Automan_Empire - 7:55 am on Mar 30, 2012 (gmt 0)
This is an important point in the growth of a business. Ultimately, you want to be able to spend your time working ON your business, rather than in it. You don't want to feel like a Ray Kroc, so busy flipping burgers all day that it makes you angry that the men in suits keep wanting to talk to you about some franchise thingy.
Whether it is freelancers or staff in a physical site, be careful about hiring too many people too fast at first; slow to hire and quick to fire. New hires need enough of your daily attention that you can get them to a sufficient level of autonomy quickly, or realize even quicker that this one is not going to work out and replace them. Firing even a bad employee can be as difficult as a romantic breakup, and is also worsened by delaying the necessary.
It may take some trial and error, but (depending widely on the type of business) it is probably best to manage two or three employees yourself, building each to a point where they're making you and your company so much more effective that they are more than paying for themselves, before it is time to hire a manager. You'll need some hands on experience managing people in your business, to hire and manage an effective manager. Also, adding a non-production employee to the payroll is risky, before you have enough effective production employees to support them.
You said you have some money saved up, but making an effective team from scratch is difficult even with experience, and you'll be unpleasantly surprised how fast an oversized (for the current revenue) payroll eats through savings. Growing too fast at once can have you running from newbie to newbie all day, as everyone sits back and smirks at you desperately trying to get the company kick-started, taking home your last dollar in their paychecks and leaving en masse, the second one bounces.
In my experience, technical people are far more autonomous and easy to manage even across the world, compared to a general laborer in the same room as you.
Benefits appeal differently across demographics. General laborers, short to medium duration contract workers, elancers, or under 25 tend to be very motivated by bit-better-than-average pay always delivered promptly, and could hardly care less about profit sharing, retirement accounts, and other non-instant gratifications. Family breadwinners, homeowners, people with their eye on eventual retirement are going to be more motivated by the security of a strong company, defined and reachable career growth pathway, physical location, profit sharing and the like, and are usually the ones filling management and critical long term positions. Once you have a few employees and departments, you'll need at least a 3 size fits all motivation plan.
Critical for doing things remotely and managing a distributed workforce is an effective system of objectively measuring each worker's productivity. This doesn't guarantee effective workers, but it is a necessary tool for management. Choose your platform carefully, it isn't easy to get everyone to change systems later.
Hire a good accountant first, to keep all your payroll and tax issues in order. This is critical, and too specialized to handle yourself and still manage your business. A lawyer should be consulted about intellectual property; collaberative development makes it more complicated. There goes more seed money.
Read up on corporate structures, processes, procedures etc; you won't reinvent this wheel in your lifetime. Become familiar with your local labor laws, there are serious but predictable pitfalls. With a staff, you become responsible for things you never dreamed of while running your business yourself- goofing off on the clock, malevolent cliques, sexual harassment, coming back from lunch tipsy, unaccountable mood swings. The challenges of a completely distributed workforce are less daunting when you consider all that can go wrong with a traditional physical business.
As for branching out into completely new endeavors, there is a certain balance to spreading yourself too thin, and getting so entrenched in a routine that you never reach for your dreams. Getting one business to run well without you is a challenge, but make that a priority if you want sufficient time and attention to effectively pursue these other opportunites.
I'm also 12 years in business, and last year made the step from small to medium. Hope it goes well for you, Tonearm.