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Productivity inquiry for startups: DIY or outsource non-essential tasks?

Posted by Kanika Sinha

February 23, 2015

The official job description of a CEO includes developing and executing a strategic plan to lead the company towards the organization’s overall vision and mission. This includes leading and motivating the executive leaders of the organization as well as managing the expectations of the Board of Directors and customers. As you well know, the job of a startup’s CEO spins more plates than this.

Yes, you can do it all – raise capital, product development, rainmaker, marketer, accountant. But should you?

As you may be painfully aware, startup CEOs find themselves handling everything from courting investors to executing less essential day-to-day administrative tasks. CEOs find it easier to add to, rather than take away from their task list. But unfortunately, managing too much leads to a harsh decrease in productivity resulting in slower growth. A Harvard Study found that a decline in productivity driven by sleep deprivation costs American companies approximately $63.2 billion dollars per year! Another study found that sleeping less than six hours per night often leads to job burnout.

Many talented entrepreneurs believe that they can do it all. And they probably can. But the question is, why should you? Prioritizing a to-do list that will result in the company’s growth instead of hurling toward burnout is a smarter goal. David Zahn, the president of and author of The Quintessential Guide to Using Consultants advices that “each entrepreneur should focus on what he or she does best and outsource other duties to professionals…If you were hiring, it wouldn't be reasonable to ask the bookkeeper to also act as general counsel, so why would I assume that an owner is the most skilled person at any one niche? As a startup, I can't be expected to be the expert on every single aspect or facet [of the business]. I just need to be fluent in what the expert is doing."

Startup CEOs usually choose to involve themselves in unnecessary tasks under the false pretense of cost savings. There may not be enough money in the budget to hire full time staff trained in the ever-changing areas of HR compliance and tax law. But what is the opportunity cost of having the CEO learning and keeping up with the frequently changing laws? Anyone would agree it’s a no brainer for the CEO to line up investors rather than do his/her own books. Even worse, imagine taking the time to study the tangle of labor laws only to miss out on the latest turn of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) small detail opening yourself up to an inconvenient lawsuit.

So what is the secret to balancing your Startup workload while at the same time being conscious with the limited budget of your Startup? You might need some outside help, but start by prioritizing tasks and responsibilities. Do this by listing out all of your tasks and honestly assessing each one of them by answering the following questions:

• How essential is this task?

If you are truly honest with yourself, you will find that many of your tasks are not essential to the growth of your business. Your unique skills make your time way too valuable for writing blog posts and agonizing over accounting and payroll issues.

• Is there anyone else in your organization that is qualified to complete this task?

Your ambitious nature forces you to take on everything, but as the CEO, your focus should really be on the tasks that you are gifted for. If you are a perfectionist, you probably assume that even though others can handle a specific task, it won’t be completed to your level of expectations. It might not be or, you might be pleasantly surprised by others’ contributions you had underestimated.

• Does this task fall into your areas of expertise?

Spending time struggling with tasks that aren't within your core competencies will ravage your energy and your time – both very precious resources.

• Is this a task you enjoy doing?

Remember that tedious tasks that go against your nature cause procrastination and will drain your limited time.

Once you have identified essential duties that only you are qualified to perform, it’s time to start delegating everything else. If you can’t find anyone suitable to pass specific tasks to, consider outsourcing. Think you can't afford it? Do the math! What’s an hour of your time worth?

All non-essential operational or transactional tasks can be outsourced  at a surprisingly reasonable price. There are a variety of Outsourced Administrative Service providers, such as Escalon, that specialize in everything from Audit Readiness to HR Benefits/Policy to Payroll. Think of administrative outsourcing as having an on-demand virtual Finance and HR department, customized for just what your company needs at a particular stage of growth.

A key benefit of engaging an administrative service provider is that you gain the expertise of an entire specialized department, such as HR, without the cost associated with hiring full time employees. Plus outsourced experts minimize or even eliminate your company’s exposure to various legal issues. The time savings alone will have a significant impact. The ROI of Outsourcing is clear on many fronts.

Prioritization is key to your success as the CEO of a successful Startup. Choose to focus on essential activities that only you are qualified to handle. And leave the rest to qualified others.


Kanika Sinha
Kanika Sinha

Kanika is an enthusiastic content writer who craves to push the boundaries and explore uncharted territories. With her exceptional writing skills and in-depth knowledge of business-to-business dynamics, she creates compelling narratives that help businesses achieve tangible ROI. When not hunched over the keyboard, you can find her sweating it out in the gym, or indulging in a marathon of adorable movies with her young son.

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