Why You Need to be Able to Do the Grunt Work in Your Business
Why You Need to be Able to Do the Grunt Work in Your Business | Abby Herman, The Content Experiment Podcast

Why You Need to be Able to Do the Grunt Work in Your Business

How much do you outsource in your business? A little? A lot? Everything?

I don’t know many small business owners who outsource everything, but I do know some who outsource a lot. And while there’s nothing wrong with that at all (I outsource quite a bit too!), there’s something to be said for being able to do the work yourself too.

There’s nothing worse than needing something to be done–pronto–and not knowing how to do it or not having the right log-in access.

And I know, this is why SOPs are so important. But as the leader of your business, it’s also important to know what the work looks like, how long it takes, and what potential challenges might arise.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about on this episode of the podcast…why you need to be able to do the “grunt” work in your business. (And please listen in to hear what, exactly, I mean by “grunt” work. It’s not what you think!)

Mentioned in This Episode


Welcome to episode 141 of The Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast that supports the idea that content and marketing are ever-moving targets in any business and it’s okay if you don’t feel like you’re doing it ALL right, ALL of the time. You have permission to experiment with little tweaks and changes in your content to find what works for you, what increases value for your audience and what grows your business. And most importantly, what feels good for you.

I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and coach for online business owners who are ready to make a bigger impact online. I firmly believe that success isn’t about what big marketing brands and so-called gurus think is the right thing; it’s about you and your business. Your lifestyle and, frankly, your values and belief systems.

You get to do business in a way that works for you.

Question for you: How long have you been a business owner? Just a few months ago I hit my 8-year anniversary of being in my business full time.

And I don’t think I have to tell you that’s it’s been quite a journey. My business has shifted and changed so much over the years.

I’ve talked before about hiring and having a team, both on this podcast and as a guest on others’ podcasts. It took me a while to start hiring…I spent a lot of time as a true solopreneur, doing everything myself.

Today, I’m sharing with you why I feel like doing everything yourself–doing the “grunt” work–actually makes you a better business owner.

But first, if you’re new to the podcast I’d like to welcome you here! I take pride in providing no-nonsense support to help inspire you to get your message out there and give you the actionable steps you need to make it happen so you can get on with business your way. If you like what you hear, hit the subscribe or follow button so you don’t miss another episode.

And if you’re a repeat listener, don’t forget that a rating and review is the best way to support me and other podcasts so we can continue getting in the right earbuds.

Now one of the things that business owners of all ages, sizes, and shapes struggle with is knowing what content to create, when to create it, and where to publish it. It feels like that’s one of business’s greatest mysteries–how to get in front of the right audience and provide value every time.

This, my friends, should NOT be a mystery. And it won’t be, if you take the time to ASK your audience what they need and want.

I’ve talked about surveying your audience before and I have a five-day challenge that you can sign up for any time, walking you through what questions to ask (and why), who to ask, and what to do with your results.

Well, I’m super excited to be offering this five-day challenge LIVE again. It’s been a year since I’ve done that and I’m incredibly excited to offer it again.

So, beginning Monday, September 27, I’m teaching the Ask Your Audience challenge live to you! All the instruction will be in a private Facebook group where I’ll be teaching for about 20 to 30 minutes per day AND I’ll be offering individual feedback as you work through the homework. The trainings are at 8 a.m. Pacific every day, from September 27 to October 1.

Join us! Go to thecontentexperiment.com/ask to sign up today!

Okay, back to the topic of the day: Doing the grunt work.

Let me take you back to your very first job. My first job was as a courtesy clerk at Bashas’, a local grocery store. I mostly bagged groceries but I also had to get carts from the parking lot and do some light “facing” on the shelves, which basically meant that we made the shelves look full by pulling stock from the back of the shelves to the front.

Now if you think about the CEO of a grocery chain, or even the manager of a store, there’s no way I would have had a clue how to do those jobs as a new employee. For one thing, I was 15 years old. For another, I didn’t have the knowledge or background experience to understand what roles needed to be covered. It would have taken many, many years, and me filling many, many roles to have learned the first thing about running a grocery store.

Of course, because I was 15 at the time, I had zero loyalty and no desire to learn the grocery business. I lasted just a few months before I left for another entry-level job somewhere else.

But the thing to remember is that I did what I consider the grunt work. I did what was an essential job, but one that didn’t pay much and had little upward mobility, unless I took on other responsibilities. Sure, I’d occasionally be tasked with helping in produce or sweeping the floors. And in doing those roles, I’d learn a little more about the business.

If I had risen through the ranks of Bashas’, I’d need to know how to do all the things in the business. While I’d have managers and team leads who would supervise the courtesy clerks, if I want to have a handle on the reality of what their jobs were like–like is it even safe for clerks to gather carts from the parking lot in a 118 degree Phoenix summer day–I should have spent some time actually doing the job.

It kind of reminds me of the TV show Undercover Boss, right?

Take my former career as a teacher. One of the things that frustrated me SO much as a teacher is the top-down push of guidelines and requirements and rules. Few, if any, state legislators and lobbyists have experience on the front lines as teachers, yet they make all the rules. And then school superintendents, who may have had a few years in the classroom (but are likely 20+ years outside the role of teacher) also create requirements that don’t make any sense in today’s world.

It’s been so long since they’ve done the “grunt” work, if they’ve done it at all, that they’re completely disconnected from it. They have no idea what reality is right now.

Now, I want to take a moment to pause on the word I keep using–grunt work. The dictionary.com definition of grunt work is “work that is repetitious, often physically exhausting, and boring.

My role as a courtesy clerk most definitely fit the definition. Does “teacher” fit the definition? It certainly is repetitious, especially how we’re expected to teach these days. Yep, it was totally physically exhausting. It was never boring though, except when I was grading papers!

For the purposes of this discussion, especially as we begin to talk about small business, I see “grunt work” as all the little things that have to be done in business. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of any of it–just like a courtesy clerk and a teacher both do important work that needs to be done. But to me, the “grunt work” inside a business includes the little tasks that we all put off doing.

I’m talking about scheduling those emails. Maybe even writing those emails. Updating that website. Balancing the books. Creating automations. Making graphics.

And I will tell you that my business, The Content Experiment, absolutely does our clients’ grunt work. They’ve outsourced things to us that they don’t want to do themselves. Just like I’ve outsourced things to contractors and employees that I, as the CEO, don’t want to do myself.

So I don’t mean “grunt work” as a slight by any means. It’s important and necessary work. But it’s repetitive, exhausting, and boring to the person who wants to or already has outsourced it.

And, at the same time, to get back to the point of today’s episode: We, as the CEO, need to be able to do it ourselves too. We cannot be totally blind to parts of our business if we want to stay in business.

Here’s why:

As a micro-business, it’s important to have a really good handle on the different roles inside your business so you can make good hiring decisions. When you’ve done the work, you also really understand what information a team member needs to be successful in a role, you can evaluate the role more effectively, and you know how long certain tasks will take–so your team members can have a good balance in their work hours.

If you only have a couple of team members, what happens when one is unexpectedly out or when someone leaves the team? There’s nothing worse than feeling paralyzed and that you can’t complete necessary tasks because one person holds all the log-ins and knowledge. Now, of course, if you have a larger team, you’ll have people cross-trained. But if you’re a small but mighty team of just a few people, this might not be possible. It’s YOUR business. YOU are ultimately responsible.

I think being able to perform in all the roles in a business also goes back to empathy. You’ve hired someone to take care of certain tasks because they’re things that you don’t want to spend time doine. At the same time, it’s important to know that a certain task is incredibly time consuming or boring. As I get ready to bring on new team members, I like to ask my current team: What tasks do you love doing and what do you wish you didn’t have to do anymore? That way, I can hire to fill roles that don’t bring my team members joy. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but I do try to do this.

Ever since I went full time in my business in 2013, I’ve wondered about business owners who outsource everything. Of course, we only know what the business owners share online…and we all know that social media is a highlight reel. But I’ve seen business owners who seem to have a team member for everything. I’d love to celebrate those who have built businesses to support that model. But if you’re teaching others about online marketing, you should be doing some of the behind the scenes work in online marketing in your own business too. You should know how long it takes to create an email sequence and get it set up. Because you’re probably teaching your expertise to a bunch of DIYers who are currently doing it all themselves. And you need to know if what you’re teaching is actually realistic for them.

Just like when I was a classroom teacher and we spent full weeks testing our kids on curriculum standards that we honestly didn’t have time to teach…because we were always administering standardized tests to measure their progress on the standards we didn’t have time to teach. (Do you see the ridiculous cycle?)

There’s so much to do as a business owner. If you plan to grow and scale, it’s not possible to do it all yourself.

So yes, hiring help is important, but you should also be able to do the work that you hire someone for. When you, too, can do the work, that doesn’t mean you WANT to do it or that you’re particularly GOOD at doing it. But it’s something that you CAN do if needed.

Maybe creating content for your audience is something you’ve been doing and you feel like you just don’t have the time. Or maybe managing your podcast is turning into a logistical nightmare for you. It might be time to hire someone to help–and that’s exactly what we do here at The Content Experiment. We take these necessary tasks off your plate so you can go back to being the CEO of your business.

Or, if you’re still comfortable with creating and publishing your own content, great! Knowing what to create and where is always the first step.

So Don’t forget:
You can do a great job of creating content for your audience by first knowing exactly what they need and want from you. And the only way to figure out what that is is by asking them.

That’s why I’m hosting the Ask Your Audience challenge LIVE in September. For five days beginning Monday, September 27, I’ll teach you what questions to ask, how to ask them, and what to do with the results of your audience survey–and I’ll give you personalized feedback if you’re doing the homework each day.

Go to thecontentexperiement.com/ask to sign up for free right now!

If you found value in what you learned here today, be sure to share it on social media. Take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. Tag me @thecontentexperiment . The more you share, the more we can get the podcast into the hands of more business owners, just like you, who need to hear the message that they are not alone.

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