Has your start-up grown to the point where you’re thinking about hiring staff? Or have you recently hired your first employees? If so, congratulations! Keep up the good work! But be warned – there’s a big potential pitfall just around the corner if you aren’t careful. Often, the people you will hire people will have specialist knowledge and experience. That might mean, for example, hiring an accountant to oversee your payroll or an IT guru to work on your website. More often than not, this can lead to a situation where, for example, only the tech guru knows how all that PHP code under the hood of your website works or the only member of staff who can use your accounting software is the accounts manager. Such a high degree of reliance on a single member of your staff can leave your business in a position where it grinds to a complete halt if, through annual leave, illness or injury, they spend any time away from work. That’s not fair on the employee, and it’s a dangerous situation for you. Likewise, if for whatever reason that employee stops working for you – whether they decide to leave or you terminate their employment – training their replacement in even a rudimentary way is likely to be difficult. And if, for whatever reason, you need to take any disciplinary action against them (heaven forbid), they have a lot more leverage if they know your business cannot effectively function without them. You cannot afford to let your staff members hold your business to ransom like that! So it is absolutely essential that, for every member of staff you hire, there is someone else on your team who knows enough about their daily duties that your business doesn’t come to a standstill if they’re not at work. It is also essential – especially for any IT-related roles – for people to document what they do and to leave this documentation is a secure place where other employees can access it if needed. Likewise, while shared passwords are an absolutely awful idea in general, if you do have any shared accounts or admin accounts for any online service, it’s essential that these passwords are documented somewhere in an accessible place. So do you have an employee you couldn’t function without? Make sure they document what they do along with any passwords or accounts they regularly use and train at least one colleague in the essentials of their job. Get it done – today!
In this column, a dirty word will be used. A word seldom used in polite conversation. The kind of word people fear to use around children or in the company of the elderly. That’s right, this is an article about outsourcing. Now while your humble correspondent is not a mind reader, I can already tell what you’re thinking. The poorly trained call centre staff in some far off land who robotically read scripts. Don’t worry – Old Taskmaster is more than familiar with the call centre shuffle. Of course, all outsourcing means is contracting out a business task to another company, rather than doing it in house. That’s all. Contracting a job out to someone else doesn’t have to mean “offshoring”, or sending jobs offshore. You can outsource a job to a company in Australia if you so wish. Likewise, it doesn’t even have to be about minimising your costs – although that is one common benefit of the practice. The reason for doing it is to focus your resources on what your business is truly good at – your core competencies – and then hiring someone else to do the rest. For example, if you’re launching a tech start-up, there are probably some things relating to smartphones and computers that you are exceptional at. Perhaps it’s database management, server-side scripting, or coding apps for Android or iOS. Of course, as soon as you start, you will inevitably need to do a whole range of tasks you’re not so good at. You might know how to write PHP code with a blindfold on, but you might not know the first thing about accounting, payroll management, graphic design or business law. If you try to build your own accounting team in-house, you’re left attempting to manage a team of people whose industry you know nothing about. Your staff will suspect you’re a clueless boss who doesn’t know the first thing about accounting – and they’ll be right. Meanwhile, as long as there’s a tax office and a government, there will be long and pointless forms you need to fill out. Why should you waste your time with data entry work or bookkeeping? Why not spend your time getting your apps onto Google Play, something that will earn you money? As your business grows and revenue comes in, do you invest more resources into the things your business is good at – such as computer programming – or the stuff you’re not good at – like accounting? Well, it’s time to take a moment to think about exactly what it is that you or your business can do exceptionally well. What are the core areas where you can add value for your customers and turn a profit? What are core competencies you need in-house to deliver your products to your customers? As your business grows, this is what you should invest your capital in. This is the area you should hire new staff in. This is what you should be focusing your time and energy on as a manager. For everything else? It’s time to hit Google, the Yellow Pages, Freelancer.com and 99 Designs to get it outsourced! Get it outsourced – today!
Are you trying to pick a name for your business? Looking for something really unique? Old Taskmaster has a radical idea that will make you stand out from the crowd. But first, I need you to imagine a strange land. A land before time. A land before mobile phones and the internet had been invented. Now, for some of you young whippersnappers, I’ll admit it might be tough to imagine, but bear with me. In this strange land, product and company names generally communicated information about the company. Sometimes, a business would be named after its founder. For example, Myer’s department store was founded by Sidney Myer, while Grace Brothers was founded by Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace. An alternative was to name products based on where it was from. No prizes for guessing where the cannery for SPC, the Shepparton Preserving Co-operative, was (and yes, it was a farmers’ ‘co-op’ before it was a ‘company’). Others opted for names that describe what the company did. As shocking as it sounds, International Business Machines was an international company that sold business machines. Sure, there were products with misspellings and poor grammar – Old Taskmaster is looking at you, Weet Bix – but those products stood out from the crowd by virtue of their unique name. Even in the early days of the computer revolution, brands like Digital, Commodore, Apple, Radio Shack, Acorn or Atari at least chose sensible names. Of course, times change. Like goth kids in high school playground, everyone decided to be unique – by doing the exact same thing as everyone else. It might have been the influence of rock and roll bands, from the Beatles to Motörhead. It could have been the camel case commands in various programming languages (as if anyone who ever typed ‘WriteLn’ needed another reason to hate Pascal). It was, possibly in large part, due to the success of the iMac and web squatters claiming every word in the dictionary. These days, it seems a start-up name isn’t complete until it’s grammatically incorrect. CamelCase everywhere. Companies insisting the first letter in their company name should be lower case. Needless exclamation marks! Vowels missing. Letters replaced by numb3rs. Then there’s the letters replaced with an upper case X, sort of like the “X Games”. After all, it might not be immediately clear to the casual observer that optimising a database query in PHP is really an extreme sport, like a skydiving contest. That’s before you get the PR reps who insist that a Welsh-looking company name that would not look too out of place near the town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll must be spelled in a particular Pantone shade of red, lower-case italics. With that type of pressure, it can be tough to stand out. Well, Old Taskmaster says this: If you’re choosing a business name, it’s time to do something really radical. Something to make you really stand out against all the other tech start-ups out there. That’s right, it’s time to buy a vowel! No italics, no unnecessary ‘i’ or ‘e’ at the start of your company name. It’s time to really stand out from your competitors – by choosing an old-fashioned, grammatically correct business name! Get it done – today!
The past couple of days, Taskmaster has been discussing a particular kind of niche market: The “insider” consumers.
Earlier today, I decided it was high time to have a chat with Taskmaster Enterprises’ resident Gen-Y Techmaster.
It’s an interesting question, “Why would someone with no background in your industry be a great asset for your start-up?”
Tech giants Google and Microsoft have offered new incentives to start-ups and small businesses in an attempt to increase the user numbers for their respective technologies.
I’ve put a lot of work into the look and feel of my website but I haven’t given much thought to the hosting/serving of the site. What are the main things I need to look out for to ensure I get a good, effective deal?