On employing more staff
Another question that people ask me about my business all the time is whether I’m going to employ more staff. Fair enough, this is a reasonable question to ask me and an obvious way that I might grow my business.
As I’ve mentioned before in 2012 I took a business degree at Napier University, and one of the subjects we studied was “business growth issues”. Amongst other things I wrote an assignment on how this related to my own business, so yet again I thought you might be interested to read what I had to say on the matter.
Attitude to growth and impact on firm to date
At Ruthless Research the first year of trading was intended to be a test for the market and my level of enjoyment of self-employment. Upon deciding to continue, I actively sought out this degree with the objective of deciding how to grow my business. This therefore shows that I am prepared to take a risk, and that I am committed to running my business strategically.
I have made a substantial commitment to running an excellent small business. And yet, I have not employed staff and continue to be reluctant to do so. This feels like a conflict and is an issue of huge significance, as I recognise that growth will always be limited while this continues to be the case.
I have reflected substantially on my rationale behind this, and have dismissed a number of the more obvious causes. I am not a control freak or a perfectionist, as I have always had to delegate and sub-contract and have been happy doing so. I have previously successfully employed staff and trained them to work according to my vision so I am not scared to do this again. Additionally I got a lot of personal satisfaction from being a manager and I would enjoy having colleagues again. So why would I deliberately limit growth in this way?
One key factor is that as I have put a lot of thought into the way that I run the business, I am doing so very efficiently. My systems and processes are fit for purpose, my clients are very happy, I have made a decent professional income, and I have a work/life balance that suits me. Crucially, I have capacity to take on more work so I do not currently need more staff. This means I lack a prompt to employ staff, and I am tempted by working closer to capacity and making more money than I ever earned in a job by continuing as a sole trader.
I also recognise that I can offer a service that is mutually financially agreeable to myself and my clients because I am cheap within the market of research consultants. This is a delicate balance, and the more overhead I introduce the more I will need to charge. Having to charge more would be prohibitive for charity clients, and may result in a lower margin for me.
To a certain degree I am also influenced by my personal circumstances. It may be fair to say that Ruthless Research is a lifestyle business, however I do exhibit qualities of both an artisan identity and a classical entrepreneur. As such, I prefer to think of myself as a lifestyle entrepreneur. I would like to have a family and Ruthless Research as it stands would enable me to work part time or put the business on hold and pick it up later as I prefer. However, even if this is the case I will continue to look for ways to maximise profitability and productivity.
In my career I have routinely spent around two years in each job, so I think I have subconsciously set myself the challenge of spending a couple of years building the best business with a single member of staff that I can.
Several years later, and this still applies! It turns out that the business is indeed ideal for a work/family balance and that I’m still enjoying the challenge more than four years on.