EntrepreneurshipJanuary 30, 2018

How to end up a cycle of routine and finally start working on your ideas

The potential of growth for a person and business depends on how easy certain proved practices and tasks can be delegated.
Boris Goncharov
Co-Founder @Foculty

Three years ago I quit my job and decided to start my own business. I opened a company and moved to California which is called the state of entrepreneurs and people with smart ideas. After Moosetank was registered the scope of various tasks constantly grew up. I had to do all the paperwork related to taxes, financial documents, search for new clients, content management, payments to freelancers etc.

It all builds up like a rolling snowball and, bit by bit, it starts eating up 200% of your work time. It seems like you are just about to finally manage all tasks, have your problems solved and your life will get back to normal with plenty of time to rest. But that's not how it turns out! One phone call leads to another…. and they never end. Email correspondence turns into a large list of pending tasks. Pile of Trello cards resemble a mountain that you can never climb to, all the checks are scattered around mail boxes and pockets and you never have time to add them to Quickbooks/Xero. It appears that all those tiny things wish to merge into one great unachievable mission!

Over these three years I turned into a task solving machine. Now I get satisfied when I get an immediate response to my letter, or my request gets understood straight away, or when the Contract is finally signed and revisions are needed any more. All my life started to look like a Tetris game when the figures start falling faster after each cleared line. Does it ring a bell for you? If you are just making your first steps as an entrepreneur - welcome to the club!

The solution is out there...

Is it really destined to be like this? And what's with the pleasure and excitement which you’re supposed to feel from your own business? Where is that romantic sensation when you are focused on the strategical issues, new ideas, and products? To be honest, I read an incredible number of articles and heard many opinions before I came across a book by Tim Ferriss called The 4-Hour Workweek’. The book produced a tremendous impression on me, I started to give a new meaning to all the work routines and the logic of my occupations. The key message of the book is presented in the picture below.

Flowchart from ‘4 hour workweek’ by Tim Ferriss

Once I decided to work with assistants I started to hire specialists for single projects from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines using platforms like Upwork и Freelancer. It sped up the solution of large and time-consuming tasks, but still, I was pressed under a big number of minor duties, as ants under a deer.

I decided to hire one assistant for a full-time job and get him familiar with most of the things that I had to do by myself. Also, I wanted to try and speak Russian with him to avoid misinterpretation. This was the best managerial solution over the recent years of my life!

We started to work with an assistant from Ukraine. My first days were spent in discussions and lessons on how to use the tools required: Google Documents, Xero, Slack, Trello, Telegram, Transferwise, Wordpress, Airtable, Evernote, YouTube etc. To set the task right I created short 5-minute screencasts where I showed how a particular tool should be used. This worked much better than trying to explain stuff via skype or describe it in writing. A person can re-watch a screencast, pause it, and repeat the actions seen on the screen.

I gradually increased the complexity of tasks, we created a semi-automatic schedule of repeated actions and developed an approach to handling one time jobs and urgent tasks. In the course of work I changed my assistant but the existing knowledge base that included screencasts, guidelines and Trello board cards, helped me to hand over matters smoothly.

After several months many colleagues and friends of mine learned about the changes of my life and started asking for recommendations concerning the recruitment of assistants and task setting. Soon together with Vladimir Kudinov, we decided to use the accumulated knowledge and create a service that will help Russian speaking entrepreneurs in the USA to free part of their time from the monotonous routines and re-direct their time and resources to other more important things. That’s how we brought to life ‘Thank you, Tanya’ - the first Russian speaking concierge service with personal assistants in the US.

Below we will review a few most vivid real examples to demonstrate how much time you can save using the help of a good and trained responsible assistant.

Searching and sorting through information

How much time do you normally need to find a cheap insurance, good flight ticket, notary whose working hours suit you with the office nearby? And how much time does it take you when you are away in the business trip? Sometimes you’ll have to spend 2 to 3 hours to plan a trip, and communication with insurance companies and calculating monthly premiums can take up to 2 days if you want a good deal. Searching and sorting through information eats up a lot of time especially if you need to check many variants.

One of the tests I selected for a future assistant was the following quest: Help me to figure out how to terminate accommodation registration for a Moscow apartment without leaving California, give me a step-by-step instruction with addresses, service prices and time needed for each step. I must say that this task screened out many good candidates, but the ones who could handle it were shortlisted immediately.

Once I was in Berlin on a business trip and I had to urgently send a power of attorney to Russia, duly notarized and suiting all the bureaucratic requirements of both countries. I just asked my assistant to make sure that the right document reached Moscow by a certain deadline. In order to perform the task the assistant had to do the following:

  • Find a draft of the Power of Attorney that suited the task;
  • Fill it in with the information required;
  • Find a notary in the nearest district in Berlin who would speak English and understand Russian because the Power of Attorney shall be bilingual and a notary cannot endorse something he/she does not understand;
  • Contact the notary office, send them previously prepared documents, find out about the price of services and create an appointment in the calendar (with indication of the notary's address);
  • Find the cheapest way to mail documents to Russia, tell me the address and working hours of the post office.

Instead of 4 hours of searching and phone calls I spent only 10 minutes for task setting for my assistant, 20 minutes to get to the notary's office and 5 minutes in the office because all the paperwork had been previously approved and ready to be notarized and signed.

Bookkeeping

How much time does an average owner of small business spend on sorting all his/her expenses and entering them in Quickbooks or Xero? How much time is needed to make entries for all the Payrolls and make payments to freelancers? You can hire a costly accountant from $60 per hour ($1000 and more per month) or do it all by yourself if you cannot afford such expenses.

First I taught my assistant how to enter and distribute all the expenses of the company in the accounting software. (I use Xero). We created a special mailbox for all the checks from repeated payments and subscriptions. As for all the new and unique checks, I simply photograph them and send them via Telegram chat or forward my email. If I forget about some check or I lose an invoice, an assistant will ask me to find it. Thus, instead of 2-4 hours of accounting routines, I spend not more than 10 minutes, check the status in Xero once every 4-7 days and that’s it.

Lead generation

Searching for new clients for business is often a very time consuming (almost never-ending) job. You need to find the contacts, write them into a table, sort them by priorities, add them in LinkedIn or Facebook, or find an email address to write a letter. Each contact status needs to be monitored. All this can take hours, days, even weeks.

In the past, in order to share information on our new startup and get feedback from the potential users we, together with Vladimir Kudinov, could spend several days to find 200–400 new contacts and finally talk to 20–40 people to get their opinion. After we hired assistants we reduced the amount of time needed down to two hours in total.

  • 10 minutes for assigning a task to search for contacts using set parameters (for instance, designers working in technological companies that received maximum $3 million investments and which are founded not earlier than 2 years ago);
  • 20 minutes to look through the list of contacts and identify those worth talking to;
  • 30 minutes to talk to the first 2 contacts. Then the assistant can use the fragments of the dialogue to communicate with new contacts;
  • 50 minutes to check the completed task and analyze the information obtained;
  • 10 minutes for questions and discussions;
Time-saving becomes a style of life. If you can delegate a certain job do it.
Boris Goncharov, Co-founder at FocFoc.

Content management

Fill the educational site with content, order articles and post them in the blog, put the links to referred programs, post in social networks - it all sounds like a separate full time job. If a business owner does it, he/she will hardly have time for anything else.

Nowadays the technologies are so clear and user friendly that the assistant can fill the blog on Wordpress without having any special web-master skills. To post a new article into a blog you don’t need to write the whole article and spend the entire day on it. You can write just bullet points and the rest of the job can be delegated to the assistant:

  • Find an editor via Fiverr;
  • Assign a task for writing an article using certain key words;
  • Monitor that the work is completed on time;
  • Accept and pay for the work;
  • Load the expenses check into the accounting program;
  • Find pictures for the article;
  • Post the content in the blog, putting the links in the right places;
Screen capture from Sponge Bob

Delegate it!

Time-saving becomes a style of life. If you can delegate a certain job do it. The potential of growth for a person and business depends on how easy certain proved practices and tasks can be delegated. Each time assigning tasks take less and less time. For some questions, the assistant will find answers himself/herself and makes his/her own decision.

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