For the last six weeks a tiger has terrorised my to-do list. Every Sunday we each prepare a detailed plan of tasks for the week ahead. Any task not crossed off by the end of the week moves to the top of the following week's list. Six times now the top of my list has read: draw tiger. He will take me approximately 10 hours, that's just 2 hours a day, but every time I sit down in front of the easel other things shove their way between us and he remains a faceless outline on the page.
The problem is that Lanther Black has hit a tipping point. Up until fairly recently we were generating enough work for exactly two people, which was great because exactly two people is what we had. Some weeks were a struggle and we had to borrow hours from the nights to lengthen our days, but mostly we coped. This unshakeable tiger is the first sign that we may not be able to cope for much longer.
Every small business owner has to wear several hats and to begin with these hats are small and manageable. But as the business grows, the hats grow and there are only so many oversized hats you can pile upon your head before either they fall over or you do. At this point you need to find someone else to wear some of your hats. This is not a problem. It turns out that lots of people want to wear your hats. The problem is that no one wants to wear your hats for free.
We've only recently felt confident enough to start paying ourselves a regular wage from the business so the thought of adding new expenses to the list by outsourcing some of our responsibilities is not a comfortable one. Yesterday the tiger didn't get drawn because I was helping Jack to build the accessories for our next trade fair. We could outsource some of these tasks but exhibiting is a huge expense already. Piling on more costs makes it harder to achieve a profitable show. Better to keep that hat on Jack's head. Today the tiger didn't get drawn because I was filing the company accounts and tax return. We thought about paying an accountant to do it for us but that would be a very large expenditure for something that wasn't completely necessary. What if we have an emergency next month? What if our customers are late in paying their invoices causing us difficulty in paying our own? What if sales are slow? Better to keep that hat on my head. Tomorrow the tiger probably won't get drawn because countless other tasks will arrive that we've chosen to do ourselves rather than put extra financial burden on our growing business.
We've had to admit to ourselves, however, that if we carry on this way there will soon come a point where Lanther Black will stop growing. How can we work on the business when we're spending all of our time working in the business? How can the captain steer the ship if he's too busy scrubbing the deck? We'll have to bite the bullet and shed some of these hats even if it means shouldering a temporary financial burden. Otherwise there will always be a tiger dwelling at the top of our list.