When entrepreneurs first launch their businesses, they’re required to wear dozens of hats. From sales to marketing to bookkeeping, these intrepid business owners do it all—because they have to. But often, once an entrepreneur’s business grows and stabilizes to the point where they’re able to hire a team to support them in those varied operations, a funny thing happens: they struggle to let go and delegate.
It makes sense that entrepreneurs who start out with a team composed only of those three reliable employees—me, myself, and I—find it challenging to delegate their responsibilities even once they have the resources to do so. Many entrepreneurs see their business as their passion project, one which they may have taken major risks to undergo. And giving up a single inch of the reins to something you’re that passionate about isn’t just difficult—it’s downright terrifying.
Still, delegation is a necessary skill that even the most individualistic entrepreneurs must adopt at some point. The harsh truth is that if you want your business to continue to grow and scale, you can’t continue doing everything yourself. But how do you go about delegating without sacrificing the vision or integrity of your business?
In this article, we’ll further explore why delegation is crucial for entrepreneurs, and outline 8 steps for getting started with the sometimes scary, always necessary, and ultimately rewarding task of handing off responsibilities.
Why You Need to Delegate
In order to delegate roles and responsibilities effectively, you’ll need to be fully convinced that doing so is necessary. Here, we’ll outline just a few reasons why you need to delegate.
- No single person can be the best person for every role. When you started your business, you may have learned how to manage various operations on the fly. But as your business grows, you’ll have increased opportunities to hire talented individuals with specialized skill sets, whether it’s in sales, accounting, or content marketing. And having a team of specialized experts at your disposal can produce incredible results for your business.
- Delegation creates a stronger team. When each member of your team has the opportunity to use the full extent of their unique talents, they’ll feel valued and will contribute to a more tight-knit workplace culture.
- Delegation increases the efficiency and effectiveness of your team. It’s simple math: ten separate tasks will take much less time when evenly distributed across multiple people than they would if a single person completed them. This allows your business to make faster progress toward your goals.
Increased quality of life. You’ve worked hard to build your business—and chances are, you started your business so you could enjoy greater levels of freedom than you would in a traditional job environment. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor rather than spending every waking moment running your business.
8 Steps for Effective Delegation
Delegation doesn’t mean losing control of your business. These 8 steps will give you a framework for effectively handing off responsibility while maintaining your overall vision.
Shift Your Mindset
It’s true what they say about old habits dying hard. When you’ve been responsible for multiple jobs for a long time, it’s difficult not to fall into the trap of thinking, I’m the only one who can do this, or, It’s easier if I just do it myself. But by assuming that no one else could possibly perform a task as well as you, you’re not only risking your business’s growth—you’re denying your team a wonderful opportunity.
Entrepreneurs are known for being innovative—and that means keeping an open mind. Allow yourself to be open to the possibility that someone else—whether it’s a current team member, a new hire, or an outsourced company—could be capable of exceeding your wildest expectations. Give others the opportunity to surprise you, and you just might find yourself delighted at the results.
Shift Your Mindset
When you first started off in your business, you likely had to do everything, including the things you didn’t enjoy or didn’t consider yourself particularly skilled at. Maybe you’ve always struggled with numbers and so have always dreaded accounting. Or maybe you never got the hang of social media. As an entrepreneur, one of the most exciting moments is when the areas you personally find challenging no longer have to be weaknesses of your business.
To begin deciding where to delegate, take some time to think about both the things you do exceptionally well and the things you struggle with. If you have a team, take inventory of their strengths as well, and ask if they have any skills they feel aren’t being utilized in their current roles. Once you have a clear picture of all the unique talents of your team, you can better assign tasks and identify roles that need filled.
Consider Your Resources
Benjamin Franklin believed that time is money, but most business owners tend to have more of one than the other. If you’re unsure what part of your business to delegate first, a helpful starting point is to ask yourself whether you have more time than money, or more money than time.
If you’re a business owner with more time than money, you may still be trying to do it all. Maybe you still see yourself as a solopreneur and are anxious about trusting another person with your passion project, or maybe you simply don’t yet have the budget to hire a team of experts. In that case, consider starting small. Many entrepreneurs choose bookkeeping as the first area to delegate or outsource. Accounting is one of the least emotional—and most tedious—aspects of running a business, so it makes sense that many entrepreneurs feel relatively safe handing it off to someone else. Or, if you want to eventually outsource a larger branch of your business, but don’t yet have the budget to do so, try dipping your toes in by hiring someone to run a small piece of that branch. For instance, you can start the process of outsourcing your marketing department by bringing on a website manager or social media consultant.
Ideally, though, your business will grow to the point where you’ll find yourself with more money than time. When that moment arrives, you’ll be so busy that you won’t be able to continue doing it all even if you want to—but most likely, you’ll be eager to gain some relief by handing off responsibility. With a more flexible budget at your disposal, don’t be afraid to dive in the deep end and delegate something major—for instance, marketing and design is a great area to prioritize outsourcing.
Wondering how, or if, you should delegate a certain task in your business? Download Miss Details’ free Delegation Flowchart for instant clarity. ⬇️
Document Your Processes
Even after you choose what tasks to delegate, you won’t be able to hand them off until you can clearly communicate how to complete them. The best way to accomplish this is by creating a standard operating procedure (SOP) for your delegatee to reference as they learn. Written SOPs also serve your business in the long run by ensuring your team has the tools to keep operations running smoothly even in your absence.
The next few times you complete the task you want to delegate, write down the exact steps you’re taking in order to complete the task. Once you’ve done this multiple times, compare your notes and see if your process is consistent—if not, find ways to clarify or streamline your instructions. Once you have a SOP drafted, try to complete the task using only your own instructions, and adjust or troubleshoot accordingly.
Choose the Right Person
Your entrepreneurial mind will be much more at ease if you truly believe the person you’re delegating to is capable and trustworthy. Part of establishing this belief is mindset work, but much of it has to do with choosing the right person for the job.
Whether you’re selecting an internal team member, making a new hire, or outsourcing to a company, make sure the person you’re delegating to has the correct skill set for the job. But keep your own expectations about that skill set in check. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to hire one person to handle any and all responsibilities that may fall off their plate—they want a copywriter who can also code and design, or a virtual assistant who can schedule the social media calendar, balance the books, and pick up coffee all before 10:00 am. Not only are these expectations unrealistic, they’re bad for your business. Effective delegation is all about handing off specific tasks to experts whose talents run deep, not wide—and that won’t happen if you’re busy searching for a “unicorn” hire.
In addition to considering the expertise of prospective delegatees, ask yourself whether their values align with your own. This is particularly important when you’re outsourcing some aspect of your business to another company—be sure to research the core values of businesses you’re considering partnering with to ensure it will be a great fit.
Communicate Your Expectations
When you delegate a task to another person without clearly communicating your expectations, you’re setting that person up for failure. Be sure to paint a detailed picture of your ideal outcome when assigning tasks, as well as your desired time frame for completion.
On the other hand, you may be delegating a task where you don’t have specific expectations in mind. For instance, maybe you’ve never considered yourself much of an artist, and are outsourcing a creative area of your business such as design or messaging. If your expectation is that the person you’re delegating to will exercise a large amount of creative freedom, you should communicate that as well. It will go a long way in mitigating anxiety on both ends and in supporting the creative professional in doing their best work.
Give Useful Feedback
When you’re reviewing the outcome of a task you’ve successfully delegated, it’s critical to provide clear and empathetic feedback. Start by acknowledging the things that were done well, and if there are areas for improvement, let the person know specifically what you would like them to change or do differently in the future. When a team member feels their hard work is appreciated, they’ll be much more open to receiving constructive criticism and in using it to improve going forward.
Going from running a one-person show to delegating effectively is a major adjustment, and there’s a proportionate learning curve involved. If things don’t go flawlessly the first time around (and they likely won’t), don’t dismiss delegation as a thing you tried that didn’t work. Instead, give it time, and keep the lines of communication open between all parties. It may take time and practice, but learning to delegate effectively will only help you to build a business that will last for years to come.
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