Back in the days when I worked in state government, I always viewed summer with a mixed sense of anticipation and dread. Summer was the season of interns, the season when the floodgates would open and spill forth dozens of cattle-call applicants in their late teens and early twenties. Although these positions were unpaid, it was management’s vision of a win/win scenario: the interns would get work experience to put on their resumes and the rest of us would get a cadre of malleable minions to do the filing, open mail, stock supplies, and run errands.
While now and again we’d delight in finding a true gem who had the skill sets, initiative, and leadership qualities that could one day translate to a full-time job with us, the majority of them were clearly not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Among them:
- The one who threw out any mail that personally didn’t look interesting to her. (She asked me why we never got fashion magazines or People.)
- The one who filed all the travel claims under “S” for “someone who took a trip.”
- The one who took over an hour to deliver a file to an office located on the same floor. (If we had traced his footprints, they would have looked like Billy’s from a Family Circus)
As the saying goes, good help is hard to find. Bad help (which is worse than no help at all) can take years off your life, cause costly mistakes and jeopardize your reputation. While government agencies and nonprofits have no problem doing shout-outs for extra pairs of hands, a lot of sole proprietors I’ve known over the years are not as willing to admit they’re getting overwhelmed. A part of it, I think, is that they want to maintain the image they’re completely in control (albeit exhausted to the point of collapse). They’re also cognizant of the reality that in the length of time it takes to train a helper how to do something – or correct how the helper did it totally wrong – they could easily have just done it themselves.
Whether you’re looking to go the intern route for short-term projects or planning to one day expand your small business and put out the call for prospective employees, it’s critical to have a clear sense of what you want, how much supervision you want/need to provide, and what the participants can potentially gain from the experience of working with you. The more “ownership” they feel they have in the process and the outcome, the more pride they’ll take in paying attention and doing their assignments well.
These same elements apply to situations where you’re subcontracting with local vendors to provide services (i.e., catering) or outsourcing product-oriented tasks (i.e., assembling goods) to an off-site team an ocean away and with whom you have no physical interaction or quality control mechanism. While you may have the highest trust that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to, the bride whose flowers aren’t delivered on time or the client who receives 500 logo key chains with the company name misspelled isn’t going to mad at your helpers; they’re going to be mad at you for allowing that mistake to happen in the first place.
Here’s the lineup of my guest contributors this month:
Take the Sting Out of Stress When Moving Offices – by Zachary Rook
And, Or, But – How to Handle Objections – by Julie Garland McLellan
How To Design a Marketable Signature System – by Ling Wong
Using Lists to Draw Web Traffic and Media Attention – by Mickie Kennedy