Running a business can be tough. You’re continually juggling how to keep your costs down, while finding time to do the work that makes you money.

You’ve also got to decide every minute where to put your best energy.

The problem is that if you’re putting time and energy into things you don’t have the skills for, you’re left with less time, resources and energy for the things that only you can do.

That means your business is going to suffer, as is your health, both physically and mentally.

And that’s when it’s time to bring in some extra help.

Using someone with different skills can fast-track you to the next level, either by putting the right things in place for you to build on, or by doing work for you.

They can free you from drudgery, or empower you to break new ground. They can keep you up with your competitors, or help you outstrip them.

But it can feel terrifying to take the first step. You’re worried about whether you can afford it. Maybe you’re not sure how to find the right person, or how to work with them.

So start small.

Gain a couple of hours and a small bit of peace of mind. But start, because once you’re discovered the huge difference it can make to your business, you won’t want to go back.

Still not sure? If you recognise any of these signs, you’re on a downwards spiral. It’s time to take action.

1: You’re permanently stressed

You’re overworked and anxious spending all your time on just keeping things running.

The impact: It’s already likely that you’re under-performing where you need to excel, and you’re certainly not going to have time or energy to grow. That’s going to lose you clients and goodwill.

What to do: Start small. Take one regular task that takes up a lot of your time: maybe dealing with your email or uploading blogs. Create a set of instructions about what to do: you could write it, record it, create a short video or even a set of slides. Then find someone who’s good at that task. You’ll need to invest some time in ensuring they can do it in the way you need, but the secret here is good briefing and regular communication. You’ll soon find that the time you will make it worthwhile. Once you’ve got that up and running, you can look at the next job. Rinse and repeat.

2: Your business can’t cope if something goes wrong

You don’t have the systems in place to cope with major but all-too-common common problems. That might be you being ill, your IT system failing, HMRC wanting to investigate or a client suing you.

The impact: You’re at genuine risk of your business failing through some external factor.

What to do: Address the thing you think that would have the greatest damage and is most likely to happen. Then look for an expert to guide you through what you need to do. That might be a lawyer to draft contracts, an IT consultant to help set up a robust system of back-ups, a new accountant or someone who can do what you do on a freelance or contract basis who you could call on in an emergency. This is one situation where it can feel hard to justify the cost when it’s not an emergency, but consider how much more it would cost to sort out in a crisis, as well as how much business you would lose – possibly forever.

3: You have too many ideas, so you jump around between them

You have lots of plans, but you don’t know how to choose between them, and you certainly don’t have time to do them all.

The impact: While you dither, your competitor is out there stealing your lunch. In addition, you’re wasting your energy on an emotional rollercoaster, full of excitement about potential, then frustrated that you’re not making progress.

What to do: You need someone to help you take a step back and look calmly at your business. If it’s for a particular area, consider working with a consultant with specific expertise, who will be able to help you pin down the most effective way forward for you, whether it’s for marketing, distribution, getting funding, licensing, or another area where you’d benefit from up-to-date expert input. Alternatively, consider a coach, experienced and trained in helping you get clarity and taking decisive steps forwards.

4: You don’t have enough skills to do what you want to do

You have lots of ideas, but you don’t know how to put them into practice.

The impact: You’re losing valuable time and energy by running round in circles. And while you’re hesitating your competitor is out there, taking the business you want.

What to do: You can either develop your skills, or you can find someone to do things for you. If you decide to do it yourself, invest in yourself: if you can do a one-day course with an expert next week and be ready to get doing, or teach yourself slowly and for free over the next few months, which is going to be most effective for getting your business moving? Alternatively, define the skills you need and find someone else with the right knowledge to do the work for you. Your role is to be very clear about the outcome you want, and ensure that the person doing it understands what you need.

5: You’re being overtaken by your competitors

They seem to be doing everything better than you, and you can’t work out how to catch up.

The impact: You’re losing business to them. Today. And they’re going to make even more progress tomorrow.

What to do: Identify one project or area you think would really make a difference to growing your business, but where you’re held back by expertise or time. Set one objective, or up to three smaller related ones, for what you want to achieve. Then find someone who’s an expert in that area, and can help you move forward professionally and efficiently. Whether that’s rewriting your website, redesigning your packaging, or smoothing out your client invoicing, you’ll be amazed at how quickly an expert can produce results that make a real difference to your business.

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