Ten or twenty years ago, a job description that included taking out the trash, scrubbing toilets, and cleaning the office was generally attached to a janitorial position. Today, in 2015, we’ve come up with a new term — entrepreneur. According to recent research carried out by virtual assistant service Time etc, self-described entrepreneurs across America are doing much more than pitching to venture capitalists, and some of it isn’t as glamorous as we’d like to imagine.
In fact, according to the joint study between YouGov and Time etc, 70 percent of senior decision makers have had to take out their company garbage, over three in five have restocked bathroom toilet paper, and over 60 percent serve as their own cleaning service. And while these are all important and necessary tasks crucial to the function of any organization, large or small, it certainly highlights the less desirable reality of entrepreneurship in 21st century America.
Survey results that included responses from 501 senior decision makers across a variety of small businesses further found that 63 percent of entrepreneurs or senior executives in startups have changed lightbulbs, over 60 percent have assembled office furniture, and 50 percent act as their own personal IT department (for both themselves and their staff). And given the inherent limitations that the 24-hour day places on small business owners, having to carry out these tasks in addition to running and growing a business begins to seem like a truly daunting task.
Barnaby Lashbrooke, the founder of Time etc, is looking to offer a bit of help by providing virtual assistants for entrepreneurs, promising that with just a little bit of outside help, entrepreneurs will be able to have the kind of freedom they need to succeed. “Whilst technology has made it much easier to start a business,” Lashbrooke told me in an email, “In many ways, those new businesses are becoming increasingly complex and the demands placed upon new entrepreneurs in 2015 are higher than ever before.” Lashbrooke says this is because “communication is increasingly instant,” pointing to the burgeoning demands of social media, creative marketing, and maintaining a public persona for a growing brand.
“So in other words,” wrote Lashbrooke, “Entrepreneurs today are pulled in many more directions than they were a few years ago and therefore need more help to ensure that they tick all of the boxes required to successfully launch and succeed at business in 2015.”
The Time etc founder experienced this multiplicity of needs firsthand when he established his own startup before pivoting towards his new business, and noted, “I often needed help with everything from the day-to-day to the specialized skills but didn’t have the overhead I needed to actually bring someone on full time.” But with Time etc, Lashbrooke believes he’s found a solution. “Time etc allows you to work with people on a freelance basis,” he said, “allowing entrepreneurs to keep costs down in the beginning, which is critical. Not only that, the freelance assistants range in skills, allowing users to tap different assistants based on the area they need help in, growing their business in more ways than one.”
Today, for the first time in five years, entrepreneurship is on the rise. Individuals from across the country are once again in a position (and in a mindset) to take risks, and the Kauffman Foundation’s Startup Activity Index suggests that over 500,000 Americans become new business owners every month. Still, in a country known for its DIY attitude, startup activity remains below historic norms, no surprise given the economic climate of the last several years.
But as the tide begins to turn once again, companies like Time etc want to ensure that small new businesses are given a fair shot at success. “What Time etc and similar platforms do,” Lashbrooke says, “is allow for you to take out the trash if you need to and be the IT person if you must, but not at the expense of things getting done.”
So invent and found start-ups all you want, entrepreneurs. And if you need some help, know that there are other small businesses out there looking to help you out.