Delegating can be a difficult concept for small business owners. Many of them start companies at the ground level, foster them every step of the way and the thought of giving away tasks to anyone else paralyzes them with fear.
Fortunately, delegating can be easier than you think and the benefits are often incredibly positive.
“Delegating is a decision and it is a decision to grow,” said Lisa Pike, principal/CEO of Renton, Wash.-based ScribeRight Transcription Agency. “If you want your business to grow, you have to rely on other people.”
Pike, who started her company in 2002, learned this the hard way.
“When I first started the business, I went nine and a half months without a day off,” she said. “I was working literally 20-hour days and sleeping in my clothes to save time in the morning.”
Pretty soon, she found herself in trouble.
“I remember one night it was 1 a.m. and I had been working since 4 a.m. the prior morning,” Pike said. “I started crying because I had so much work to do.”
“I made the decision right there—this had to stop.”
Pike ended up hiring employees and delegating some of the work. Today, she has six employees on site and 50 contractors around the country.
How is her business doing?
“These days, I only work about 45 hours a week and the business is making $2 million a year and growing,” Pike said. “Also, I can take vacations! A few weeks from now, I will be on a plane to the Caribbean.”
Here are 10 ways to start delegating:
Focus on Your Strengths
“Write a list of your strengths and weakness; the things you love to do in your job and the things you don’t,” said Kathleen Reid, principal and founder of SmartTalk, an Austin, Texas-based public relations company. “By making that list, you are spelling out what you aren’t so good at. Start delegating those tasks.”
Determine Your Rate
“If I want to make $200,000 per year and work 50 hours per week, my hourly rate should be around $90 per hour,” said Laura Waage, founder and owner of Morphos Business Solutions, a Marietta, Ga.-based business coaching and consulting company. “I used to hand write thank you cards, but after figuring out my hourly rate, I realized that task is not worth $90 per hour. Determining your hourly rate will help you decide what to delegate.”
“If you are outsourcing to contractors, start with a three month contract,” SmartTalk’s Reid advised. “It is scary to lose control of tasks and that fear can stop you, so it is good to start and then build little by little.”
“A lot of us take for granted what we do really well and how much knowledge we have,” said Laura Scholz, president of Scholz Communications, an Atlanta-based public relations company. “Break down tasks into easy steps that people can follow. Give detailed instructions, but be prepared to let go.”
“Put systems of accountability in place so that when you delegate, you wont feel like you are losing control, and follow up well,” Pike said. “For my company, my team has numbers they have to hit. I will also listen in on calls to make sure my employees are representing the company well in the community.”
“Don’t recreate systems, automate them,” Scholz said. “If you invest time up front, it will come back to you.”
Release Tasks Thoughtfully
“Let the rope out slowly,” Pike said. “Feel free to pull it back at any point if it isn’t working out.”
“Before you delegate, ask your subordinate, ‘When would be a good time where you would be able to give me your undivided attention?,’” said Mark Goulston, M.C., Vice Chairman of Steele Partners, an advisory and management firm based in Westport, Conn. “If you jump on someone, you are really asking them to drop everything. Even if you explain what you need them to do, they may forget. Instead, ask them for a good time where they will be ready for the assignment.”
“The time will never seem quite right,” Reid said. “It takes time to go out and find someone to delegate to, but you will not have more time until you start delegating. It is a Catch 22. Take the risk, just do it and watch your business grow.”
Check the Books
“Have your bookkeeper do a quick tally at the end of each quarter on how much money you’d saved by outsourcing or delegating your work,” Pike said. “This will encourage you to do more of it.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in small business concerns.