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On employing more staff

July 8, 2015

Ruth and HannahAnother 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.

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