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You land a big, new project and need expertise and staff you don’t currently have. No small business can afford an army of employees sitting around waiting for the next project, so you need to scale. Fast. Your client doesn't want to hear that you need a month to advertise, interview and hire employees to do the job you’ve assured them you were perfect for. You need good people; you need them right away; and you need them to go away when the job is done.
The single best solution is an arsenal of contractors—specialists on call who permit your small business to expand and contract at a moment’s notice. Regardless of whether you operate a food truck, plan weddings or provide accounting services, there are six contractors that every small business should have on call.
Web Administrator. Your company’s website is the world’s portal to your services. When your website goes down unexpectedly, it’s like having the front door to your shop locked. You need a locksmith, and you don’t need one next week. You need a Web administrator available immediately—and it must be a contractor you know you can trust with the keys to your online kingdom.
Web Designer. The benefit and the curse of the rapidity with which we can alter the face of our business by updating our website is that you have no excuse for an out-of-date site. If the prospective client you’re meeting at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow needs to see current data with integrated text, graphics and video, you must offer results rather than excuses. Having a designer on call lets you wow your client with the substance of your presentation rather than having to apologize for the style that’s missing.
Writer. Whether or not you want to admit it, most of us aren’t spectacular writers. You can’t expect to be the expert at everything, and a skilled writer can deliver sharp, specific content consistently and quickly. Would you rather labor over a mediocre press release for an entire morning, or make a call to your writer, share the details and get back to work while your polished, compelling press release is being written by a pro?
Core Competency. Whether you’re a landscaper, a caterer or a graphic designer, you need to have skilled local talent lined up in your business’s field. The rule of thumb is to keep a pool of an additional 20 percent of your core staff ready to go. Being able to expand from 10 to 12 can be the deciding factor in you delivering on your promises.
Administrative Assistant. This catch-all category could be one of the most important to keeping things moving along smoothly. It not only ensures that you have coffee for a 24-hour shift, but also means that the slew of follow-up calls are made in a timely fashion. Even if you have a full-time person on staff, you still need to have a backup (imagine being without that person for a few weeks). Consider having a contract worker be an admin to your admin. If your key administrator is out, for any reason, you have a backup who is already familiar with your operation.
Translator. If you don’t have a need for a translator right now, you will in five years. Identifying the languages spoken by your competitors (or allies) lets you be prepared for opportunities to either compete or collaborate without delays. Even if your business operates domestically, you could discover that your office cleaning business in Bethesda has a business model that could be duplicated in Eastern Europe. Being prepared with a translator lets you capitalize on opportunities you might otherwise miss.
The keys to ensuring that these contractors will work is finding quality people you can trust and depend on. Websites like Elance and ODesk offer pools of qualified freelance workers for services that don’t have to be local. For local talent, check Craigslist, TaskRabbit and community sites like Patch for rounding up your crew.
It’s important to start small, and it’s ideal if you can try out your contractors with an initial assignment to ensure that they’ll integrate smoothly. When you find a contractors who are competent, responsive and reliable, your goal is to keep them happy. Pay them promptly and treat ‘em like gold. They’re the keys to your small business’ success.
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