Business owners are driven by various motivations. Sometimes it’s influence, other times income, often helping those in need.
So it’s no surprise that when someone has a need and asks for your help the answer on the tip of your tongue is “sure, we can do that,” even if you can’t.
It’s not about deceiving a client or misrepresenting your skills, often it’s the thought that you can learn that skill, figure it out, or otherwise hire someone so you can help a client who has a clear need.
Other times it’s a self delusion that in order to be great, you must be an agency. Sure, it’s the first month of business but if you don’t have 12 sub-specialties and contractors and the ability to handle every challenge thrown your way then, well, the clients will go elsewhere.
Perhaps it’s time to envision your business like a construction contractor.
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Back in the early days of my career I worked on many a job site and there’s much you can learn from the division of labor in a construction zone.
First you have the client, the one paying for everything. They’re going to own the thing that you’re building whether it’s a house or a website. While the client gets to make all the final decisions they’re also the one signing the checks. Clients don’t always have the knowledge of the process so many times they hire help.
Enter the General Contractor. A GC is like your Project Manager (or Online Business Manager) who understands the scope, timelines, budget and much more. As GC, it’s their job to make sure everyone else is doing their job correctly.
Then you have the Sub Contractors. Those who are skilled at electrical, plumbing, drywall, paint, and so many more specialties. In your business it may be graphics, web design, copy writing, course creation, customer service, etc. In some cases the Sub Contractors are hired by the General and their fees and management are inexplicably tied to the projects the General takes on. In other jobs, the Sub Contractors bid on the work and the General will chose the best companies.
Are you a General or Sub Contractor? It depends.
This is not all to say that you must begin to hire Sub Contractors and become the General who has all the services in your realm of business at the ready.
Many, many small businesses do just fine as Sub Contractors, they focus on delivering great work to the client, work under a General for management and earn a good living.
Building an agency or GC style business takes time. And capital. And patience. After all, the first contractor you find may not be the best fit.
What if I don’t have a General Contractor?
If you’re thinking of your business and relationship with existing clients and can’t identify the GC then there’s 2 likely scenarios.
1. You’re acting as the GC because you’re attempting to manage other team members or businesses also providing support. This can work but make sure you have the authority and are paid accordingly to take on this role.
2. The client is the GC. Usually when a client is unable to hire a project manager to protect their interests and manage their projects, the client will manage on their own. Results are mixed depending on the client’s leadership capacity, technical understanding of the projects and available time.
That interesting, but what do I do now?
Glad you asked! You know how much I love giving weekly Action Steps:
First up, identify if your business is operating as a General Contractor or a Sub Contractor in the space that you occupy. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
Second, take some time to decide if you want to be a General or Sub Contractor.
Third, infuse your chosen model of work into your marketing and branding so clients understand clearly what services you provide. If it’s helpful, link them back to this post to read about the differences.
All of this stems from the acceptance that you can’t do it all, nor should you try.
When you’re clear on that then you can build the business that you want to run to attract the clients you want to serve and reach the goals you’ve set for your company.
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You can’t do everything. And you shouldn’t.
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