The world of startups and small business can indeed be an exciting place to be. Its commonly characterized as highly collaborative, fast pace, less bureaucratic and wildly innovative. While this sounds great in theory, in practice the world of a startup can be rife with challenge, including heavy amounts of stress and uncertainty. It’s vital we as professionals analyze our personalities and professional behaviors to assess whether or not we would do well in the startup world - before we actually jump in. Knowing what you’re up against before you dive in will allow you to determine if it’s appropriate for you to consider the startup space, small business and or entrepreneurship.
Author: Travis Smith
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You’ve got all the work in the world and not enough hands to complete it. Sound familiar?
This situation plagues all companies, large and small, tenured and brand new alike. No company has endless resources, especially not on the employee side of things and as a result it’s a constant consideration for every company balancing work output and the resources needed to do so.
When we’re buried with work most of us are fond of deploying the age old strategy ‘do more with what you have’. We ask our peers and employees to roll up their sleeves and put in the hours. Come in on the weekend. Camp out under your desk for a couple nights, it’ll be fun. Burn the midnight oil, so to speak. Kaplan Business School hit it on the head when they described this situation as “unrelenting, incessant amounts of work, which seems like there is no end to”. An important notation here is that this situation differs greatly from periodic times throughout a given year when work may increase for short spans. (ie holidays for retail businesses)
While the ‘roll up your sleeves and do more with what you have’ approach may work in a pinch it’s a strategy that can have disastrous unintended consequences, consequences that far out weight the value received by stretching your resources to meet demands.
When we load up our internal teams, employees and resources with heavy workloads it is common to experience:
-Increase employee stress and health issues like depression and addiction
-Business overhead costs soar exponentially due to overtime expenditures
-Even unnecessary legal and human resource expenses can occur if an employer isn’t following their States laws which address required breaks, meal times, etc; this also includes situations where employees feel they are being mistreated as seek legal protection as a result
What’s incredible is the cost that is associated with long term unrelenting amounts of work. Stanford University Graduate School of Business estimates burnout cost the US upwards of $190 BILLION in healthcare costs in 2015. During which it’s further estimated 120,000 deaths that year were attributed to workplace burnout and stress.
If you’re looking for the problem statement in all this, well there it is and its about as tangible as it gets. Work overload at the office is a direct contributor to employee burnout, rising business and healthcare costs, and even death.
While the stats may be disheartening on an initial pass the good news is there’s a solution to this business problem we all face.
Solution to work overload & burnout = utilize outsourcing solutions!
Outsourcing comes in many different forms. It can be as simple as having a supplier pick up additional projects or as complex as completely remoting work offsite as many companies do with shared service business functions like accounting, customer service/ call centers and shipping/ logistics.
Our company recently got a call from a medical device customer asking for our help with a concept design project. We learned their internal team had been at max capacity for several months trying to meet a deadline and were struggling to get to the project. It was technically within their capabilities but would take their main designer several days to get up and running as he hadn’t done this type of work prior. Could their designer have figured it out eventually? Sure, he’s a smart bloke, certainly capable. However, the time it would have taken him to learn how to do the project versus the time our staff could handle it were two different things. It’s the difference between something we do everyday and something they do once in a blue moon.
The customer made a smart business decision in looking at the work they had in front of them and identifying pieces of it they could outsource to be handled by someone else with the right expertise. The mini design project, as we’ll call it, took our expert designer only 32 hours to complete whereas the Director at our client informed us that would have been the time, at a minimum, it would have taken their internal designer just to learn the technique to get the job done.
With this mini design project being handled by our team our customers resources were able to stay focused with their respective tasks at hand without having to divert their attention for a week or two to then jump back on their original work which was waiting for them the entire time.
Our customer eventually met their deadline while simultaneously completing their concept design project via our staff AND keeping their staffs morale at a positive and manageable level given the workload.
Key Take Away:
Think beyond the age old approach ‘do more with what you have’; sometimes the best solution is to lean on someone else to do the work so you can keep your employees happy while successfully managing internal morale.
Review your project charters to see what work you can package up, either the entire project or pieces of it, to outsource to a competent supplier. Simultaneously pull data on all employees to identify the average amount of hours a week your workforce is putting in on your behalf. If your average number of hours worked per employee is beyond 50 hours in a 5 day work week you’ve got some work to do.
In need of someone to help you with additional engineering and regulatory work? Contact Square-1 Engineering at www.square1engineering.com to learn how we can help your solve your biggest engineering and technical business challenges.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.