For many small business owners, growth isn’t so much a matter of increasing demand for their product or service as keeping up with it. When a solo entrepreneur or small business wants to expand, they need to remember – and embrace – business owners’ most underused tool: delegation.
Growth Means Giving Up on Doing Everything Yourself
Founding a business often means being willing to do everything from vision planning and goal setting to custodial work. Business owners are often highly committed to making their company work, putting in long hours, substantial financial investments, and heavy emotional lifting to get their business off the ground and keep it afloat.
But as your company succeeds, the demands on your time and attention will grow. It may become difficult, or even impossible, to do everything yourself. Nor should you. Overtaxing yourself will only decrease the quality of your work and cause burnout. Instead, strategic delegation of tasks can keep your work balance in check and allow your company to grow.
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Why Delegation is so Underused by Business Owners
Entrepreneurs are used to having their finger on the pulse of their business. Operating hands-on means that there are no surprises. Everything that happens in the company goes through them. It can be hard to give up that level of control and trust others to make decisions about something you created from scratch. But holding on to such tight control can keep you from gaining others’ perspectives on your company’s strengths and struggles.
Many small business owners also wait too long to delegate important, but transferrable tasks. By the time they recognize that they need help, they may feel they don’t have the time to create and list a job post or train up an assistant. It may feel easier to handle the load themselves, or they may decide to simply bear it until things slow down again. But doing so also restricts the company’s ability to grow, and limits you to what you have the time, skill, and energy to do yourself.
How to Successfully Delegate to Grow Your Business
1. Delegate What You Don’t Want to Do
You love your business, but that doesn’t mean you love everything about running it. Take time for self-examination. Identify the tasks that you have to do with your current company structure but don’t want to do. Once you have a list of unwanted tasks, consider whether someone else can do that work for you. Some things, like goal setting, will always be the job of the business owner – though you can get help from a business coach to guide you through the process. Other tasks, even important ones like bookkeeping or hiring, can be delegated if you provide proper oversight. Use delegation to make space in your schedule for what you really enjoy about your business.
2. Use Delegation to Shore Up Weaknesses
Another way to think about using delegation is to build a team of people all doing what they do best for your company. As a business owner, you almost certainly have many talents, but there will be some things that are beyond your expertise. Some things you may just not be very good at. That’s okay. Delegation can allow you to bring on subject matter experts in areas where you struggle or have little experience.
This kind of delegation is especially useful if the need is temporary. Independent contractors can be hired for specific tasks like preparing employee handbooks, designing a company website, or setting up a sales pipeline. These important tasks will help streamline your work and generate new leads, but they aren’t necessarily at the core of your business, and you could easily be forgiven if you don’t know how to approach them. By hiring someone who does, you can ensure the process is done correctly.
3. Choose the Right Person for the Job
Delegating doesn’t always mean hiring someone new. Unless you are a solo entrepreneur, there may be someone on your existing team who has the skills (and the time) to handle additional tasks. Hiring a business consultant to assess your team’s abilities and interests can help you decide who to delegate to internally, before taking the time and expense to hire outside help.
4. Break up Tasks and Document Processes
Another hurdle to successful delegation is undocumented institutional knowledge. Many business owners have practices and procedures that have evolved over time, but they never wrote them down. Others have policies that were created years ago but have never been updated to match current company practices.
Once you have decided what tasks to delegate and who will do them, take some time to break the tasks down into steps and document your process. Try recording yourself doing the task or walking someone through it to more clearly identify the steps. Before handing off the documentation, consider whether there are ways the task could be streamlined, and when you want your employees to seek approvals or review from you or their supervisors. That way, you can retain control and ensure accountability, knowing that the task will get done to your specifications.
5. Delegate Gradually to Build Trust in Your Team
A shift toward delegation can be hard for business owners and their employees alike. If too much responsibility is shifted at one time, employees may feel underprepared or overwhelmed by their new tasks. At the same time, business owners used to having a say in anything may feel like the business is getting out of control.
To prevent this, delegate tasks gradually, leaving time for adequate training, mentorship, and modifications to the operating procedures. By delegating things one piece at a time, owners can get used to taking a supervisory role, and employees can feel supported and empowered to grow into their new responsibilities. Together, you and your staff can take on more than ever before, giving your company the capacity to grow.
David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping startup and small business owners with develop strategic plans for the growth of their business. Contact us to meet with David to create a compensation plan that treats family employees and non-relative workers fairly today.