Delegating some of your daily tasks may not only give you some relief from 18-hour workdays, it may also help your business in the long run.
Here are some daily tasks every small-business owner might consider delegating, as well as tips for making delegation work for you.
What Can You Delegate?
Not every business owner can delegate the same things. When your business is just starting out, you probably will have to handle almost everything on your own—at least until it gets off the ground.
But as your business becomes successful, you might consider delegating the following daily tasks.
- Accounting/Bookkeeping: You should always keep an eye on your overall financials. However, you can likely delegate the smaller daily tasks, such as sending out invoices, inputting financial information, managing payroll and maintaining records.
- Administrative: Managing your calendar, scheduling appointments, returning phone calls, booking travel plans and even sorting through emails are all tasks that seem quick, but may add up to quite a bit of time in the average day. Using a virtual (or in-house) assistant may save you several hours.
- Customer service: Once your business grows, you don’t have to be the first person customers call for help or with complaints. You might delegate this task to an employee.
- Data entry: Data entry is still required for some tasks, such as inputting customer names and email addresses into your email marketing solution. If possible, postpone data entry until you’ve got enough names to make it worthwhile, and then outsource it.
- IT support: Learning how to solve your and your employees’ computer problems may take more of your time than hiring someone to handle it. Consider services from companies such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which provide tech support for an annual fee, or find a local IT consultant you trust to help you. A good consultant may go beyond problem solving and troubleshooting to help you plan for growth.
- Marketing: Although you need to oversee your overall marketing strategy and plan, you may likely save a lot of time and effort by finding experienced marketers to handle the day-to-day aspects of marketing, such as writing ad or website copy, designing and placing ads, and scheduling blog posts or social media content.
- Packing and shipping: Whether you're sending out direct mail pieces and promotional products or fulfilling product orders, you might delegate the envelope-stuffing, packing and labeling to someone else.
- Production: Even if your business makes handmade products, such as jewelry or housewares, you might delegate production at some point so the business can grow beyond your own capacity.
- Website: Designing, updating and securing the safety of your business website may be jobs best left to a professional, since the rules in this area are constantly changing.
- Writing: Running a small business may require lots of writing, from proposals and blog posts to white papers and reports. Even if you’re a good writer, you might save time by having an employee or freelance writer write a first draft and then putting your own spin on it to create the final version.
Who to Delegate to
Depending on the size of your business, the importance of the task and whether you're looking to delegate it on a long-term or short-term basis, you could delegate to family, employees or outsourced contractors.
- Family members: If your business is new or very small, sometimes family members who’ll work for free may be your best bet. Even younger family members can handle simple tasks like envelope stuffing or data entry.
- Employees: If a task is part of the core functions of your business (such as producing your product or handling customer service), ideally, you may want to delegate it to an employee so you can supervise the person more closely.
- Outsourcing: There are many tasks you might delegate to freelancers or independent contractors. Freelancers specialize in everything from IT consulting and website design to marketing copywriting and bookkeeping.
How to Delegate Effectively
- Choose the right people. Obviously, trust will likely matter more if you’re choosing someone to handle your social media presence than if you’re selecting someone to input addresses. Still, it can be vital to choose people you trust and who have the skills and experience to handle the job (or the intelligence to learn it if they don’t already have experience.
- Create systems and processes. It’s often a good practice to develop directions for each task you delegate. These might be complex or simple depending on the task. Identify the steps of the task, what materials or tools should be used to perform it and what outcome you want. (Example: “Go through my emails every day at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. Use these templates to answer the ones that can get a standard reply. Those for me, forward to my attention and label them as urgent or non-urgent accordingly. The goal is for me to get through my emails faster.”)
- Try them out. Consider starting small by delegating one small task to a person you’re considering. For example, if you're testing an employee to manage all your social media, you might start by having her schedule blog posts and see if she can handle this before you graduate to having her write tweets. A test run may enable you to correct problems and make sure you have selected the right person.
- Communicate regularly. Open communication can be key to successful delegating. You may have to constantly communicate with some people, such as your virtual assistant. Others, such as an IT consultant, may not require frequent contact. In either case, however, consider setting up systems and timelines for when and how to communicate (for example, check in via IM every morning and afternoon, meet by Skype once a month, etc.).
- Don’t micromanage, but do manage. Ideally, once people know their assigned tasks, they should be able to handle them without further interference from you. Micromanaging won’t ease your workload. However, delegating doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility. You will likely still need to stay on top of employees and contractors' general progress via check-ins and reviews.
By implementing these tactics, you may find your business growing more as you do less.
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A version of this article was originally published on September 8, 2015.