Why am I the only one who answers his phone?
February 28, 2014 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Running a small business and I need to strike the right balance between being available and growing my business.


I run an I.T. services firm. I have two employees - both technical.

Here is my problem: I have made myself available 24/ 7. My phone is practically never
switched off.

From my experience of other small business owners in this industry, they seem to be contintually on message minder or they have a gatekeeper secretary who will tell most callers they are "in a meeting".

So here is my problem: in my own thinking I have made a virtue of being always available. This can be a good thing. I am usually on top of all cases and in touch with changes in the marketplace.

But, I feel that I am possibly doing more harm than good. I feel that if I really want my firm to grow. I need to take a step back from operations. But, how do this? I don't want to be another firm where customers get greeted by a message minder when they call. Solutions or ideas please?
posted by jacobean to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The traditional solution to this is surely to hire people to take on the parts of your job you'd prefer to let go of. Office managers, HR staff, account execs and so on. It's not gatekeeping if you've given these employees enough authority and information to make your personal involvement unnecessary. Delegation FTW.
posted by Andrhia at 7:02 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alternate the technical folks to be on-call on off hours for service emergencies. Hire a third tech if you have to in order to cover emergencies/weekends.

All other calls and emails can wait until business hours the next day/Monday. Some of this is about you being disciplined enough to shut your phone off.

Often folks in small, service businesses offer a standard of business (responding to basic inquiry emails at 10pm, etc.) that is categorically above what they have to in order to secure their business. A lot of it comes down to being confident enough in the product you are offering to know that a few hours waiting for an answer so you can have a life won't kill your business.
posted by rutabega at 7:03 AM on February 28, 2014


You will burn yourself right out with this strategy. Find a great office manager/administrative person to take much of this work off your hands, and you'll see just how much more valuable you can be when you're not dealing with the minutia.
posted by xingcat at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


You either stay available or you hire other people to be available in your stead. Or go with the 'not available' option (which I agree is less than ideal.)

That's pretty much all there is to it.

Delegation of authority is hard. I struggle with it too. But at a certain point there's more than one person can handle without screwing up, so you need to learn to trust your employees to take care of things for you (this goes hand in hand with finding employees who can be trusted with those things).
posted by ook at 7:05 AM on February 28, 2014


Give customers a commitment that you will call back within x hours and stick to it. Provide a provision for emergency call backs.
posted by Dansaman at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Update your outgoing voice mail message to tell callers when you'll next be returning calls.

This is Jacobean, today is Feb 28, I will be in meetings until noon, and I will be returning calls at that time.

On Friday evening: This is Jacobean, on Friday, Feb 28, I will be leaving the office today at 6:00. I will check my messages throughout the weekend, and barring any emergencies, I will be returning calls at 8:00 AM on Monday morning. Have a great weekend!

The updated message let's people know that it's fresh. The fact that you'll return calls at a specific time allows them to anticipate contact (rather than feeling like leaving a message in the black hole of voice mail.)

This will allow you to schedule your time appropriately, set expectations of your customers and to block out uninterrupted time during your day to do work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:12 AM on February 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Consider raising your prices 25%?

You will lose some accounts, but many times the ones you lose will be the "noisiest" in terms of needing your around-the-clock attention.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


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