?

If I could sit on the phone and at my pc all day I feel that I could almost double my turnover, but I don't have the working capital to support an employee for a couple of months while I get it rolling.... I could also take valuable time to work on other projects that I have that would expand the business... So I'm between a rock and a hard place. Sound like you?

It's a dilemma and a half, sorry not being much help here, but I would recommend an all rounder who can do the stuff that you don't get paid for doing like, cleaning up at the end of the day, loading the printer and taping and getting jobs ready etc......

I know exactly where you are coming from....... I'm sometimes so up my own harris at the end of the day that I just go home and come in and start again the next day. I really don't believe that you can run this business on your own and make enough money to expand (well not in my area anyway, 3 bed houses start at £275k here) my personal overheads at home are over £30k so all my profit is sucked up before I can even think about ploughing it back in to the business....

Good luck, I'm on the edge of dong something similar, let me know what you decide to do and we can compare notes..

BigMo
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 7:27 am

While I am a partner in a husband and wife business, so it makes sense I work hard......

While answering the phone and doing invoices is a valid job, my husband always says that when I am too ill to work, he never gets anything done ( so he has to admit I do do something LOL) If she isn`t doing it all the time she is being paid, give her more work to do.

I answer the phone, take orders, email quotes etc, embroider, weed cut decals, apply decals to signs, sweep up, empty the bins, make tea, do the dinner run etc etc

The only thing I don`t do is fit signs ( but thats only until my husband realizes I have a spare 5 minutes just before dinner time LOL)

In a small business, there is no place for "light workers or hangers on, they bring the business down" there are 1000`s of people out there that are willing to work nearly as hard as an business owner, you just got to find them, but you will go through a few before you find them.

Ask her to step up to the mark or replace her.
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 8:07 am

Granted my brother and I started the business together so it wasn't just a one man band.

We then added:

a full time production person.
a full time designer.
a full time customer service representative.

In that order.

My brother and I basically split our duties down the middle. I am production and his business/sales. Works well.

We figured that filling these positions in this order would give us the most time to work on the business and not in the business and generate the growth needed to actually give us the return on investment at filling those further positions.

The reasoning behind is the production person could help me simply work on producing the work and free my brother up to do the front end work.

The designer reduced our repose times to getting proofs and amendments out and allowed us to provide a better faster service which got us more work.

The customer service rep further reduced my brothers workload and allows us to reply to clients quickly and handle the volume of enquiries we get daily.

We run a tight ship.
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:42 am

That's excellent Jason, a perfect business model. If you haven't read it already, grab a book called the e-myth... it's excellent. What you could potentially do now, is document all of your jobs and make a manual of exactly how your business works detailing each position and it's duties, then voila! You have a saleable franchise opportunity, just rinse and repeat...

Brilliant, that's the mark you should be looking for Chris. Now if I could just increase my cashflow I could do the same...doh!
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Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:48 am

Mo Gillis-Coates wrote:Now if I could just increase my cashflow I could do the same...doh!


Surely that is what your local 'enterprise' 'business funding' (not sure what they are called there) agencies are for Mo?
Loads of money and mentoring help aimed at that sort of idea, you just need to tap into it.
What you need is a (oh i swore !) hot business plan.
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Post Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:46 pm

I'm in a similar situation to the OP. I had a visit from the local training group representative about taking on an apprentice. The hourly wage would only be somewhere in the region of £2.50. Although I'd have to invest some time in training them, I reckon I could have them weeeding and taping vinyl, laminating prints and carrying out general workshop duties within a month. Maybe this is something worth considering?
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Post Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:21 pm

Thank you for all your replies and ideas. I have to give some blame to my dad for not giving me a brother, as family partnership seems a blessing in most cases.

I am giving some thought to employing an experienced sign writer or even designer on a profit share basis. I will teach them all areas of the business, and to do all the things i would normally do. Probably pay a small wage, and deduct that from the yearly profits.

I feel this is a solution, as i find a lot of pressure on me having to run the business 24/7. So if i have someone to do all the things i do, it would free me up to concentrate on maybe marketing or even take a (long) holiday.

It is a big step, and would put anything i do in front of a notary, but i think a better solution than having someone do the weeding and make the tea.

Unfortunately here in Malta it seems the small business is the achilles heel of the economy, and to get any help or advice from the local enterprise unit would be unlikely at best.

Anyhow i will post here when i have finally decided, and fingers crossed will choose a good way to move forward

Chris
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Post Sat Jun 04, 2011 3:37 pm

Yeah that seemed like a good way to go for me, I have a project on the burner that has the potential to be very lucrative, but I can't get in to it as I'm to busy scratching a living..... I have been advertising for a partner on that side of the business for a while now, it's a gift really they would have nothing to pay to get in on it other than time...... I even supply office and computers etc etc.... but as soon as I mention that it's a profit share I never hear from them again...lol

I need to find someone who can see what I see.... POTENTIAL!
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Post Sat Jun 04, 2011 3:46 pm

Chris where abouts in Malta are you? You probably recognise my surname.
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Post Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:05 pm

Yes jason. Quite a common name here. Im in msida. Are you ever this way. Do look me up if you are. Chris

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