Go Ahead: Hire an Assistant

In a recent survey conducted by Jane Out of the Box, we explored whether female entrepreneurs have assistants in their businesses.

We defined an assistant as anyone to whom you delegate personal or administrative tasks on a regular basis to free you up to do other things. Of the 60 female entrepreneurs participating in our study, only one in four (26%) has an assistant of any kind, even though as business owners and as women, most of us feel like we are doing the work of two (or more) people.

Far and away, the universal reason for not having an assistant was business owners' uncertainty about whether they could afford to hire someone. Almost eight in 10 women (78%) without an assistant claimed this as the primary factor holding them back from getting help. If that's you, it can be helpful to realize that the assistant's world has changed. You no longer need someone to work in your physical space--nor do you have to hire her even remotely close to full time.

I have three assistants, each with his or her own, specialized work. Two are "virtual assistants" (we work together only via phone, e-mail and Internet--I haven't even met them in person). They each work on my business just five hours a week, spending the rest of their time assisting other entrepreneurs. My personal assistant visits my home office to help with everything from household tasks such as grocery shopping and running to the dry cleaner to filing and booking my travel for client visits and speaking engagements. He works just 10 hours per week. No matter how many (or how few) hours of work you are ready to delegate, there's an assistant eager and happy to help you.

An assistant to book your dog's vet appointments and buy your groceries, you say? Shocking to some. But consider this--if running errands and shopping takes five hours a week of your time, and you make $200 an hour when you work in your business instead, your "opportunity cost" is $1,000 per week (five hours times $200). If you delegate those five hours at $20 an hour, you come out $900 ahead every week. Of course, this is only true if you have the self-discipline to put those five hours saved to profitable use.

If the preceding doesn't have you chomping at the bit to finally delegate those hours, consider the benefits described by those women in our survey who do have an assistant (or several assistants) working for them:

•More free time to focus on business growth and strategy

•Able to avoid tasks they hate, procrastinate on or are not good at

•Able to avoid repetitive, uninspiring tasks

•Able to accomplish more

•Reduced stress and less feeling overwhelmed

And finally, as one woman said: "Being free to do my genius work." Doesn't that sound heavenly?One further item to consider--willingness to delegate to an assistant may well be one of the big keys to running a profitable, thriving business. Earlier research conducted by Jane Out of the Box has uncovered five different types of female entrepreneurs. It did not surprise me at all that the two most financially successful types, Jane Dough and Go Jane Go, were far more likely to have an assistant working in their businesses (Jane Dough was four times more likely, and Go Jane Go was two times more likely). If business success comes when you are expressing your unique talents, then it makes sense that freeing up more time for your "genius work" will help your business grow.

Additional reasons for not hiring an assistant (each mentioned by 20 percent to 30 percent of women business owners surveyed) include:

•Not knowing how much to pay

•Not being sure where to find an assistant

•The feeling that no one else will do the work as well as you will

•Not wanting someone in your home (home-based business owners)

•Not being sure what kind of help is needed

•Lack of confidence in hiring the right person

Though I have personally overcome many of the issues listed above and am happy to share my thoughts, I invite us all, as a community, to explore these issues. For those of you reading who've taken the leap, please post a comment and let us know how you overcame these challenges. If you haven't taken the leap yet, what would give you the confidence to do so? I look forward to seeing your posts.

Michele DeKinder-Smith is founder and CEO ofJane Out of the Box, a community that provides education, networking and marketing opportunities to female entrepreneurs and the agencies and businesses that serve them. Michele is the author ofSee Jane Succeed: Five Types of Female Entrepreneurs Reveal What it Takes to Win in Business and in Life