Just Do It: Hire an Office Assistant ASAP

Why You Must Hire an Office Assistant as soon as possible.

A question that I receive fairly frequently and that I’ve answered a lot, especially in some of the round table consulting groups that I do periodically is, when should I hire an office person?  Let me read you part of an email and then, I will answer this.  This is about hiring an office person…how to get the confidence and the courage to do it and when to do it. 

In this message, it says, “My true talent is in pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well. I hate being at the PC which is why I love your software.  I feel that as the marketing picks up, the situation will only get worse and at some point, we all have to bite the bullet and hire a non-billable person to help out.  Please explain how you would do it if it was your first office assistant.”

Okay, so a couple of key things here.  The word non-billable. I want to talk about that and I want to talk about how you figure this out because this is critical to scaling your company.  The first hump you have to get over is getting yourself out of the field.  The next hump, often times, is getting that first assistant in the office to take stuff off of you.  I’ve probably said this before, but it’s so critical to pound it into your mind.  If you’re doing something that you could hire somebody else to do, whatever that dollar figure is, it is worth it to go ahead and hire someone.

Let me say it a different way.  If you are doing something a $14/hr person could do, you are wasting your money, big time. For example, if you are scheduling work in a software system, taking a billing phone call and receiving a credit card payment, taking a phone call and emailing an invoice, or sitting in front of your computer to type out an estimate for 20 minutes, you are essentially making $14 an hour.  That’s really what it comes down to.  You’re doing something that a $14 an hour person could do. 

You’re the owner, the guy that made this thing happen, the guy that started it and that took all the risks.  You’re the individual that if it wasn’t for you, this thing wouldn’t be here. You have a unique set of capabilities that a lot of other people don’t have.  You have a level of dedication, courage, and perseverance that many people don’t have and you need to make sure that you’re working in whatever your unique ability is. 

In this email, it was mentioned that his true talent was pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well.

Two points here.  One, that’s exactly what this individual needs to be doing all the time because, everything else they’re doing is a waste of their talent and it’s hurting the company.  He also mentioned that he hates being in front of the PC. That means that he’s probably not doing his best work.  There’s somebody out there that loves being in front of the PC.  They don’t want to sell. They don’t want to talk to the customer on the phone all the time. They don’t want to manage projects or be outside. They want to be in front of the computer and they love that stuff.  Therefore, give it to them. With your training they will do a better job.

Your only chance of scaling the company is to stop doing the work that doesn’t pay you much money. Get yourself, as fast as you can, to a point in the company where you’re doing only the work that you’re the very best at, and hire other people to do the other stuff.  One of the things that I’ve come to realize is I grew up thinking that I had to work really hard, which was right. I believe in that, and I’m teaching my kids to work hard.  Get the work done, work really hard, and do things differently than everybody else. But, at the same time, you can take that too far. You can condition yourself to think that if I just work a little harder, push a little harder, then I will make more money and become successful. That’s not actually always true.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out.  It’s more about doing the right stuff and getting as much junk out of your life as absolutely possible.  For example, when you’re not working I believe you shouldn’t be doing anything work related. You’ve got to give yourself a moment to rejuvenate, a moment to think, and time to recover.  If you’re not doing that, your business will never be great.

As fast as you can, you’ve got to be putting yourself into a place where you’re getting some time to recover, and you’re giving other people things to do.  If you’re like me, and you feel like you can just push through and work harder and therefore will be more successful than everybody else, it’s actually a bit of a hindrance. Because, then you’ll never let yourself give stuff to other people.  You’ll never let other people take things over because, one, we’re afraid that we can’t afford to hire the person.  Two, we’re afraid they’re not going to do as good of a job as us. And three, subconsciously, there’s an element of guilt with business owners and entrepreneurs when we take a break. We worry that we’re not working as hard as everybody else.

You really have to buy into the concept that number one, if you’re not working in your greatest skill, there’s probably somebody who can do it better than you.  Number two, if you’re doing something that somebody else could do for less pay, you’re wasting a lot of money and you’re slowing down the growth of your company. If you let them do it, you’ll be freed up to do something bigger that moves the company forward faster.  Three, if you’re not letting other people take stuff off your plate, you won’t have time to rejuvenate and then you’re never going to move your company forward. 

The fastest way to move the company forward is to make sure that, of the five million things you need to be doing, you’re working on the three most important right now.  You have to make time to think through what the three most important things are. Otherwise, you will end up at the end of the year and you’ll wonder why your business is only a little bit bigger.  It’s because you didn’t work on the most important, biggest activities that would have the biggest effect on moving the company forward.

You’ve got to create that time for you to think through that.  You’ve got to create a little bit of calmness in your life so that you don’t feel constant stress every time something goes wrong. You have to be strategic.  Yes, you may have other problems, and yes, you’ve got other fires.  You will deal with them, but they are not going to distract you from the big focus. I believe the only way to get to that point is to get stuff off of your plate.

It all goes back to hiring an office person. It may seem scary but nobody has ever come back and told me that they regretted following that advice.

I’m telling you, if you get stuff off your plate, your mind will be freed up, you will have new ideas, you’ll have new focus, you’ll see things in a different way, and you’ll be working on the more important stuff.  This new outlook and new freedom will allow you to create the new work that will easily pay for that new person and more.

You’ve got to get all the non-billable junk you’re doing out of your life and give it to somebody else that’s far less expensive than you. You need to be free to work on the big stuff.  Then, if you imagine a set of stairs and you’re starting at the bottom, doing all these small things. If you hand those to the person below you to take them over, it frees you up, to move up one step.  Then you’ve got these new things, and one day you realize, here’s a bunch of stuff I’m doing that I could give off to somebody else. So, you hand that off to a person in your organization or hire a new person.

Now, you get to move up another stair, and another stair, and you keep doing higher level things in the company. You have to continue to do this to break through the million, five million, even the $10 million mark.  There are all these bottlenecks that you’re going to hit, and the only way you get past them is to educate yourself on new things and then to delegate them to your staff. You will be freed up to do all the new things you’re learning to take your company to the next level.

One final thing, there’s a reason why only 9% or 10% of this industry makes over a million dollars a year.  It’s not because of low-ballers. It’s not because of too much competition. It’s not because the industry’s too hard or because it’s a bad industry.  It’s generally because you’re not working on the most important things to move the company to the next level.

We as the business owners are usually the ones holding up the ship because we’re doing too much stuff. We become the bottleneck in the company and we’re slowing it all down.

When you start to get yourself in a position where you’re no longer the bottleneck, things go faster and faster and faster.  Every time you educate yourself and move to the next level, you pass stuff on to other people and move onto the bigger and bigger stuff.  A really, really important topic.  Good luck.

How To Hire Office Employees

Are you ready to hire office employees?

Hiring your first office person is critical to growing your landscape maintenance company and making more money.

Watch the video above to learn tips and tricks to hire your first office employee.


Mike is looking for hiring advice on how to find and hire his first office person at his lawn care company. He says, “Hey Jonathan. This year has been going really good and really smooth, and thanks to your software, we might even see some growth.”

This is an incredibly important topic, and almost everybody I meet is waiting far too long to do this.

By the way, Mike is probably one of our first 50 clients at Service Autopilot. He’s been with us for years, and has given us some really awesome advice and direction for the system. Mike is somebody that we’ve worked with for a long period of time. He’s been through everything with us on the system, since he goes back to day one.

Mike says, “I believe I’m at a point next year that I need to hire an office person, thanks to SA. How do you believe is best to take on an office person with fair compensation? If they are working from a virtual office, how do you keep tabs on them? What would your plan be for hiring that first office person?”

Again, great question.

I have dealt with Mike quite a bit over time. And, just from knowing Mike, I know what he’s capable of, which is probably true for so many of us…he shouldn’t be doing these types of activities. That’s my perspective. He should be spending his time on more important things.

I have hosted several round tables where I speak to owners of small businesses. We spend several days working on their businesses, and if they do not already have an office person, I usually advice them to hire one as soon as they return home. The guys that do it, universally come back and say, “Thank you, I did it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s changed everything.”

Our very first office hire, when I started my lawn care company, was a stay at home mom that also home schooled her boys. She still works for us and does a totally fantastic job. If you get the right person, you don’t have to worry about managing them. Many of these people are experienced and skilled and are simply unable to join the traditional work force. But, they can be an asset to your landscape company, and in exchange for the freedom of working from home, are usually willing to work for a little less.

That being said, my favored approach is to have people work from the office. Because we are so big on customer service, I like to have everyone here so that we can all work together. I like the culture and the environment of having everyone together.

I have been really fortunate in this area. You need to hire quality people. You need a person that just has something innate inside of them. You need someone that can empathize and wants to deliver quality. This of course is harder than it sounds. If someone doesn’t work out, you have to let them go quickly. You might just have to do a little trial and error.

To do that, you might start out looking at Craigslist. I just put an ad up on Craigslist for just $25. If you have nothing to lose, there’s a lot of people looking. I would also use word of mouth. The home schooling thing is huge and there are a lot of people out there that home school. I tend to think that you’ll get a different kind of person. A person that is willing to stay home to home school their kids, is a different type of person by nature.

You might even put the word out at local churches to see if anyone in their congregation is looking for work. I have not done that, but that may be an effective way to find employees.

Next, you really need to consider your personality in all of this. Can you handle not seeing somebody at the office?

Can you handle not knowing exactly what they’re doing. If that’s going to eat you up and bother you, and you’re going to have to micromanage them, it’s not going to work out. You might as well setup an office environment. You have to really think about who you are. This doesn’t work for everybody.

If your first hire feels a little risky, you might consider a part time position, and then see where that goes.

When I got my very first office, it was only a 10X30 office that I rented for $400/$450 a month. It was just something I found to work out of since it was too hard for me to work at home with my kids when they were little.

That was how I started. Then, as we grew, we got a bigger office. There are some inexpensive ways that you could go about getting started with this, even if you want to bring somebody into your office and have them from day one work from your office. But, really think about part time if this is a big concern for you.

One of the activities that most often necessitates having somebody on your team as soon as possible is that the phone is not getting answered when it rings. The calls are rolling to voicemail.

If you hire someone that works from home to work the phones, I have found that having them track their time does not work. It is a nightmare to have them track their time on calls. What we did is provide platonic headsets for about $390 and agreed to pay them for 30-40 hours per week. This, of course, comes after they have worked with you and have earned a little trust with you.

Also, sit down and make a list of all of the things you need them to do. Are they going to answer phones, prep mailers and door hangers, write hand written thank you notes to new clients? What are the to dos that they can take care of? Prioritize them and that then becomes their job description. On this very first person you’re hiring, when they join your team, you’re able to say here’s the expectation. I’m hiring you to do this.

If you catch any hesitation when you give them their expectations, don’t hire them. Keep looking.

Make this list for you. It’ll give you confidence. It will assure you that you have plenty for them to do. It will also lay out for them what you expect and will give you a means to measure whether or not they are performing at the agreed upon expectations.

You can work through that list to get them back on course. They know what you expect. That’s what people want.

At Service Autopilot, we do something called agile development. It’s how we manage projects and such. Within agile development, there’s a concept called scrum.

Daily scrum is basically where you meet with each person on your team for a very short period of time daily. There are three basic questions that make up a scrum. This will apply to managing your first employee, especially if they are going to work from home.

The three questions are: 1. What did I get done today? 2. What do I need help with? 3. What do I plan to do tomorrow? They can send you the answers to these three questions every day.

That’s a way that you could have some level of accountability with this individual. It will give you a  means to measure their progress and will give your a feeling for what’s going on. You will get to build a level of trust.

You have to be sure and prioritize their daily tasks. It is extremely difficult for a person to have to switch their focus from project mode to answering phone calls. If you need a marketing letter proofread immediately, for example, give them a time frame that they are allowed to miss phone calls to complete this task.

I wanted to point that out because I see this as a real challenge. It’s easy for us to say that their number one priority is to answer the phones but, by the way, I need these other five things done today.

It’s very difficult to give this individual projects that require a lot of brain power and thought to complete while answering phones. If you’re going to do that, you have to have some flexibility and have a random project list for them to work on as they can get to it.

You can also give them a certain time of day that may not get a lot of calls to put their phone on hold to allow them to work on projects.

There are, however, a lot of menial, brainless tasks that can be completed while working the phones. They can be stuffing, stamping, and hand writing addresses on envelopes.

Think through all of this stuff. It is an important thing that I have learned.

Service Autopilot, or other business management systems work, can be delegated to other people. The owner should not be doing that unless it is the scheduling. It is the life blood of your business and you have to be super careful with that. Only well trained employees should take that scheduling.

I think that the way you start with this is, you have them take phone calls and charge credit cards. Have them update phone numbers and do things like that. Then, they can create tickets or to-dos for you so that you can edit the schedule as needed.

Unique maybe to Service Autopilot, Mike, is that they could log waiting list items. If the client needs to get bush trimming done in two weeks, they can just put that into the waiting list. Anything that’s not a waiting list item that needs to be scheduled on a specific day, they can create a to-do or ticket for that. You can then handle those.

The key here, again this is not just Service Autopilot, to any business system, is that when you sweep through and do those things, have them sit with you. They can start to learn how to do that in the system. This will get them well trained so that they can start doing that themselves.

This is an activity that you should absolutely hand to your team but make sure you’ve spent the time to really train them. Invest a bit in this area to make sure they’re really up to speed on that.

I’d highly recommend tracking all of your phone calls. I think that’s a big deal and is ridiculously valuable. We track every single phone call, every single to-do in our company. It’s a big deal.

I think your new employees can also do basic accounting for you. They should be able to receive check payments and log them, charge credit cards, give clients their account balance, send invoices by email, and print out statements and mail them.

Those are just a few of the activities that your new hire can do. I would think about those ideas and pointers. And Mike, if you need more, just shoot me back a message and I’ll record another video. Thanks.