Solutions for the Delegation Challenged Business Owner

Mar 4, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

We read articles and hear advice about delegating all of the time, but admit it, small business owners just aren’t good at this.  Selling you on the logic isn’t the issue.  You’ve read the books….heck, some of you may have written the book!

Here are the reasons I have figured out that we don’t delegate like we should.  I say we because I am talking about myself too.

This is a huge confession because I believe in delegation and in the past would have named myself the Delegation Queen if there was such a kingdom.  So what has changed.

I became an entrepreneur.

Really, for me that changed things.  There are many other reasons that people in big corporations don’t delegate, but whether anyone believes us or not, being a small business owner or solopreneur, adds a couple of additional reasons.  I will start with the unique reasons and move to the more traditional ones.

  1. Low volume of the task makes it inefficient to train others.  As a small business there are many things we only do once to set-up or infrequently at best.  By the time we figure out how to do it, training someone else for the 1 time task or project doesn’t make sense.  And with a small business there are a lot of these.  [This has been my biggest problem personally!]
  2. Lack of breadth of skills because of few employees.  When you only have 2-3 employees it isn’t likely you will have an expert at writing Quickbooks reports, setting up a facebook page, and creating a persuasive sales presentation all in one individual.  Therefore, you are back to the training issue and could result in the problem discussed in #1.
  3. Your a control freak. Even though you have the staff or service to delegate to, you have a hard time giving up control.
  4. Your a perfectionist. You can’t stand it to not be exactly the way you want it.  Even if you do it yourself, you will keep working on the task until the last minute to make sure it is done exactly the way you want it.
  5. You are a procrastinator.  By the time you get to that task or project, there isn’t enough time left to delegate it to anyone else because you are going to be up all night to get it done.
  6. You don’t have a process in place to delegate out work and manage the end results.

These are all real issues, but in the end will create a bottleneck in your personal productivity at best, and at worst, cripple your business.

I believe that the 6th issue of why we don’t delegate is actual the solution too!

What Would a Delegation Process Look Like?

  1. Be Proactive – for delegation to work you have to work in advance.  If you know you have resource issues, than you need to develop a list of people or vendors you can delegate to on various topics.  If you have the staff, then you need to put this process in place so that you actually do delegate when the time comes.
  2. Delegate anything that someone else can do at least 80% as well as you. Back to #1, be proactive about looking at all of the tasks/work you have and make a list of items to delegate, and who you can delegate to, using this rule of thumb.  Don’t worry, you aren’t going to leave everything 80% done.
  3. Give an earlier than needed deadline. Since the person you delegated to may only be 80% as good as you, leave time for your review and for them to revise.  That’s right….let them fix it!
  4. Allow the person to finish the 20% based upon direction from you. Don’t fix it yourself.  If you do, you will always have to.  Build in time to help train and guide them to be able to do it 100% as well as you could.  Over time, the goal is that you wouldn’t even have to review it anymore.
  5. Use freed up time for more delegation. Now that you have proactively unloaded work that others could already do, you are in a better situation to tackle the problems that come with being an entrepreneur.  You do have the time to train people on tasks new to you, and them.  You also have time to delegate tasks to employees for their professional development or future career succession.  This becomes motivation to enthusiastic workers – the opportunity to learn new things.

I know it isn’t quite as simple as the 1,2,3 I have laid out, but the alternative is really disastrous.  You become the bottleneck that strangles your business.

As a solopreneur, I don’t have a 400 person staff to delegate to anymore.  I guess the benefits of entrepreneurship exceed losing my throne as the Delegation Queen.  However, I have learned how to delegate in this role.

I have found online resources or virtual resources.

I have found local vendors.

I sometimes even delegate to clients…for their own edification of course!

Delegation didn’t work as a last minute solution.  I had to focus on creating a delegation plan as part of “working on” my business, rather than drowning “working in” my business.

One last thought. If you are thinking that you are already working too many hours, and can’t imagine having time for this, don’t lose hope?  I have told many clients to get up at 4 am if that is what it takes to put this plan in place.  It won’t be forever if you get the plan working.  If you don’t put a delegation plan in place, you will soon be up at 4 am anyway.

Either…to get it all done or because you are worried about what isn’t getting done.

It is the old adage of short-term pain for long-term gain!

Other suggestions??

By the way, if you need help developing your delegation plan, contact me.  This can be accomplished in just a few coaching sessions!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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