As a small business owner, you need to be working on your business, not in your business. Making calculated, strategic moves is the key to success and you’re not able to do that if you’re knee-deep in handling the day-to-day details.
Many small business owners believe it’s challenging to grow their business because expansion means they’ll have to work more. They believe that they’re the only person who can work on every step of their business and that, if they stop moving, their business stops moving. Soon, they realize that their time is not an unlimited resource — you can’t drive a car on an empty tank — and that overwork leads to burnout.
According to a Xero survey, 77% of small business owners are feeling the effects of work fatigue, especially within the first 10 years of operation when the stress of keeping afloat is a constant.
When you try to do many things well, you end up doing nothing well.
Remember, you are the most expensive employee, and the more you’re not working the bottom line, the more you’re hurting the bottom line. It’s time to learn how to delegate in your small business.
Benefits of Delegating
Effective delegation of work can help you — and your small business — in several important ways:
You Can Focus
Are you finding yourself bogged down by the details, all the little things you may or may not know, that are integral to keeping the lights on and your business running? When you’re able to be freed up from the day-to-day routine, you can get laser-focused on fueling the aspects of your business that will drive longer term profits and growth.
You Have Time to Brainstorm Breakthrough Ideas
Big ideas don’t come from being deep in the nitty-gritty; they come when you allow yourself to step back from your business and see its big picture potential. Delegating can give you the time and space to think of new ways to take your business to the next level.
When you literally step away from your business by leaving the house or office — creating a physical distance — you gain perspective. You can then come back to the work and see it in a different way. The space and distance you’ve created, just by taking time away from the grind, allows for new ideas and possibilities to take shape.
You’re Empowered to Mentor a Team
The worst kind of boss is The Hovering Micromanager. Employees don’t feel that they have the trust, space, and freedom to explore efficiencies and creative ideas. When your staff doesn’t feel as if they can make their job their own, they’ll leave it for an environment where they can. A business owner who focuses on the big picture — and then gives their employees room to get creative with the details — makes for happy, empowered employees. You’ll best empower them with delegated responsibilities based on their interests and skill sets.
How to Delegate
Are there aspects of your business that stress you out, hold you back, and keep you awake at night? Are there repeated tasks in your daily grind that could be systematized? How do you prevent the inevitable state of stagnation? Cut back and create some space in your life by delegating work. Here’s how to do it:
1. Create and Implement Repeatable Systems
Design step-by-step workflows for time-consuming tasks that can be handed off to your employees, removing you from the process.
Document the process with role assignments, due dates, and important “things to know”/resources. Take the time to train your employees (this is not wasted time, but time invested in your business) and post (or print out) the workflow so your employees can pick it up and follow along. Your role will shift to being the final stamp of approval, instead of involving yourself in every step along the way.
2. Master Working on a Single Task
Each week or month (depending on your business cycle and seasonality), focus on one aspect of your business. For example, if you’re a small technology company, you can hone in on your customer training process? Are there easier ways to convey how your product works? Have you considered the different ways people learn and employed those as part of your training materials? If you manage a gift shop, you may spend time analyzing your merchandising strategy. Do your window displays attract passersby? Based on your customers’ feedback, do you need to increase the number of product samples you offer so people can try before they buy?
You’ll find new ways to do things more efficiently or to refine for new trends or technology. Tell your team that, for a defined period of time, you’ll be devoted to this one aspect of your business. As a result of having created repeatable systems (in step 1), the rest of your team can manage the day-to-day.
When you’re devoted to focusing on a single aspect of your business, you’re also spending time with the employees who are involved in this particular part of your business. Take apart aspects of everyday tasks and workflows and determine if there are new, better, or more efficient ways of doing them.
3. Perfect Your Processes
If you own a coffee shop, spend a week with your frontline cashiers. Notice how they work within their roles, with other employees, and for the customer. Analyze the interactions and reactions. Get feedback from your employees and sit down and chat with your customers. Are there unnecessary delays between a customer’s order and delivery? Is it because of the process, people, or technology used? In this instance, you may find a smarter way of running the front of the shop.
Ask your employees and customers for feedback to determine where there are process disconnects. Connect with your peers and other small business owners through local networking events and Facebook groups to compare how you run your businesses. Subscribe to blogs, newsletters, and publications related to your industry to keep up on the latest technology, advancements, and methods of doing business. For example, if you own a retail shop, you may improve efficiency by upgrading your inventory software or deploying scanners instead of manually punching in SKUs and prices.
If you have any tweaks to your process after your in-depth analysis, document the changes and communicate them to your employees through a mini-training or an informal team meeting.
4. Hire Some Help
Are there aspects of your job that you’re not particularly good at, but are important to the success of your business? Perhaps it is a task that isn’t your core expertise, like social media or email marketing. There may be parts of your business that your staff can’t take on or it may be expensive to hire a new resource.
If that’s the case, consider getting supplemental help by hiring Virtual Assistants (VAs) or specialized and affordable freelancers, using sites like Upwork and Fiverr. From bookkeepers to legal assistants to freelance marketing help — hire people who are experts and passionate about what they do, so they can apply that verve to your business.
Delegating can benefit your small business, but it’s easier said than done. You’ve worked hard to build your business, so it’s natural to feel anxious about trusting a capable employee or partner to take over the tasks you’ve done to make your company thrive. However, on the days when you’re too stressed to grab a sandwich or you’re suffering from inbox overwhelm, you may be begging for others to take work off your plate. Trusting your team with specific tasks can free up your time to focus on what’s important — growing your company.
Have you successfully delegated work to your employees? How have you done it, and what was the hardest part of letting go? Tell us in the comments.