July 16, 2024

How Startup Founders Can Operate At High Efficiency While Managing a Small Team


Startups have experienced a wild and, frankly, hard couple of years. Investors expect higher levels of capital efficiency, and that could mean pausing hiring or even layoffs. In the past 12 months, 66% of founders surveyed by Sifted say that VCs have continued to encourage portfolio companies to cut costs, with 87% of those VCs recommending layoffs and 70% recommending cutting back on new hires.

As a founder, I find the idea of layoffs incredibly sad, but many of my fellow tech leaders have been forced to make this tough choice to ensure business survival. Last year, US-based tech companies laid off 191,000 workers, and as of May 2024, 53,073 workers have lost their jobs so far. That number is likely to rise as the weeks and months go on.

Like many other founders, I’ve been looking for ways to reduce spending and prioritize profitability. The answer for many startups is to keep the headcount low. However, here we run into another challenge: Startups are expected to operate at a high level of efficiency. But how can this be accomplished while also avoiding layoffs or overspending?

The Frustrating Dilemma of Driving Growth While Managing A Small Team

If you’re a founder and can’t hire full-time roles right now, that’s okay –– I get it. Recruiting costs money, and too many employees can inflate your spending. If you’re focusing on profitability, managing a small team might be the right choice for you right now.

To ensure you are still able to get things done, you need to rely on the core people that you have. Delegating to your existing employees can help, but there is a limit to how much workload your team can handle. Some founders might feel guilty about overburdening their teams and try to take on more work themselves. While I understand the impulse, draining your time and focus can lead to burnout and poorer leadership performance.

Virtual Assistants Can Be a High-Output, Low-Cost Solution

I’ve experienced firsthand how transformative an assistant can be, both in terms of my productivity and in helping me achieve work-life balance. Helping other founders reach and maintain their peak productivity is one of my top motivations for founding Double.

But beyond empowering founders to do their best work, assistants can be an incredible resource for filling in productivity gaps. Consider that if you’re hiring for a full-time role, you’re paying for the recruitment costs, salary, and onboarding. If you hire a virtual assistant, you can pay them hourly and scale the level of service up or down, which reduces wasted spending.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do to Help Startups?

When considering how an assistant can help a cost-conscious startup, the first thing that might come to your mind is administrative work. Relieving duties like scheduling, fielding phone calls, and inbox management can greatly impact your team’s time: On average, office workers spend 552 hours a year completing administrative or repetitive tasks, equivalent to 69 work days.

If you’re a founder managing a small team, delegating administrative work can make a significant difference. Think of how much more time your staff will be able to devote to revenue-driving activities when administrative functions are taken off their plate.

However, admin work isn’t the only work virtual assistants do. In my conversations with Double customers (many of them founders), I’ve asked how their assistants have helped them. They told me that their skilled assistants have been able to assist with complex duties like:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Event Planning
  • Customer Service
  • HR Duties
  • Recruitment
  • Business Licensing & Permits
  • Operations
  • Project Management
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Travel Planning
  • Technology Implementation

This skilled work can be a huge relief for busy startups. At Double, our fantastic core team is supported by the excellent work of assistants, and they help us remain more efficient, lessen the workload, and keep our costs from inflating too much. I can’t imagine our team functioning the same way without their support.

The Changing Face of Delegation For Startup Founders

To illustrate the importance of assistants in today’s startup landscape, I wanted to share some data about the types of tasks that Double founders and CEOs delegate and how they have evolved.

The Top 5 Task Categories Founders Delegated To Their Assistants Per Year


  • Inbox Management
  • Scheduling & Calendar
  • Event Planning
  • Contact Management
  • Travel Booking


  • Inbox Management
  • Scheduling & Calendar
  • Travel Booking
  • HR Tasks
  • Event Planning


  • Scheduling & Calendar
  • Contact Management
  • Inbox Management
  • HR Tasks
  • Marketing Tasks

We’ve observed a shift to delegating a greater number of skilled and operational tasks. Our internal data further reveals an uptick in virtual assistants tackling HR and recruitment work, project management, marketing, CRM management, and client-facing tasks.

This shift is likely in response to the very problem we’ve been discussing: the need to operate at a higher efficiency level with fewer people. But with the help of an assistant, it’s possible to meet and even exceed that demand.

You’re On Your Way to Building A Small But Mighty Team

In these challenging times, the path forward for startup founders involves navigating the delicate balance between efficiency and cost management. By embracing the support of virtual assistants, you can empower your small but mighty team to focus on core business activities while maintaining a lean operation. The journey may be challenging, but your startup can thrive even in a harsh environment with strategic delegation and smart resource management.

Remember, we're all in this together, and the innovative solutions we implement today will pave the way for a more resilient and successful tomorrow.

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