In a recent post, I discussed the differences between a freelancer, a business owner and an entrepreneur. One of the differences I noted was how freelancers are usually a one man show whereas business owners and entrepreneurs bring on other people.
As I’ve made the shift from a freelancer to a business owner, one of the things I’ve had to learn how to do is managing a growing team. It’s not just me anymore. In fact, I have a team of about five contractors that I’m working with on a regular basis.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned from managing a growing team as I grow my business to new heights.
Hire based on expertise.
The first step in properly managing a growing team is to hire based on expertise. For example, I don’t expect the person managing my Pinterest account to also know how to write an SEO friendly blog post or know how to use our robust email marketing system.
Expecting one person to be some sort of super human contractor is a huge mistake business owners make all the time. Your best bet is to hire people based on their particular expertise. Additionally, considering hiring people whose expertise complement your own. The truth is you can get ahead faster by collaborating.
Have a middle man.
I’ve noted in the past how my virtual assistant has moved into more of a manager position to help me in managing a growing team.
This was done on purpose.
The reason I decided to have contractors answer to my long time virtual assistant for most things was so that she could take care of the managing so I could take care of drumming up new business and creating digital products.
If I had to do that and manage a bunch of contractors I’d never get anything meaningful done.
The way we have it set up is simple. Each week, I have a meeting with my virtual assistant turned manager. During this meeting, I let her know what I need from the different contractors and by when.
For example, let’s say we’re working on the editorial calendar for the coming month. We got through podcast episodes, when I need things to be published, what images we need and when we need the accompanying blog post. By the end of the call, my manager knows what to delegate to who do that I don’t actually have to do it myself.
Create systems and processes.
Since expanding a growing business and managing a virtual team, I’ve become a systems and processes geek.
For example, we use Asana for all internal communication so we don’t have to waste time going back and forth with emails or having meetings. If there’s a task I need from a contractor each month, we simply set it as a recurring task in Asana.
Creating systems and processes when managing a growing team also refers to creating systems for deliverables.
For instance, we have a set system for content on my blog. Each person knows what they need to deliver by when each month. We all also know what kind of content is published when and what social media assets are needed for each piece of content.
It’s the same exact process each month so there’s absolutely zero confusion. (P.S. It also helps that we do content at least a month ahead of time so there’s enough time to make any necessary changes.)
There’s a bit of a learning curve for everyone when you begin managing a growing team for the first time.
For example, one of our contractors hadn’t really used Asana before so there was a bit of a training period. Additionally, my virtual assistant was just beginning to manage people so there were some things she needed to learn as well.
Just like you can’t expect people to possess all the skills you need, you also can’t expect them to know everything you want from the get go. Be patient with people and expect there to be a bit of a training period as everyone gets their footing.
Be clear about your deliverables.
In order to be successful at managing a growing team you need to be crystal clear about your expectations and deliverables.
Here’s some important information you need to let your contractors know about:
- Which task you need done (complete with instructions if it’s the first time).
- By when you need it done.
- What kind of results you are looking for.
- How you are measuring results.
- How and when you want those results reported.
I admit I’m working on the latter two especially as it pertains to social media management. For example, I’m trying to figure out what kind of results I’m looking for in terms of my Pinterest account. Do I want more views? Do I want hire traffic to my site? What is it exactly that I’m looking for?
As for reporting results, my Pinterest manager knows to report progress by the end of the week in our project management systems so I can log into my account and take a look.
Keep the lines of communication open.
A key to managing a growing team is to keep communication open between you and your contractors.
My contractors know that they can ask me questions if they need clarification. Likewise, I make sure to let them know if there are any changes in what they need from me. For instance, we recently had a change in the editorial calendar and I let them know ahead of time.
I’ve also found that celebrating team members goes a long way. I recently let my Pinterest manager know how pleased I was with her work after I logged into my account and saw that a) a code I couldn’t get to work was working and b) the page views had increased significantly.
Let’s be real, not everyone makes a good manager. It requires a specific skill set that takes practice. However, the thing I have found most helpful in managing a growing team is to simply act like a decent human being.