When is the Right Time to Grow Your Business?

I’ve got a confession to make before I get too far into this article – I don’t know the answer to this question. If I acted like I did, it wouldn’t be fair to you. And the reason why is this – I think it’s different for every business out there. What I can do is tell you about my experience and the things I considered before making what could be the biggest decision in your business’s history.

First, I’m a Seattle criminal lawyer. My practice, for the most part, is limited to misdemeanors and DUI, though I will take the occasional felony case if it presents itself. I opened my doors officially about sixteen months ago and have been growing steadily from day one. At this point I am the sole employee – I have a part time law clerk that works 10-20 hours per week on research projects, and that is the only help I’ve got.

As time has passed I’ve become more and more bogged down with administrative tasks – managing cases, answering the phone, taking care of paperwork – and it’s affecting the way I do business. I think I need help, but I’m not sure I can afford it yet. This is what got me to thinking about when the right time to grow your business is.

In the past, if you wanted to grow your business, all you had to do was go down to the bank and open a line of credit. Get fifty thousand or so to work with and you can hire someone no problem. If you have a lean month or two you can just rely on the credit. When things even out you just pay the bank back.

But times have changed. Getting a business loan or line of credit, whether a criminal attorney or a baker, is nearly impossible. Banks just aren’t taking the risk. You’ve got to do it on your own, and that means you’ve got to do it at the right time.

There is more to it, however, than just looking at what you are bringing in and deciding whether or not there is enough money to pay for someone. First, don’t forget about any benefits that you might have to give. And second, don’t forget about the free time you’ll have when you get help that you can devote to marketing, working on your cases, and otherwise bringing in more money. If they don’t help you make more money, then it’s the wrong time to hire someone.

The right time to grow your business is like the right time to have a kid – there isn’t every really a perfect time to do it. At some point you need the help and you take the plunge. Just make sure you’ll be bringing more money in when they come on than if they weren’t there.