Every small business has a metaphorical rubber band. That rubber band’s chief responsibility is, of course, to hold things together. It can keep many different things under control, but if too many things are added, the rubber band will eventually reach a point where it loses elasticity—or snaps.
That rubber band is you, and those things you’re holding together represent all the tasks and jobs you do. When you have too many business owner responsibilities, you risk snapping and losing your effectiveness. So what can you do to keep the rubber band from snapping? You need to delegate.
Delegation is the act of entrusting authority to another person. In small businesses, it means trusting another employee or partner to do a job in order to allow your business to grow. Here are three criteria you should consider when deciding whether it’s a responsibility you need to take on yourself or one that could be done better by someone else.
1. Work That Someone Else Is An Expert In
When you start out small, you’re definitely going to have to do all (or almost all) of the work. Your business is your baby, and as you raise and grow it, you also form an attachment that makes it hard to let go. As that baby grows into a company that needs more in order to produce more, you’ve got a choice to make: are you going to keep doing all the work yourself, or are you going to delegate jobs to other people who can do them just as well (if not better!) than you?
It’s a hard thing to trust someone else with your baby—but it’s also the only way you’ll be able to help that baby grow and mature. By hiring employees or contracting with partners, you’re not tied to your own 24-hour, 7-day-a-week capability. When you hire employees who are better than you, you’re giving them reigns to predetermined jobs that they can do better and more efficiently, which will make you look great, too. So don’t worry about not being the best at everything, or feel anxious that your employees might be better than you at something. Eventually, that’s where you can actually make a profit—when you’re not limited by the scope of your own constraints, you can really start to grow.
It’s not that easy, though—that’s why you want to pay special attention to hiring the right people. Don’t waste your time and a huge chunk of change to just get someone in the position; take your time to hire for character, and you’ll be able to rest much easier (even when you’re not in the office). Here’s a list of great articles that can help you get started in the process:
- How I Hire: I Look For Your Failures, and Your Character
- What Should You Look for in the People You Hire?
- How 5 CEOs Hire for Character
2. Tasks That Waste Your Time & Talent
Now, you can’t delegate responsibility for every single task you don’t want to do—some of the dirty work you’ll have to do yourself. But you should certainly keep an eye out for tasks that you really hate to do that wear you down and take away from your leadership role. For example, if you’re an idea-maker and big dreamer who can’t sit still for more than an hour, it may not a good use of your time to have to comb through financial statements, business policies, and legal documents on a daily basis. It’d be wise to delegate or outsource these tasks to an employee or business consultant who does those things well.
The initial cost to hire a new employee or a different company to do those things might be enough to scare you away. Don’t run off without sitting down with a pen, paper, and calculator to see how much of your time you’re spending doing these things. It may be as simple as calculating the hourly cost of taking on the task yourself vs. delegating the task. Don’t forget to include the added value you may get from these services.
Here’s one example.
You own a franchise and manage much of the day-to-day phone activity, including recording and storing your phone calls in-house. Daily (or weekly, as you find time), you have to spend the time listening to, cataloging, securing, and managing the whole archive of your calls. You try to keep up with it as best you can, but for every five calls you listen to, there’s only one that gives you information that you need right away. Of the remaining calls, you have three that are worth saving (for training or informational purposes in the future) and one that you don’t think you’ll ever need, but you can’t be quite sure. You feel like you’re wasting 80% of your time in this task, but you know that paying attention to your customers is something you can’t afford not to do, so you keep plugging away, using profitable hours to try and handle your business phone recording yourself.
In this situation, you have a choice to make: you’ve already identified that this task is something that’s costing you time you could use otherwise. So, you take a look to see if there’s anyone who specializes in call recording and tracking. You likely realize that the hourly “rate” you would charge yourself to do the task is a lot more than what you’d pay if you delegated the task. And you’d not only get your hours back, but you could also make more money by having other business intelligence close at hand: information that you can use to improve your focus when it comes to marketing, advertising, and even employee training. That’s value added to your company for less money than you’re spending doing it yourself.
3. Work That Doesn’t Add Value To Your Company When You Do It
We’re not talking about being a professional Facebook user (although that definitely counts)—we mean spending your time on anything that isn’t using your skillset. If you’re spending time on work you don’t understand or aren’t doing well, you may be costing your company in more ways than you realize.
So, what does delegation actually look like for you? This article gives excellent advice on how to start your delegation process by creating job descriptions of every company position. That’s not every employee, but every role. You may have one person doing 8 or 9 of these jobs—that’s information you need to write down.
- Outline essential job functions.
- List tasks employees do.
- Combine and consolidate tasks to determine if another position should be created, either full- or part-time, or if the position should be outsourced or delegated among existing staff.
“Putting everything to paper can help put things in perspective. Often business owners or managers may not even realize how much time they are spending in an “employee” role rather than a managerial mindset.
And while it may make sense for a business owner or manager to jump in and take over the role of an employee who is no longer with the company for financial reasons—how long do they plan on doing it for? When will it no longer make financial sense to take time and focus away from other tasks that are essential to a business owner or manager?”
This exercise can help you make sure you’re allocating your most important resource—your employees (and yourself!)—in the most valuable way.
Ultimately, by learning to delegate, you’ll:
- Help your business grow and scale
- Find more time to focus on the vision and future of your company
- Wisely apportion and maximize your time and money
- Save yourself frustration and boredom from tasks you hate doing
Each of these things will help you ensure many more productive (and less stressful!) years of doing business you love.