Delegation is key to the successful growth of any organization. However, delegating in the right way can be tough. Delegation is not abdication, and it requires clear metrics and the ability to hold people accountable – including yourself. While you may be an expert in your own field, it’s fine not be an expert on running the business end of the things. Too many small business owners spend time muddling through financial problems to get the necessary things done without mastering them. If it’s not strategic, it takes us away from growing our business. And this is where delegation becomes important, and where we introduce the story of our client, Adela.
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Adela is an amazing veterinarian. She had worked as a junior member of a practice until she decided to start her own. The senior partners were getting older and thinking of selling and Adela had already established a base of pet owners who loved her. So together, they worked at setting up a practice for Adela to run.
Adela got a lot of help and advice in setting up her clinic from her partners. She had the space, the systems, the equipment, and everything else that she needed. After she secured a loan from her former partners’ bank by leveraging their connections, she was all set. What Adela wasn’t ready for was the backend of the company. As a junior partner, Adela wasn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the practice, and she quickly realized it was more work that she had thought. As a result, Adela was limited in taking on new patients because she could barely serve those she already had.
Adela's Delegation Dilemma
We met Adela through her past partners. We had been working with them on how to sell the practice. They were concerned about her. They introduced us to her, and after our first call, it was clear as to what needed to be done. We started to talk about how Adela could begin thinking about delegation with our four painless steps:
- Choose the right tasks.
- Choose the right employees.
- Make it automatic.
- Document company knowledge.
Chosing the right tasks
We started by making a list of all Adela’s daily activities and then sorting them as critical or not critical. Sometimes, small business owners are task hoarders. So, the analogy of ‘keep’ vs. ‘toss’ when cleaning out a full closet of clothes can help be a helpful visual. You’ll often find you have clothes that you haven’t worn in years stuffed in the back of your closet. The same is true for your daily tasks.
On that same list, after we marked critical vs. not critical, we asked Adela to mark those, which she was good at doing vs. those she was not. The list of critical tasks that she was ‘not good at doing’ helped us with the next step in determining what to delegate and when.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
What’s critical for an owner to keep, here are some thoughts from the Forbes Business Council:
- Remember, only you have the vision for your company. While you can give people a glimpse of it, no one can see the company vision like you can, and no one has the drive to see it succeed as much as you do. This is one area of control that small business owners should never relinquish.
- Read, learn and grow. Every day, read and learn something new. This is so important to growing your business and yourself. Read about your trade and know how it’s changing. Read about people who have succeeded. They have much to teach us — not only about business, but about character strength. If you’re lucky, you will have a mentor. If not, these people can be that to you.
Here’s some things to consider letting go:
- What you don’t know well: No man or woman is an island. We all need to accept that we need help. The exercise about will help sort this out.
- Work on your business, not in your business. In the beginning, you will need to wear a lot of hats to get your business off the ground. But remember, the objective is to have the time to work on your business—not in your business. To work on your business is to keep the vision front and center and direct the outcomes. To have that view and that perspective, you should build a team of competent, trustworthy people. This will take a little time but be sure it’s a priority.
Choosing the right employees
We have a technique we like to use when it comes to finding new employees. Adela found that she did have some of the right talent currently, but she also had tasks where no one was the right person. That’s fine. It just meant we may need to look outside of our current set of employees and hire a few positions. There is an argument to be made to running lean when it comes to hiring, but there needs to be a balance between managing expenses and burnout. Both can keep your business from growing.
If you do decide to hire, it important to consider that you are hiring someone for both their current role and their ability to learn and grow into greater roles. It benefits both the business owner and client to know that there can be a future for everyone. With Adela, we found that she needed help in booking, record keeping, bookkeeping, accounting, and – eventually – marketing. We built an interviewing process that Adela used, which helped evaluate their fit for the existing job and their potential for growing and learning new roles.
Making it automatic
- Let go of responsibility without letting go of control. As trust built between us, I gave them the responsibility of overseeing others. I followed the model large companies use, which freed up my time because I had just a few direct reports. I trusted my key people, so I still felt in control when they gave me status updates.
- Use checks and balances. No matter the stage your business is in and no matter how much you trust your people, always have checks and balances in place. I do this for every area of my business. I trust my staff, but that trust is based on hard evidence that gives me details of exactly what’s transpiring each day. Remember, this is your business and your responsibility, so stay informed and on top of things.
For Adela, we built an internal organizational structure, which lessened her daily tasks and her number of direct reports. We also put into place a reporting structure, where weekly status reports were due from each employee. It was a simple, one-page template that was updated each week and uploaded to their shared system. This way, Adela could do a quick and weekly review to ensure everyone was staying on track.
Document company knowledge
How do you document company knowledge? Well, we already had. We had job descriptions, an organization structure, an interviewing process, and a reporting process. What seemed to Adela originally to be an overwhelming task, was found to be not that hard if she followed our process. We also created a worker’s manual and an onboarding process.
Within 3 months, Adela had all her job opening filled. Since we had the onboarding process in place before hiring, the new employees were successfully onboarded quickly. After about 4 months, Adela was able to start taking on new patients. She has continued to grow her business because she was more able to focus on right tasks, where she excelled.