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This conversation between business coach, small business, and deal-making SME, David Barnett and Susan Fennema, CEO (Chaos Eradicating Officer) of Beyond the Chaos, provides practical insights for small business owners who want to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and scale their companies. When you identify and address common bottlenecks, you can free up your time to focus on higher-impact activities.

Dig into the top five most common bottlenecks and how small businesses can tackle them, plus see how to manage email to free up time.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Project management can become an overwhelming bottleneck that consumes too much of the owner’s time. Using project management software and templates allows tasks to be delegated while maintaining oversight.
  2. Invoicing and collections should be handed off from the owner. This removes emotional barriers and ensures regular billing.
  3. Sales is often dominated by the owner. Creating systems, scripts, and CRM tracking allows sales to be delegated over time.
  4. Payroll should be automated and handled by a bookkeeper or service. This ensures employees are correctly paid without constant owner involvement.
  5. HR policies and procedures for hiring, onboarding, training, and offboarding should be systemized. This reduces risk and improves the employee experience.
  6. Email can be a huge distraction. Setting up rules and delegating responses frees up mental bandwidth.

This discussion provides an excellent overview of how to identify and address bottlenecks to improve business operations and productivity. By implementing these systems and processes, owners can scale their operations and business as a whole.

Please find the full video transcription below.

David Barnett: I’m David C. Barnett and you’re tuned into Small Business and Deal Making, the podcast, YouTube channel, and blog where I talk about buying, selling, financing and managing small and medium-sized businesses while controlling risk. If you’re looking to take control of your future through buying a business one day, or if you already own a business and you’re looking to grow or exit, you’ve come to the right place. I talk about interesting things, I talk to interesting people and I answer your questions every week right here, so be sure to hit like and be sure to hit subscribe and let’s get to it. Are you thinking of growing your business or beginning a journey into entrepreneurship? Take a shortcut to success by buying an existing and profitable business the right way. Visit Business Buyer Advantage and learn more about my online training, group coaching, and consulting services designed to help you win. Welcome Susan Fennema. How are you today?

Susan Fennema: I’m great. Thanks for having me, David.

David: Oh, well thanks for joining us. Today we’re going to be talking about small business bottlenecks, some of the operational things that can get in the way of being successful and productive and efficient in the workplace, and I’m excited about this conversation because of you and who you are and the experience you have working with small business owners. You were a guest in my Business Buyer Advantage Group Coaching Program. We talked specifically about tools that can help make a business more effective and efficient to operate, but I would like you, if you could, take just a moment to introduce yourself to the YouTube audience. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how you came to end up in the business that you have today.

Susan: Well, I’m the Chaos Eradicating Officer, that is CEO, of Beyond the Chaos. We help small business owners in companies of 25 people or fewer who are struggling to get out of the day-to-day of their business ops. You’re overwhelmed, you’re being pulled around fighting fires all the time. Those are the things we come in and help with. We help you identify your systems, your processes, perhaps job descriptions, areas, gaps where you might need team members. That’s our role is to help those business owners find the space to grow and scale.

David: How did you end up in this role? I’m imagining that you’ve got an experience or a history of living through some of these things that has given you some insight into how people can deal with them.

Susan: Absolutely. I have always worked in small business. Totally have a passion for it. I worked in one big company, one big corporation for a year. I’m like, that’s not going to last. All my other engagements have been with very small companies where you can affect change quickly or you can see that outcome quickly. I’ve always kind of been the right hand to the business owner. I didn’t know what that was called. EOS has done a great job of naming that the integrator now. I always just said I was the make it happen person. I have a team full of make it happen people now. After I left my last job I’m like, why am I doing this for one owner at a time? Let’s go serve the world, so here we are.

David: Awesome. Basically you heard the market, you felt the demand and then you created a business that would satisfy that demand. Let’s talk about these bottlenecks and then we’re going to get into a little bit of how some of the solutions work. You created a list of five. Do you want me to say them all or do you want to say them all or should we take them one at a time?

Susan: Why don’t we take them one at a time.

David: Okay. What do you want to start off with?

Susan: You start off, you have the list in front of you.

Bottleneck #1: Project Management

David: Project management. First let’s talk about project management. I can certainly see how this is a bottleneck because I’ve got half a dozen projects here on my own desk that don’t seem to be making very much progress unless I do stuff with them, so I can feel how this is a bottleneck. Tell us what your experience is with this.

Susan: We see a lot of business owners working in businesses where the delivery to their client is a project, whether that’s a creative project, a software solution, even accounting that’s repeatable projects. What happens is as the owner, you start your business because you’re so great at your job and you don’t have help and you think you’re going to do this all by yourself and now you’re in the middle of handling the deliverables and scheduling things and it absorbs all your time. Project management’s not something you can walk away from. It glues you to your desk. It has to be responsive, and you end up then struggling to sort out what tools should I use, how do I train my people, are my people doing it? You get so sucked into that you can’t do anything else and that’s all you’re doing all day. Sometimes you look and say, yeah, but that’s me being a good account manager. Different thing. Project management can become overwhelming and as a business owner, that is not the best place to spend your time in those details that absorb so much of your time so that you can’t focus on what are you actually trying to deliver to your client and where’s the next one coming from?

David: Right. It’s funny because just last week I was giving a presentation and I actually found a statistic from a gentleman who had done a time audit study of consultants as a broad group. What this gentleman discovered is only about 25% of a consultant’s time is typically spent actually working on deliverable work that’s billable. The other 75% is spent on marketing and administration, travel, all that kind of stuff to bring the work in. You’ve got this limited amount of time basically that can be sold. If you are not willing to allow other people to have some sort of a custodial capacity with that project, if you’re not willing to step back a little bit, then you’re never going to be able to leave. I remember in my business broker days, we had paper files. This was 15 years ago.

Susan: You’re dating yourself.

David: On the inside of each of those brownish-colored folders, we would have a process flow list stapled in there, and as the client moved through our process, we could indicate this was done by this person on this date as they graduated from one step to the next. That allowed other people to be able to do part of the work. This is the kind of thing you’re talking about, but obviously with a digital environment, right?

Susan: A digital environment in these days, for sure. I had the same experience when I was working at an ad agency and we had huge job jackets with all sorts of paperwork in it that physically moved throughout the office, but in these days you are dealing more with digital assets. Most people in these types of fields are not in the office anymore. Having a digital way to manage your projects where you can also be consistent, where you can create a repeatable deliverable. If you’re building a software tool, let’s say you’re a custom software developer, you still are delivering very different things to each of your clients. They all have very different needs, but how you do it is the same. You have regular status meetings, you have quality control, you have coding time, you have business analysis that you have to get from your client. Those parts surrounding the actual creation are very consistent and can be repeatable, and that gives you a sustainable business where somebody else can come in and manage all those details for you. If you’re using a software tool like Teamwork, that’s my favorite one, I’m glad I get to talk about it at the top of the show, if you’re using something like that, you’re able to create these templates. When a project opens, you click a button, it assigns out to the right roles on the team, it assigns a typical schedule and you’re ready to go. You don’t spend all the time in those details, and I still don’t think the owner is the one who should be opening the project. You still want to have a project manager do that, or if they are simple projects, you can bring in a virtual assistant to do it, but it will need to be pretty simple if you’re going to have a virtual assistant manage it.

David: Now, I’ve met people, I’ve seen various tools that all solve the same kind of problem. Asana is another one that is kind of for this sort of thing. How do you decide which one is right for you?

Susan: It does matter what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, we work with some trade services where they have people out in the field who need to be scheduled and that kind of thing. Teamwork’s not going to work in that situation. You need something like Jobber, which is a great tool. There are others similar. You have to look at what does your business do and what are those features you need in a tool. Asana is a pretty good tool. It’s hard to track time in it. That is a new feature, but I think you have to be on the highest most expensive enterprise plan to do that. Same with the templates, to get those. We sometimes recommend Asana in for people who are just starting out where things are really very simple and if they need something that’s more on the free side, but if you’re getting into contingencies and workflows and automations, then we want to push you up to Teamwork. Asana can be integrated or pulled into Teamwork if you’re ready to upgrade down the road, so can Trello and other tools. Trello is another example of a very simple board type thing where you just kind of move the blocks throughout the system. If you’re looking for very simple, you can go with a Trello or Asana. Teamwork is going to have a lot more features. Then you also can look at, if you’re managing software versioning, you might want Jira to do that, but that’s not a good project management front end. You can tie it to another one.

David: I want to unpack a couple of the terms that you mentioned there because for a lot of the people in my audience this stuff is kind of new. You mentioned workflow and automation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what we’re talking about is one person can be assigned a certain piece of that overall project, a certain step, and when they complete their work, they can then indicate this is now finished, the system can then go put that file into the next person’s inbox who is responsible for the next role. We can create rules around that. If that second person doesn’t do anything with it, let’s say, for two days, I as a leader could be notified, hey, this person has had this for two days and has yet to begin actioning it. Right?

Susan: Essentially, yes.

David: This is the kind of thing we’re talking about where we’re talking about a flow of work going through a team and you could even have multiple people qualified to do that step and maybe give some intelligence to who gets the assignment for the next step. Can you expand a little bit upon that so people can kind of imagine how this is going to help smooth the flow of things through a team?

Susan: Sure. Teamwork also has a workflow planner and a way to assign work across time. If you have a start and an end date on a task that takes 10 hours, say it’s a week, it’s going to divide that task at two hours a day. Even though your person might spend two five-hour days, that is going to give you a better idea of how much capacity do they have. Could they take on more work? Is everybody burning at 35 hours a week and we need another person to be able to take on a new project, or do we need to tell new clients that they have to wait a month to get on the schedule? Those are the types of things that it can help you as you grow and build your business, make those types of decisions. There are also reports you can pull. If you are a time-tracking business, you’re able to pull costs against jobs and understand which project is more profitable than another one. Those are some really high-end features that are invaluable, but if you’re not doing anything, getting the templates in place and getting the automatic scheduling and being able to facilitate and push projects forward as opposed to just waiting for that next thing to happen and hope people don’t forget about it. That’s really the essence of what you want to start within a project management tool.

David: Yeah. We don’t want to be using the hope strategy.

Susan: Don’t use the hope strategy, don’t use email. If you’re using email as your project management tool, you’re doing it wrong. Get out of that.

Bottleneck #2: Invoicing

David: Well, let’s move on to the second one, invoicing as a second bottleneck. I’ve certainly experienced working with clients who had this issue where they would be busy all day managing work getting done and then actually sitting down and invoicing or even making the notes for the person who did the invoicing took a backseat, and sometimes things were forgotten, which of course is the worst case scenario because it means you employed time and materials and nobody got a bill for it.

Susan: Well, we’re in business to make money, and that’s what keeps us able. Whatever your value system is, your why is, you have to have money to exist. If you’re not billing your clients, that’s going to cause a problem. I worked with a client who was well over six months behind on invoicing, and once you get that far behind, now there’s a fear in sending the invoice because you’re going to shock your client that had no idea they were this in the hole or they were this behind, and then that fear even makes you procrastinate more until now you have a major problem. We found in working with him that setting up a process around how you’re invoicing regularly, so every week on Monday, we’re going to pull a time report for that client. We’re going to see where they are against budget, we’re going to see if they need a new invoice or if they’re still within a bank of hours or if we know they bill once a month, then that’s when we’re going to do it, but it forced it into a regular rotation and he handed it off to an assistant who is crushing it because she’s not afraid to send it. She’s a lot more straightforward with, okay, here’s your money, it’s due now. I think there’s a lot of emotion around money, and there shouldn’t be. If you go to the hardware store to buy a hammer, you pay what the skew says on the wall over there. You don’t get there and argue about it. If you use credit, you don’t say, oh, I don’t need to pay that credit card now. It’s a whole different concept when you come to services for some reason, and that emotion plays into it and you feel like, oh, I can’t bill them that much, or it’s so late. I’d probably have to write some stuff off. You start to get in trouble, you get behind, you can’t pay your people and it just ends up a mess. If you can get that off your plate as an owner and it can just happen in the background, does not mean you shouldn’t be paying attention to your cashflow. I’ll be very clear about that, but somebody else being involved to help you get it out the door will make all the difference.

David: I think you’ve raised some really great points that I don’t think I’ve discussed here before. Whenever I’ve had a job in another organization, it’s almost always been in sales and I’ve done a lot of sales training, and sometimes in sales training we learn about things like negative self-talk where in your head you have this voice that’s working against the purpose of what you’re trying to do, pushing you back, and you have to deal with that. You have to stop and say, okay, wait a minute. I’m selling a product or a service, but this thing is useful. All the other customers that use it like it, it makes their life easier. They’re happy to pay us. I’m not bugging people. I’m actually delivering a product or service that enhances value for someone and they’re happy to do business with us. Why have I got this voice in my head telling me not to call that cold prospect or whatever? What you’re saying is that business owners maybe who are intimately involved with the invoicing, they have their own version of this going on after the work’s been done, after the price has been agreed to about sending the bill, right?

Susan: It’s head trash.

David: Yeah. It’s a great term. It’s head trash and it prevents you from completing the loop. Now, I’m not a counselor or a psychologist or anything like that, but I think that what you’re saying, just the solution of having somebody else who’s completely emotionally not attached who just says, yeah, it’s my job to look at these numbers to make the invoice and to send it and let them do their job is such an easy fix for just removing yourself from that circuit. Right?

Susan: Absolutely. I know some listeners, you might be billing in arrears, so after you’re doing the work, but your client still shouldn’t be surprised. They should have an idea of what that estimate is that’s coming to you. If your project manager’s doing a good job, if something happened out of that expectation, that should be communicated before the work was done. Hey, listen, we can totally jump on this, but this was not in the plan. It’s going to take another 10 hours. Are you good with that? Just something like that. It’s telling somebody what the cost is of what they’re asking for. I think oftentimes people expect… a client’s just asking for something. They don’t know how hard it is, they don’t know how long it could take. It might just be something that was fleeting in their mind and then all of a sudden they’re like, wait a minute, I had to pay $2,000 for that? I thought it was a two-minute thing. Being able to have that conversation also plays into that invoicing so you’re not surprising. You’re not sending and invoicing and ducking. Everybody’s on the same page.

David: Expectation management. Letting them know. I’ve seen this work in the opposite way where customers will ask about a certain thing and people will… again, that head trash will get in the way and they’ll shadow what… they’ll think that the customer doesn’t want to spend a lot of money because maybe they have a discomfort with spending a lot of money. I’ve seen this in auto repair and I’ve seen it in travel as well. I’ll give you an example from a travel industry case where two brothers independent of each other booked vacations at the same resort with the same travel agent, but two different agents served each brother. When the second brother showed up and said, I want to go to this resort at this time, he was asking a lot of questions related to the pricing, so the agent kind of felt that they were looking for a more budget experience. The first brother had booked the high-end black bracelet experience with all the sort of restricted areas of the resort. The second brother was never presented the option. The agent just assumed this guy’s not looking to spend a lot of money, said here’s the budget plan at the resort. Then the two brothers arrived there and of course the second brother can’t go join his brother at the fancy bar or whatever and was really upset afterwards that he never had the opportunity to make that decision on his own. We can’t think for our customers. All we can do is present opportunities that they might choose to participate in.

Susan: Absolutely, and you can’t assume either way. You can’t assume their request is a big deal to them. You also can’t assume it’s not. Just because they ask how much it costs has nothing to do. If you’re just engaging with people and you’re just throwing money around, like you have millions of dollars to spend on this, that’s a different story, but most people kind of want to know what things cost before they say, yeah, that’s a great thing, let’s go for it. Is the value there for them? That’s all it is. If you’re not presenting it, you’re not going to sell it, so that travel agent also messed up their own commission, I’m sure, on that.

David: Yeah. We don’t know why people are asking. The assumption when someone asks about prices at their budget conscious, but you don’t know what’s going on in that other organization. I’ve actually worked in a purchasing role before and I only had a certain authority. If something costs above that line, I would just need to know that I’d have to go talk to the next person in the pecking order to get their approval too. The question could have a multitude of reasons why someone is asking.

Susan: A credit limit on a card. It could be anything. Yeah.

David: Our whole conversation here leads us to the third bottleneck that you put on your list, which is sales. Can you describe that, if we haven’t covered some of the points already?

Bottleneck #3: Sales

Susan: A lot of small business owners after they take care of that fulfillment, after they get out of the day-to-day project management, that kind of thing, they are mostly doing the sales. Let’s face it, nobody can sell your business better than you, but it’s also one of those things that if you truly want a sellable business one day, somebody has to be able to step in and do that for you as well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bottleneck when you’re growing still. It can certainly be something that you as the owner participate in, but if you don’t have a sales system in process, if you don’t have a great CRM, and HubSpot is the one I’m going to recommend, if you don’t have a great CRM, you are dropping leads. You have no structure to follow up and you have no way to long-term hand it off. Are you creating a sales script that you follow every time? Are you proceeding through the steps to a sale consistently every time? Are you setting reminders to follow up with people so that you don’t drop leads? Then lastly, once you make a sale, what are the next steps to get a proposal signed to get paid to get a project started so that you don’t have a bottleneck there? I have created a system in my company, for example, where once I present the proposal, I do it through Panda Doc, which is a great tool. I do the presentation through Panda Doc. Since I’m in there, I actually send it out to the client and then my team takes over. We have a series of steps. They follow up to make sure it’s received. They check in to make sure there are no questions. They remind before it expires. Once it’s signed, they have the series of tasks to send them an invoice, and then once that’s paid to open the project. All of those things happen without me in the way to hold it up, and we’re giving a digital way for our clients, an easy way for them to sign something and for them to pay for something. We use QuickBooks online. I assume most of the small businesses are. It makes all of it seamless. They can pay through a link. You’re not trying to get credit cards over the phone. You’re not trying to make somebody take your Word document and turn it into a PDF so that they can figure out how to digitally sign it or print it and scan it back in. Whatever you can do at that point to make them give you their money faster, you want to set that up.

David: It’s not just about getting the money faster. It’s again about managing these expectations. Everyone’s had an experience probably where they’ve called a service provider of some kind and said, I need this done, and they’ve been told, okay, on this date we’re going to come. Then you hope they show up on that day. I had an experience with an electrician and they were using a really great CRM sales job management system where someone came out, they looked at what I wanted to have done, they took some pictures, they put some comments, and then I started to get these emails from their system. A couple days later I got an email saying, all of the parts required and materials for your project have been identified and here’s the list with all the costing. This is the materials that’s going to make a part of your job. Then about a week before they were supposed to come out, I got an email saying, the schedule for this day has been finalized and we’re happy to let you know we booked this technician to come to your house at this time. None of this took anyone’s time. It’s just some kind of automatic checkbox that someone put off, but it let me know how my job was working its way through their internal systems. I wasn’t worried that someone might not show up. I kept having these touchpoints that let me know that they were working, getting ready to come and serve me. I think a lot of small business people, maybe they don’t think about the user experience that their customers have. What is it like to do business with me? What is happening on the other side? There was an article recently that I read that said that a lot of people are now putting more and more of their spending through these bigger companies. These bigger companies are usually on the forefront of these kinds of things. How do customers want to be treated? That’s the kind of thing that we should be thinking about.

Susan: Well, and the comfort. Communication matters so much. How many of us have sat around all day waiting for the cable guy only to hear at 6:00 PM that they’re not coming? That communication throughout the day is so important, and being able to model, I think your point there is very valid; model what it is to work with you. Are you going to do a good job? Are you going to communicate with me throughout the project? How is that going to feel? Model that from day one so your sales process and your fulfillment process, that communication is setting an expectation for how it’s going to be to work with you. Up until you get the signature, they’re still taking in information. How you’re being perceived is important.

David: Awesome. Next bottleneck on your list, Susan, is payroll. Why don’t we talk about that.

Bottleneck #4: Payroll

Susan: A lot of business owners feel like they have to run payroll because it’s the money. The money is going out.

David: The money. Don’t you mean my money?

Susan: My money, right. Yeah.

David: Right.

Susan: I don’t want anybody else involved. Okay, I get that. You know what? I don’t have anybody else in my bank accounts either. Nobody can spend money without my authorization. It’s all handled, but I don’t run payroll. We pull something from our project management tool, it goes to our accountant. Our accountant divides it up into costing per job for us. We get an assigned thing in QuickBooks by class, so we have a history of what did well and what didn’t, and the people get paid on time through a payroll system every time. They have the ability then to go in and look at their own W2s, or I’m sorry, check stubs, that kind of thing, making 1099s at the end, making W2s are at the end, but the payroll then is done without involvement of the owner.

David: Are you talking about people whose income might be variable depending on work they’ve done or commissions? Salaried people are easy, right? They get the same amount of money every paycheck, but the real complicated part is when you have people who are on a piecework or a commission or some other kind of variable pay and you’ve got to make sure the information is correct. A small mistake can cascade from one period to another and just create a bookkeeping nightmare.

Susan: Absolutely. As the owner, that’s, again, a lot of details for you to get involved in. If you are tied up handling a client emergency, what happens? Are your people still getting paid? Especially if they’re W2s, it’s a big deal to not pay them on time. 1099s you might have a little bit more flexibility. Well, you have a lot of flexibility with, but if you’re not paying your 1099s on a regular schedule, you’ll lose them really fast. Being able to hand those reins over to a bookkeeper or a payroll company who can make it happen. My accountant will send me a, here’s the total amount of payroll so I know what’s going out, but I didn’t have to do all that stuff. It happened. Some days I’m like, oh yeah, it’s payroll day. If I had to be involved in that, that’s probably all I would’ve done that whole day. I’m not the one having to yell at people for not getting their time in. I don’t have to do any of that. It happens and it’s worth the money to have someone else do it. I get to spend time then creating relationships and growing my business and figuring out how to make big changes in growth as opposed to paying people. That is absolutely a bottleneck. How many of you have been on vacation and you have to log in to do your payroll?

David: I’ve done that.

Susan: Yeah. Avoid it, skip it. Let’s just make that one of those things that happens.

David: It sounds like, for these last couple of items, really modeling out your business, how the workflow is supposed to work, how people do the work, how you compensate the people, all of these things are important to know when somebody goes and selects which kind of tool they want to implement.

Susan: Absolutely. QuickBooks does have payroll. It’s a great way to start if you don’t have any other options, but some of these other payroll systems, I forget the name of mine that my bookkeepers use, but Paychex and ADP, all of those.

David: I’ve gotten a lot of ADP pay stubs in my life.

Susan: Yeah. They have a lot of features that are very beneficial. Now, if you are still the one working it, you’re still in the way. That’s where a trusted bookkeeper can come into play. If you have your systems and you’re clear on how everyone gets paid every time, then you can work through that without having to have the level of involvement and perhaps more accurately because that’s what they’re good at. You go do what you’re good at.

Bottleneck #5: HR

David: Related to payroll, the next item on your list, item number five is HR, so let’s talk about this because when I think HR, I think hiring and firing and I think policies like books of stuff that people rarely look into, but when they need that stuff, it’s really important. Let’s talk about this as a bottleneck in small business.

Susan: It absolutely can take up a lot of your time if you have a lot of people. Being able, one, to clearly have processes in place for accountability is important because then you at least know, okay, that person either didn’t follow the process, the process is broken or they need to go. You can work things that way, but you also have how do you onboard a person? How do you start an interview process? What are the steps that you go through every time? If you’re repeating it consistently every time and you end up with a bad employee, you can retrace your steps and say maybe we should have asked that question at this point to avoid the mistake. If you end up with great employees, fantastic. Keep repeating the same process. You don’t know if you’re just meeting somebody, having a good feel for them and hiring them. If you have a process to work through, you have something to go back to and adjust if you need to. The other is, okay, great. Now you’ve hired them. How do you onboard and train them? I don’t know if any of you have ever walked into a job the very first day and felt like, did they know I was coming? They don’t have your computer. Nobody thought of an office. The office they gave you you have to clean out. Those types of things give you a first day impression of what have I done? Is this where I should be? If you come and people are like, here’s your computer, here’s your handbook. Sign that. Here’s when you’ll get your information on your 401k and your health insurance and all those things, now you’re feeling like, okay, this is a real company.

In small business, we don’t always have a lot of those benefits, so we feel like it’s not important, but it still is important. What tools do they need to log into? How do they use those tools? What are the processes they follow to get paid, especially if they’re by the hour, not salaried. All of those things. Sharing with them a workflow through also so that they’re not drinking from a fire hose. It matters. It matters to them and it matters to you because you’ll get them up to speed faster and they’re ready to go. It’s a combination of what do you have to do to work at this company and then what do you have to do to serve our clients? It’s training too. The other part of that HR that comes with that is off-boarding. Onboarding is great. Everybody’s happy and excited to be there. Off-boarding might not be. Off-boarding might be an emergency. Somebody did something they cannot do and they’ve got to go. Well, we have given them the keys to the kingdom. What software do we even log them out of?

David: Right.

Susan: You’ve got to have that process.

David: Now, I’ve met quite a few people who actually operate as HR consultants to try to solve this very problem. Is that the solution that you’re working with your clients with or is there a system solution that you’ve seen people use as well?

Susan: The answer is yes to both of those. You can definitely use your project management tool. If you’re using Teamwork it works great because they’re your templates for all of this. Just set up and you fire them when you hire a new person and you work through it.

David: Oh, okay.

Susan: Okay. If you need something that has a benefit package, Gusto is fantastic. A lot of people are using Gusto to help roll out the benefits to help with payroll as well. Then if you need an HR consultant to help you, for example, write your handbook. I have four W2 employees. The rest of my team are 1099s, but my team, none of them are in the same state. Writing a handbook was a lot harder than I thought it would be because the rules of all the different states. What are you going to use as the base for your PTO, for example, because all the states require something different. Getting a professional to come in and help you with that kind of thing. I have an HR consultant who also has a hotline. If there is, say, an issue in the company with the manager or even me, they have a number to call that’s outside the company where they’re going to jump in and handle this emergency that came up or hopefully help you prevent a lawsuit in a lot of cases. Those types of things are very valuable, but if you have even one W2, you should have a handbook. That’s where your outside consultants can come in and they can help you. Some of them are great. They will even help you with writing up employees or building a culture to help them learn and grow. You can take it to a big extreme if you want with them as your company grows.

David: Okay. At what point do you think then that a business reaches the size where they need to have their own HR person who’s on staff and part of the team?

Susan: Oh, gosh.

David: Is that something beyond that 25-person scope?

Susan: It’s beyond the 25-person I think. If you want somebody in your company as an HR person, you would probably want them to also have a different role. Sometimes they roll finance, HR, and benefits all into one role, for example.

David: Yeah. In my experience, when they do that, the person who gets that HR badge pinned to their chest is like an accountant.

Susan: Yeah, because they’re handling so many of the benefits, right?

David: Right. They end up making someone responsible for it, but generally speaking, when they have a mixed role person like that, the person they’re choosing is not typically a real HR practitioner. That’s why I asked the question. This is probably one of the most neglected expertise areas in most small business because I think that magic number of how many employees you want is probably like 70 or 80 or somewhere out there where you’re big enough to actually bear the extra overhead of having that specialist within the organization.

Susan: Having these fractionals at all of these levels is just a miracle to small business, to be able to hire a fractional HR professional. This is all they do, and they can come in a couple of hours a month and solve your problems of things that it would take you forever to figure out. That you have salespeople that do the same thing, you have ops, you have marketing. Excuse me. All of that is priceless to small business. You get this massive experience that normally you couldn’t afford.

David: Yeah. My camera just failed.

Susan: It did. I saw you go out.

Bottleneck #6: Email

David: I’m still here. This is the miracle of live production, so you’ll have to forgive me. I’m not sure what happened. I just rearranged my desk here a little while ago. Maybe I bumped a cable or something, but let’s get to your bonus one, Susan, because you did submit one last one, item number six of these bottlenecks. Email. I can certainly appreciate this being someone who has often decided to come back into my office after supper to spend a little time cleaning up my email, because you’re right. It can get out of hand. You can not respond to things. You can fail to delegate things out of there that you should be delegating and it can pile up and it just makes you feel really uneasy, especially if the number of emails grows beyond a certain threshold.

Susan: I’m a big believer in inbox zero, and there are some ways to get there, but the issue with email is that I believe that a lot of business owners are just operating in it all day. It’s open all day in the background. They’re getting the dings, they’re feeling like everything is important, that everything has to be responded to right now. Guess what? It’s addictive. You feel like you’re getting something done. Oh, well, I responded to that and I handled that. Then at the end of the day, you’re really like, did I do anything? You certainly didn’t do anything intentional. You let your email box drive your day. I’m a big believer in that standpoint of automate what you can. Most of your email tools will allow you to create rules. I had one CIO who wrote a rule that any email that came into his inbox that had the word unsubscribe on it went to a certain file, so he never had to look at spam. Then if he had a few minutes, he could scroll through and see the things he actually wanted, easily, all in one place and at one time. You know none of that’s urgent. There’s nothing urgent that comes to you that says unsubscribe. I’m a firm believer in having a VA that helps you with your email, who can alert you if something’s urgent that you need to respond to and can even handle some of it so that you don’t go in it. I like to tell my VA how to respond to something, because if I go into the email, now I’m sucked into it. That doesn’t mean I never look at it. I look at it maybe two or three times a day. The goal both for the VA and for me is that when we’re done with our list, it should be at inbox zero because that also prevents the fear of opening it and there’s 2000 emails in there and what am I going to do? Email can suck the life out of a small business owner because that becomes something that feels so urgent and important, and it’s just not.

David: Yeah. I think that for some people, when you’re small starting out, you do every job in the business. Responding to everyone, managing everything is something that you do. Often you’re giving that one email address out for every reason, for every person. For some of us, we’ve given out that email address for personal affairs too. Then you get to this point where it’s like, how am I comfortably going to let somebody else be inside of here? What if they see that thing related to my kid’s school stuff or whatever? You really have to start to be intentional and maybe be running several email addresses for different purposes and try to bifurcate that activity between what is business and what is personal.

Susan: I think that that is very important. You don’t want your VA seeing your most recent medical results coming in or anything like that. I do think that there is some fear from business owners of that kind of thing. If that’s the fear, okay, well when you start, you need to intentionally be looking for a month before you do this and changing that email address so that you don’t have the private things coming in there. Then the other thing is the person that you are enlisting to do this, you’re going to have to trust. You’re going to have to, because you just do. They’re going to see things that come through that might blame another team member for doing something. They’re going to see things that they are going to have to keep private. There is a sense of having that communication with them, letting them know what to do with those things too so that they’re not really overwhelmed by getting that information and that they can expect it. Again, if you set up another email that’s an HR email that you can get that information through, that’s even better, but if you need to give them advice on how to handle certain types of emails, that’s going to help so much. If there is a client issue or an HR issue that arises that they need to be alerting you immediately. My team alerts me through Slack of anything that’s urgent. They screenshot things that they’ll say, this came in, archived it, this came in, sent it to the finance group so that I still know what’s going on, but then there are some things I never see, and that’s fine. They know how to handle certain types of emails and it’s seamless and it’s just magic. I have been on vacations or have gone for a week and I come back and I have three emails because they handled everything. Never looked at it.

David: That’s awesome.

Susan: It will take some time to build the trust. It’ll take some time to build the system, but also if you’re documenting it, if that person changes, now somebody else comes in at a starting point.

David: Susan, we’re getting to the end of our time here. Why don’t you just reiterate what you do with small businesses and maybe let us know where people can find you if they would like to have a conversation maybe about how you can help them.

Susan: We are helping the small business owner handle all of these things we talked about today; how to get out of doing those things, how to put the processes and tools in place so that you are free to take a vacation or grow your business. Either one. You can find us here. I’ll give you a free ebook on Three Ways to Remove Chaos from Your Business. If you’re like, Susan, I have too much chaos, I don’t have time to read a book, you can contact us and it’ll come straight through to me, or my VA, I should say.

David: That’s right. Who will probably say, hey, I’m responding on behalf of Susan because I can do so more quickly, and everyone likes to get a message like that.

Susan: Exactly.

David: Susan, this has been awesome. I want to thank you very much and thanks for everyone that has tuned in. If you haven’t already hit the like button, it really helps the YouTube algorithm more on any other platform you happen to be listening or watching on. Thank you very much. It’s been great.

Susan: I’ve loved it. Thanks for having me.

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