Letting Go


Letting Go

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By Sallie Hyman


These are the qualities that make a great entrepreneur, but are also the qualities that can get in the way of growing a business. Most small-business owners start out as, and often continue to be, one-person operations.

For most, in the beginning there was only you to answer the phone, send the invoices, pay the bills, and maybe even do the taxes. Although you know how to get some of these tasks done, it doesn’t mean you have the knowledge to do all things your business needs, such as setting up an effective marketing campaign or building a website. Plus, spending time doing all of these day-to-day tasks takes away time from doing what your business is supposed to be doing: making money. 

Trying to do all of these things for your business will also take an enormous amount of time. This may lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, especially if you are a one-person business. There are only so many hours in the day and you should spend the working ones growing and expanding your business, not putting stamps on invoices. Otherwise, your business growth will be limited. As the business owner, it is very important for you to work on your business, not in your business. One of the easiest ways to overcome this limitation is learning how to delegate.

Delegate is a four-letter word for many people. It is very hard for many entrepreneurs and small-business owners to give up absolute control. How could anyone else possibly do as good a job as you do for your business? The simple answer is that they can and will if given the opportunity. 

Another reason often given about the reluctance to delegate is the amount of time it takes to train someone. There will be upfront time needed to properly instruct someone on what is required of them, but it will pay off in the end. If you spend two hours a week on a task, that adds up to eight hours a month. If it takes you three hours to train someone to do that task for you, you have already saved five hours that first month. That adds up to 101 hours of saved time over the first year. Think of how much you could be working on your business in those 101 hours!

Delegation is a vital part of leadership and an essential way to help grow your business. To delegate effectively, choose the right tasks to delegate, identify the right people to delegate to, and delegate in the right way. Many experts say that everything can be delegated, as long as you have found the right person for the task!

The following tips will help you to delegate in the most successful way.

Once you have made the choice to take back some of your time, you need to decide what you feel comfortable delegating. Start by making a list of all the tasks that you perform. 

Do you possess the skill sets to properly execute all of them? (Probably not.) Take out the tasks that you absolutely must do, such as those that are at the core of your business. All of the remaining tasks are those that can be delegated to others, provided they are given adequate instruction.

Examples of such tasks include:
■ Handling customer service issues
■ Handling invoicing and paying bills
■ Answering frequently asked questions
■ Performing functions that you are less qualified or experienced for
■ Performing routine office duties, like replacing printer ink cartridges

Day-to-day tasks and tasks that do not require special knowledge or skills can be delegated “down.” This does not mean that these tasks are menial, just that they do not require the hiring of an expert to execute them. 

Those tasks that you are not qualified for are the ones that you delegate “up.” Give them to an expert in that field so that they are done correctly. Taxes, legal issues, and information technology are common examples of tasks to delegate “up.” 

Another way to look at what to delegate is how much money it costs you to do the task versus how much you have to pay someone to do it for you. If you charge $100 per hour, you may choose to delegate all tasks that cost $100 per hour or less. That way you are free to be earning more money than you are spending.

You can’t expect to assign new tasks to someone without explanation and have the task completed to your satisfaction. This is where many people feel that delegating is just not worth it. There is no way around it—delegating will take some upfront time so that you can properly explain the task and give clear instructions. Be sure to include why the task is being performed and the desired outcome. This will help the person assigned the task to better understand the importance of their contribution and lead to pride in ownership of the task.

Step-by-step instructions should be provided for the person performing 
the task. How detailed these are will depend on the experience and training of the assignee. You should personally go over the instructions with the person. After going over the instructions ask the assignee if she understands the tasks and has any questions.

Let the person know that you will check on their progress at specific intervals. Do not micromanage, allow the person to get the task done their way, but make sure that it is getting done in a timely fashion and that milestones are met on time. Make sure that you stick to your follow-up schedule. Missing scheduled follow-ups can send a signal that you do not find the delegated task important and can de-incentivize the assignee.

Some people use the SMARTER rule to develop a system for delegating. The acronym stands for:
■ Specific
■ Measurable
■ Agreed
■ Realistic
■ Timebound
■ Ethical
■ Recorded

Delegated tasks must fit these criteria so that assignees can achieve success.

When you delegate to others, you are giving them the opportunity to develop their own skills, knowledge, and abilities. The key, again, is not to micromanage how they accomplish their assigned tasks. This will allow them to become independent, problem-solving employees. There is usually more than one way to get from point A to point B and their way is no more or less correct than your way. You might even learn something new!

Do be careful not to overload delegated tasks on any one person. Carefully monitor workloads to ensure that employees have the ability to complete tasks and are set up to succeed in them, not to fail. Be available for any questions that arise during the execution of a task, but don’t be tempted to take over the task at the first hint of trouble. Help the person with their question, but make sure that the task stays with them. If the work or progress is not to your satisfaction, make sure that you work with the person to see wherein lies the problem and work to solve it before you reassign or take back the task.

A last bit of advice is to accept good work. It does not have to be perfect work. Even what you consider perfect work from yourself may not be perfect to someone else. Go with the 80/20 rule. As long as the goal is met, then 80 percent is good enough! You don’t want to compromise quality, but constantly striving for perfection can impede success. That last 20 percent can take the longest and be a waste of time and resources. You will find that by delegating and not sweating the small stuff, you will have a lot more time to spend working on and growing your business. Just what you should be doing!

Sallie Hyman writes on small-business issues and owns and operates her own small business in Purcellville, Va.

Finding businesses or professionals to whom to delegate business tasks can be daunting. Do you turn to the yellow pages or seek out recommendations from business colleagues? Do you choose a big box company or a local small business?

Small businesses and the self-employed drive the American economy. 
Small Business Administration data show that 99.7 percent of all businesses (27 million businesses, all those with 499 employees or fewer—including micro-businesses and the self-employed) in the United States are considered small businesses. Small businesses and the self-employed create 64 percent of net new private sector jobs. Supporting small businesses is a way to support the economy.

The NASE is all about supporting our members. Our new Small Business Locator is a great way for members to connect with and help out fellow members. By supporting small business you help drive America’s economy and its economic recovery. The services your business needs are available from other NASE Members in the Small Business Locator. Browse by business category, or narrow your search by business name, 
keywords, or location. 

NASE Members can be found in just about every category of business that can support your business. This will allow you to choose professionals in many fields to “delegate 
up” or “delegate down” tasks that you are either not expert in or that take up too much of your time. This will ensure that tasks are properly completed (e.g. taxes or legal issues) and will free you up to do what is most important for your business: coming up with new business ideas and laying out the future course of your business.


Read this article in PDF form here.

Courtesy of NASE.org