In early 2012, just a year after Michelle King started her business, she had more work than she could handle on her own. Reputation Capital, her Jacksonville, Fla.-based B2B public relations and communications firm, was continually growing through King’s relationships and referrals from happy clients and required more and more of her time. She was working long weekdays and every weekend, and because she had worked as a consultant for years, managing teams of PR consultants and their workflow for other agencies, King knew that the billings and hours were too much for just one person.
While she enjoyed the flexibility of working from home without managing employees, she realized that she had reached the point where her only choices were to turn down new work or hire someone and grow the company.
It’s a dilemma faced by many solo entrepreneurs at some point — to keep the business small and easily manageable or to expand the business and hire employees for greater growth. In King’s case, the opportunity for exponential growth was difficult to pass up. “I’m naturally very ambitious, so it would have been pretty hard to turn down the new work I was getting,” she says.
On the other hand, as a solo practitioner, King had full control over the work product. “I worried about giving up some of that control with my ‘brand’ still stamped on the work,” she says. “With employees, you are doing less of the PR work and more general managerial work, and I love having direct contact with clients and doing the actual PR consulting. I was worried I would just become a manager and not a consultant.”
King was also concerned about having enough business over the long term to keep her and her employee busy. “It would have been devastating to hire someone and then lose an account or two and not have enough income to pay them,” she says.