Growing solo — how to grow a 1-person enterpriseSoumita Basu
New ideas and the ability to fit them into a sustainable market niche are often fuelled by the passion of a single person. However, one of the bottlenecks in single-person startups is knowing when to open out and hire a team. A team brings in a level of mental balance and strength to a sole proprietor. Having a team also ensures that new ideas are constantly flowing in the organisation. Some entrepreneurs look for a co-founder for mental strength, someone to discuss ideas with and plan equity. However, challenges in working with co-founders are also known to have set back new businesses. If you are a solopreneur who is comfortable wearing multiple hats that go with running a company, be it administrative, managerial and delivery of quality products or services, then here are some ways that can boost your startup’s growth.
The four Ds of solopreneurship are: delegation, discipline, determination and deliberation. While on the surface these seem to hold true for any organisation, getting it right is particularly important for a one-person enterprise. Let's look at each of these Ds to understand what they entail.
Identify tasks which are repeatable, calculate how many working hours go into those tasks and hire a freelancer or delegate to an agency depending on the service or product. A good way to identify such tasks is to categorise them based on which ones demoralise you more. Outsourcing such unpleasant, yet inevitable tasks helps you focus on your core business.
Keeping focus on what's important might prove to be difficult in the face of other demands like administrative work. Inculcate discipline in your working style with the help of technology. Resort to social media marketing tools, time management tools and business development software to help you get things done in the best way possible in the least amount of time.
Mentors are not just elders discussing business over a cup of tea these days. They are essential to bounce off ideas and chart your future path. In addition, there are incubators and accelerators that not only provide funding but also help companies with their mentorship programs. Regular peer meetups are great for market learning, and serve as a reality check on self-growth.
“A large focus of deliberations with mentors has been how to create viable backups. This has then been implemented largely with the help of peers as a first step,” explains Arjun Shankar, Founder of the one-person health enterprise, Caremantra. Backups are best understood when perceiving a situation where the solo entrepreneur is absent from the job for a sustained period of time. External backups can be planned for anticipated absences. However, the ideal backup is someone groomed within the company. This is a vital element in maintaining overall credibility as well.
Breakeven time for the average startup may be quite extended. Several doubts are often cast on small businesses that haven’t yet broken even. The founder has to have a clear, realistic goal of where the company will be in the next few years and be resolved to achieve it.
While implementing the four Ds can enhance growth for a one-person enterprise, there is an optimum point after which building a team might be wiser. Starting out lean with low operation costs can help the organisation initially. However, after growing till an optimal point, getting operations completed in-house instead of outsourcing can prove to be more cost-effective when it comes to handling larger volumes of work. Identifying the optimal point where the solo entrepreneur needs to start building a team can be evaluated on factors like growth across time zones and distances, market testing standard operating procedures for specialised roles in the company and, most importantly, when cost for internal absorption of tasks is lower than outsourcing. Also, solo entrepreneurs tend to reach their burn out points faster. Developing a team is important to share and nurture this energy and drive your vision to reality.