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Work On Your Business, Not In It

“Work On Your Business, Not In It”

Maisie Jane Hurtado was a high-school junior when she started selling snacks made with almonds from her family’s farm in Chico, Calif. In the seven years since then, Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products Inc. has doubled in business every year. The company manufactures, packages and sells a gourmet-almond line both at the retail level and to distributors and wholesalers. Stores from California to Chicago carry the snacks, and products are shipped direct to consumers around the world from sales concluded on Maisie Jane’s Web site. The Maisie Jane’s empire now includes a full-time manufacturing plant and retail store.

Like most entrepreneurs, Hurtado began by doing everything herself, from marketing and product development to hand sorting her first ton of almonds. She has hired several employees, but still finds herself pulled into the company’s daily activities:

When I started my business in 1993, it was a one-woman show with limited startup capital and time, since I was still in school. It is obviously not a one-woman show anymore — I have a baking crew, a bookkeeper, brokers, a production manager and a store manager — but I do know the business better than anyone else, and I want to keep up our reputation of quality products and 100% customer service.

Although I have delegated many of the crucial responsibilities in the business, I am still too connected and attached to them. These things include: hiring, firing, corresponding with existing accounts, handling equipment maintenance and upgrades, dealing with charities and donations, advertising, keeping an eye on the bookkeeper and even sorting the mail.

I feel that my time would be better spent creating new products, upgrading product designs, establishing new markets and accounts, spending time on overseas issues, attending trade shows and watching the finances closely.

However, I was recently approached by an outside "creative-marketing" team that wants to sign on four or five similar businesses and handle their marketing needs, sharing the costs of travel, trade shows and demo programs. They would correspond with my brokers, develop new accounts and sign contracts with new distributors. Should I let go of the marketing — even though it’s the aspect of business I enjoy the most — and just focus on the company’s everyday business and production aspects?

I also have to watch my funds. As much as I would love to hire six more employees, I don’t know if it would be justifiable right now. How do I know the right time and the right aspects of business to hire out?