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Delegating Doesn’t Mean Losing Control (If you Do It Right)

Written by: Amy Furr

We know, running a business is no easy feat. Sure, it’s exhilarating, empowering and fulfilling, but it’s also complex, stressful and demanding. As a business owner, you’re very heavily invested in your organization, from your cash to your time to the control of operations.

A recent study suggests that 33% of small business owners work 40-49 hours, 30% work 50-59 hours, and 19% work 60+ hours per week. If you fall in line with the higher end of the spectrum, you aren’t left with a lot of time to spend with family, friends, or other interests or even on strategic planning for the business. And yet, as tough of a pill as it is to swallow, the only sure-fire way to take some of your valuable time back is to let go of the reigns a bit.

We know the fear of letting go of control of something you’ve started and grown is difficult, terrifying, even. However, at some point, it’s in the best interest of your business that you begin to share responsibility and delegate or outsource certain tasks. In fact, delegating can actually provide you with more control and clarity in the end. For example, someone better suited for the task can put the essential information in front of you so you can decide what to do with the information.

Not only will this help your business grow the way it needs to, it will make your business more valuable because it is less reliant on you personally. And of course, it will give you some time back. At the end of the day, you need to be in control of your business, but you don’t need to spend time managing all of the tasks that fuel the organization.

Now let’s not sugar coat it, even when you’ve decided to share responsibility, it can still be overwhelming to decide how and what to delegate. So based on the experience of hundreds of other businesses that have been through the same process, we’ve put together these tips to make it a little easier.

Follow these 4 tips to hand off tasks while simultaneously keeping control of your business:

Identify What You Can Dish Off Your Plate with 4 Lists

Your time is important. As such, you should divide your focus between two categories: 1) the most valuable tasks for the business, and 2) tasks that only you can do. Make a list of all the tasks that you’re currently responsible for and divide it into four main groups:

  • Most valuable and essential
  • Must be done by you
  • Not interesting to you
  • Tasks you cannot do

Handoff all of the tasks that you aren’t interested in and can’t do. For example, perhaps you’re not crazy about accounting or finance. Outsource it to an expert to guarantee your finances are healthy, your business is compliant and your books are in order.

When making your list, resist the urge to lump too many tasks into the second category, “tasks that must be done by you”. This category should be reserved for tasks wherein you are truly the only person who can complete them, like meeting with investors or planning out the future of your company.

Decide Where To Hand Off Your Tasks (Like a Pro)

Once you’ve identified what you’re going to hand off, it’s time to decide who is going to do the work. This will depend largely on your business – from your industry to company size – and the tasks you’re willing to hand off. Some situations may warrant hiring an outsourced solution, while you may have the bandwidth or expertise in-house to hand off other tasks. You can even hire a remote team that specializes in business support to ensure you get the best solution to meet your needs. Think about your project needs and business to decide which option is best for you!

Pro Tip: Make sure that you delegate the responsibility of the task and outcome, not just the task itself. This will help ensure you receive the caliber of results you expect without doing the work.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations from the get-go will remove any uncertainty (and any potential excuses) from the process. How you go about this will depend on the type of task, frequency (one time or ongoing) and if you’re assigning it to an internal team member or utilizing an outsourced solution. Outline, specifically, how and when you expect the work to be completed.

If delegating internally, communicate that your team member is responsible for the outcome during the transition to avoid any uncertainty. When outsourcing a task, it’s generally clear that the outcome lies with the individual or firm, but review the contract and ask questions to ensure you’re comfortable with the scope of work. This will make it easier for you to fully let go of the task.

Establish A Standard & Cadence for Communication

Effective communication is crucial for achieving results and maintaining control without allocating time towards completing tasks. Establish a regular cadence for communication that both you and the task manager are comfortable with.

Outline a clear standard for the communication you want to receive about the task. What details you want to know, and how often you want to know them? Is there an important number, goal or metric tied to the task? Do you prefer a verbal (phone, video or face-to-face) check-in, or is an email with an attached report acceptable? Providing a clear outline of these details from the start will make it easier for the task manager to deliver the right information.

Staying in the loop will be tremendously helpful for you to know the task is covered without feeling the need to micromanage, or worse, take it back.

Following these tips is a great way to start sharing responsibilities. It’s hard to let go of control, but if you’re willing to hand off some tasks and start to build trust, you will improve business operations and give yourself time to focus on the most valuable strategic priorities for the organization.

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Updated on July 19th, 2018

About the author: Amy Furr is the Senior Marketing Associate at ScaleFactor, an online business solution simplifying accounting and finance for modern businesses.