It’s only natural that in a tight labor market where trained and skilled professionals are hard to come by that one would try to do more with less. This is actually one of the many goals of the solopreneur, who will often sacrifice growth for not having to manage or hire a larger staff.
However, growth often is a zero sum game if you take on additional business just to cover additional employees. As an MBA graduate, in my opinion, management is overrated.
There are many sectors that will allow success without adding employees. One of them is in the legal field. Using technology to run her practice lets defense attorney Susan Williams give clients the time and attention they need. “I never want to have a practice where people feel like their lawyer is being spread too thin,” says Williams, who is based in Charleston, South Carolina. As depicted in the chart below, a little over one-third of those surveyed by the NFIB have unfilled job openings.
So what are some of the methods that you can incorporate into your business that will allow you to work and grow without adding additional labor?
The first place to start is to analyze your cost structure to see if there are ways you can operate more cheaply. Many have embraced software and apps that do administrative tasks, make manufacturing more efficient or provide quick customer service. Many owners use freelancers or independent contractors rather than employees. Companies save money on employment costs, and also have more flexibility when they need specific talents or expertise for a project.
Small businesses are putting people back to work at a nice clip, with 66,000 jobs created in August, according to ADP payroll services. That was after adding just 1,000 in July and cutting 11,000 in June and 34,000 in May.
Technology can be a double-edged sword for small businesses and for future employment growth. A report from the Brookings Institution released in January said that approximately 36 million people, or a quarter of the current U.S. workforce, could see the majority of their work done by machines that use current technology. Increasing productivity will rely more on the future in technology, robotics and AI than human labor.
Customer service, for example, has changed dramatically how the consumer interacts with a product or company. Tom Nardone, president of BulletSafe Bulletproof Vests, is a prime example. His company used to have two or three customer service people to answer the phones, take orders and field questions. However, most customers now prefer to buy online and use email for questions and requests. As such, he needs just one customer service staffer, and because technology has freed up his time, he can focus more on prospecting for new business.
Relying more on freelancers rather than full or part-time employees is a trend that began during the recession and continues to grow. One aspect of this that you don’t often hear mentioned is that these jobs are usually performed overseas by people who can underbid American freelancers the majority of the time. This is the ebb and flow of the global economy.