Small Biz: DIY or Hire a Pro?

This is the question that most small business and entrepreneurs face when they are starting or running a small company. I am a one man shop (I have two business partners who step in to fill my void when I am sick or on vacation) so it is a question that I have to think about quite a bit.

Can I do it?

The very first thing I consider when I am about to start a task that I could hire another to do is whether or not I can do that task, and (most importantly) if I can perform that task to my standards of quality. An example of this is server administration – most people are surprised to hear that I actually pay a company $50 a month (average) to administer our Windows based server. They do thing like install updates and patches and manage backups, insuring that everything is running correctly.

I could do this myself – easily – but I don’t know if there is a known bug in an update and therefore I shouldn’t install it, because I don’t follow that news. I don’t know common Windows Server problems and the quick solutions. Certainly if I have a OS X backend I could do it myself, but on a platform that I don’t know about, or care to know about I don’t want to waste me time learning about and working with it.

Likewise for Accounting. Accounting is one of the most crucial aspects of my industry and one of the most crucial parts to any business. Doing it properly is paramount, so while I understand how everything works why should I also burden myself with having to do this work? It is tedious and not a productive use of my time.

Do I have the time?

Almost as important as the first question is trying to figure out if you actually have the time to run your business and do this task at the same time. A prime example is painting – everybody thinks that they know how to paint and could re/paint their office if needed, but do you really have the time to do this? You may have the needed skills but every hour you spend painting is an hour you fall behind in your work that you get paid for.

Another example is tedious and monotonous work. I had to send out a bunch of notices (over 150) one day and they all needed a certified mail slip with them, hand written. I knew that I could do it, but I also knew that I didn’t have the time. The solution was to hire my sister to come in after school and do it for me.

There Is a Reason People Make a Living Doing It

I eluded to this earlier when I said that every one likens themselves a painter. The truth is that there is a difference between the quality of work that a pro painter does compared to the average person. If I say yes to both of the above I look at what people are getting paid by the hour to perform the same work, the hire the wage the stronger the deterrent should be for you going in the DIY route.

Surely we all can take a wedding picture and maybe it will even be up to our standards. There is a reason though that pro wedding photographers get paid upwards of $1500 for one days worth of work: they take pictures that an amateur simply can’t get. They know what they are doing.

How to Decide

No matter what anyone tells you, there is no cut and dry way to decide when to DIY and when to hire a pro. You are the only one that can make that call – but if you are even a little unsure then you need to hire the pro. Many people think it is cheaper to DIY, but the opposite is usually true when you look at the long term costs, and factor in your time.

Originally posted for members on: July 7, 2010
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