By Cliff Ennico
One of the hardest things a company founder, entrepreneur, or self-employed professional can do is get out of their own way and allow their businesses to grow without them.
And there is one and only one way to do that – delegating to others.
No one individual can build a billion-dollar business by himself. Doing that requires building systems to run the business, and a team to manage the systems. Building a team requires the owners to surrender control and do only those things no one else can do.
So why do so many successful business owners have trouble delegating?
There are many reasons, such as:
- They are control freaks who fear others won’t do as good a job as they do;
- They truly love doing “the task at hand” and don’t want to give that up (the “craftsman” syndrome);
- They are happy being a “one-person band” and don’t want to grow their businesses beyond what one person can do;
- They are concerned about additional costs and time getting jobs done;
- They are afraid the people they delegate to will steal customers, trade secrets or other key assets of the business; or
- They consider themselves “colleagues,” not “managers” or “the boss”, and despite hierarchical management structures.
Let’s be frank, some business owners are completely happy staying small and in control doing things themselves. And that’s fine . . . until the time comes to sell the business and retire. Few people will want to buy a business if 50% or more of the customers are likely to disappear in the first few months after closing, and that happens when your customers equate you with the business.
By spending all your time working “in” your business, even if you do a fantastic job you will find yourself with little or no time to work “on” your business (to understand this distinction, read “The e-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber).
Here are some of the things you could spend more time on if you weren’t so busy putting out fires:
- Marketing and promotional strategies to grow the business;
- Developing new products and services;
- Identifying and cultivating new “key” customers;
- Swot analysis (assessing your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats);
- “essential” activities (more on these below); and
- (maybe) achieving a better work/life balance.
Some business owners, when hiring their first employee or consultant, want to delegate only those aspects of the business that aren’t “fun” – the boring, difficult and/or painful stuff. That is not the right way to delegate. Here is the right way.
Before you can delegate to anyone, you have to decide what the “essential activities” of your business are. Every business has a few – no more than three to five – “essential activities” that must be performed perfectly (or extremely well) for the business to function.
Usually the “essential activities” are the things that give your business an edge over the competition, that are key to driving revenue, and/or help you maintain your relationship with key customers and suppliers.
Sometimes they aren’t obvious: one of the “essential activities” of my law practice is getting invoices out to my clients once a month. This has nothing to do with practicing law, of course, but the simple truth is that if I don’t get my invoices out each month, my clients delay paying me and I start having accounts receivable issues.
If your competitive advantage is turning work around within 24 hours, that’s an essential activity. If your business depends on one or two key customers, maintaining those relationships at all costs is an “essential activity.” You get the idea.
Not everything, however, is an “essential activity.” I have seen countless businesses fail because the owners spent so much time on “nonessential activities” (which they mistakenly thought were essential) that they let the “essential activities” slide, causing the business to suffer.
Drafting your own legal documents, preparing your own tax returns, and attending trade association meetings – while important to your business – are seldom if ever “essential”.
Essential activities are important precisely because you SHOULD NOT delegate them. These are the activities you (and your business partners, if you have any) should perform yourselves, because only you are motivated enough to give them the time, energy and painstaking attention they deserve.
Once you have identified the “essential activities” of your business, which of the “nonessential activities” should you delegate to others?
In three words: ALL OF THEM!
That’s right. You and your partners should be devoting 100% of your time to the “essential activities” of the business and doing the things necessary to grow the business. Virtually all of the day to day activities of the business should be delegated to others – including the stuff you most enjoy doing.
So now that you know what to delegate, how do you delegate, and to whom do you delegate? The answers . . . in next week’s column.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2017 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. @CliffEnnico