The hardest thing for most small business owners to do is relinquish control of any part of their operations. Time and time again, owners feel this overwhelming pressure to run every aspect of their business themselves. From your perspective, this is not unreasonable. You have spent countless hours and a lot of money building your business and you want to make sure it is all being done correctly and to your standards. But, take a moment and think about what that means for you. These are the tasks you’re most likely to perform:
Each business is different, but if you create a list of everything you are required to do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, you will visually see just how much you have to do for the business to survive. While the list may seem overwhelming, it’s only because most owners try to do everything on their own. Unfortunately, statistics show that the average business owner only owns a business for five to seven years, often because she or he becomes burned out over time. And with a list like the one above, it’s easy to see why.
The number one reason that business owners do all of the required tasks by themselves is to save money. A business owner may be thinking, “Well, I would love to pass off some responsibilities, but I just cannot afford to hire staff.” While doing most of these tasks yourself in the beginning is a great way to save money, it is not the best way to grow your business and avoid burnout. Every task you do has a cost-benefit ratio. Put simply, what will it cost you to do that task? It may take time away from other tasks or from your family. At some point, it becomes more cost effective to pay someone else to do a task than to do it yourself.
Once your costs outweigh the benefits and you hire employees, you will quickly learn, if you have not already, how crucial it is to have a strong team. Having the right team in place is key to making sure your business is a success. And, as a business owner, one of the most important skills you can learn is how to delegate responsibilities to your employees. While it may seem easy enough, there are several problems owners run into as they hire staff and delegate tasks.
While it may seem counterintuitive at first, you need to hire people who are not like you. Choose a diverse team with different backgrounds. This is important because it will allow you to have people with different skillsets and people who do not always think the same way you do. While it may seem comforting to have people around you who always say “yes,” it’s not always beneficial to the business. Having people around who challenge you will help build you up and give you an opportunity to see problems with the business early on. As an important caveat, there is a difference between finding people who challenge you and people who are insubordinate. You do not want to hire staff with personality conflicts, but you do want diversity. Hiring the right staff is an art form, but a true leader knows how to pick the right people and put them in the right spot.
Often, business owners claim they have successfully delegated their workload but still find they are stressed and overworked. One of the reasons for this is that they are micromanaging their employees. When you micromanage your staff, you are still running every aspect of your business, only now you are doing it through other people. Create a system of checks and balances so you can catch mistakes - because even the best employees make them - before they become big issues. Then, allow your employees to do the tasks you have given them, on their own.
A key to delegating tasks is having clear goals and a defined business purpose. Many business owners just try to get by day-to-day. Spend some time answering these questions:
1. Where do I see this company in 5, 10, 15 years?
2. What is the mission of this business?
3. Where is this business going and how are we going to get there?
Set clear goals for your business and for your employees. Further, there should be a tangible way to measure them so that you and your employees can see the progress being made. Goals give everyone a purpose and provide a sense of accomplishment once reached.
While owning a business can be stressful, there are steps you can take to ensure the business is a success. Find the right team, plan and set goals, and delegate tasks appropriately. Doing these things early on can make your life easier, help the business run smoother, and avoid burnout.