Got Help? When To Hire People For the Back Office
When is it time to scale up your business?
It’s a question many shop owners have had to contend with over the years. Maybe you’re a one-man band; maybe you’ve got a tech or two under you. Either way, you’ve got a lot of work coming in, and if you’re like a lot of smaller operations, you, as owner, are probably wearing a lot of hats. You aren’t just an owner or technician. You’re also handling finances…scheduling…customer service…marketing…
Whoof. We’re tired just thinking about it.
Anyway. A question popped up about this very topic in one of our Shop Owner Roundtables —when should owners really start to look at hiring more administrative staff to help with the effort of running and expanding a business?
We sat down with Fullbay CEO Patrick McKittrick and Fulblay COO Chris O’Brien to get their thoughts on the matter.
WHERE DO YOU PROVIDE VALUE?
Since you’ve landed on this article, we’ll take the liberty of assuming you are thinking about hiring more help. Usually, Patrick says, this is because an owner knows they can no longer get everything done.
He suggests asking yourself the following: “‘Where should I be spending my time? Where can I provide the most value to the business?”
Maybe you’re a star at sales. Maybe you’re still the best tech on the property. Those are things you should be focusing on.
But once you figure that out, take a look at everything else you’re doing that keeps you from focusing on the important things.
“That’s going to tell you what roles you should seek to hire,” he concludes, “to fill the needs of all the things you’re doing instead of what you should be doing.”
SIGNS THAT YOU SHOULD START HIRING
In addition, Chris says, see if any of the following scenarios seem to describe your situation:
- People turnover. You can’t keep individuals—and worse, you don’t have time to hire replacements.
- Revenue. Are you a zillion years behind on your invoicing? Shop software like Fullbay can help (yes, we’re plugging ourselves), but if you still can’t keep up and you’re staying up late trying to get caught up with your finances…you probably need to hire someone.
- Parts losses. Are you losing money on parts? Are you struggling to complete research on what parts are going for? You might be losing a lot of money (think $2,000 a month on cores!).
- Customer complaints. We should probably note here that even the best-run shops get the occasional irate customer—it’s part of doing business. But someone still has to handle those complaints and make them right. And if you’re stretched thin, and lots of customers are complaining about communication or the level of service they received…do we really need to say it?
“If you answered yes to any of those, and you’re still a lone shop owner wearing all the hats, it’s time to get somebody,” Chris tells us.
That somebody doesn’t need to be a technician, by the way. Sure, if you have a tech that’s interested in moving into a more administrative or executive role, then by all means create a path for them to do so—but you may also want to hire someone who is trained to handle that particular kind of role.
GET COMFORTABLE DELEGATING
Let’s address the elephant in the room: delegation.
A lot of shop owners—especially people who are running much smaller operations—are hesitant about handing their duties off to someone else. They probably know they need to step back a little from this or that situation, but actually entrusting those situations to someone they barely know feels like…well…a lot. Some of them have this idea that hiring someone will completely cut them out of this or that role.
But look—just because you hand off some tasks to someone else doesn’t mean you’re absolving yourself of oversight. “They can still stay involved and provide guidance and inspect results without actually having to do the job,” Patrick says. “You don’t have to totally remove yourself.”
Keep that in mind. Repeat it to yourself as necessary whenever you get worried about hiring people.
You also don’t need to hire someone on a full-time basis. Maybe a part-time person can get the job done. Maybe you can even hire a contractor for a few hours a week just to get yourself started. We often go into hiring with this idea that it’s all or nothing, but the truth is you do have options (er, contingent on your state and locality, so make sure you’re following your region’s laws).
In short, there’s a lot of ways to make hiring extra help work for you.
HOW ELSE CAN YOU HELP YOURSELF?
Earlier in the article, we outlined some common areas where shop owners can hire help, but there are plenty of others. Basically, if you aren’t an expert in some area, hiring that expertise will likely benefit you in the long run.
“An expert can do in two hours what it’s taking a shop owner eight hours,” Patrick says. A common example of this is marketing; yes, digital marketing can expand your shop’s reach and bring in tons of customers, but it also has a steep learning curve and it’s always changing. Yes, you’ll probably be able to figure out some components on your own over time, but you can probably save time (and money…and your sanity) by bringing someone else on board to handle it (hey, like Dieselmatic!).
Chris agrees, and takes it a step further: anything related to the back office tends to be a good spot to hire help. “Most shop owners are mechanics,” he explains. Sure, some develop or have an aptitude for finances and admin work, but a lot of them don’t. “If you have open accounts receivable past 90 days, you need help,” he adds. “You need someone to chase down that money…that’s not you.”
FULLBAY CAN HELP, BUT IT’S NOT AN EXTRA STAFFER
We end a lot of articles with some form of “Fullbay can help you with this issue in the following way.” And y’know what? Fullbay can help you do more with less. It’ll certainly help you manage inventory, and you can more easily communicate with customers thanks to its handy portal, but it’s not a full replacement for getting the right people into the right roles.
In the end, deciding to hire new staff comes down to reviewing your data and your quality of life and doing what’s right for you and your shop. Sure, give Fullbay a try. But maybe think about hiring that parts or office manager while you’re at it!