Maybe you’ve been running your business for a while and have already enjoyed some success.
Perhaps you’re ready to move to the next level and achieve even more growth.
What is the key to growing a successful business – and what might be holding you back from moving on to that next stage in your business journey?
Let’s imagine that you’re a consultant. You’ve grown your business, have a healthy portfolio of client work and a growing number of passive income streams.
But you’re stuck.
You’re working to full capacity and don’t have any time to take on any new clients – or to manage your current client accounts as well as you could. And you are missing out on other new income streams for the business. What’s your next move?
Regardless of your business model, there comes a point in every entrepreneurial journey when the entrepreneur finds themselves at a point of potential growth where they need to either take a step up or risk plateauing.
How do successful entrepreneurs make the move and grow from this point?
It might surprise you to learn that investment or relocation to different premises are not the key to growth. So what is?
Don’t just take my word for it. Sir Richard Branson recently wrote on the Virgin blog about how delegation made his business the success that it is. (In fact, it’s also a really good story about the importance of personal relationships in business and helps to highlight what a people oriented business Virgin is).
However, according to Branson “delegating can be one of the hardest yet most important skills an entrepreneur can possess.”
Why is that the case?
Well, we’re not talking about simply delegating tasks that you don’t want to do anymore. We’re talking about delegating for growth. That means handing over entire projects or aspects of the business and entrusting them to others to run these for you.
It can be hard to let go of control – particularly when it’s your ‘baby’.
It’s also difficult to admit that you don’t know it all or that you need help in a particular area.
And sometimes of course, it’s a simple question of not being able to afford the person (or people) that you want to delegate to (more of which later).
Entrepreneurs also worry that delegating will make them look weak – an admission of ‘not being able to do something’. However, delegation actually enhances your credibility as a leader. By giving your team more responsibility, not only do you give them ownership of their own areas, but you help to improve their personal development, and in turn, they are more likely to hold you in higher regard, trust you and value your input than if you were constantly checking over their shoulders to make sure they’re doing it right.
It’s also fair to say that if delegation helped to grow Virgin to the global success that it is today, then it’s worth considering…
Why is Delegation Important?
As I’ve touched upon (with the help of Sir Richard), delegation can help to bring knowledge to your business that you simply don’t have.
You can’t be an expert in everything and – if this is your first business – chances are you won’t have the experience of some of the aspects that you will need in order to achieve real growth in your business.
You MUST delegate in order to step up to the next level.
On a very basic level, if you think about it, it’s highly unlikely that Bill Gates wrote the social media strategy for Microsoft. Sure, he’ll have signed off on it, but wrote it? Unlikely.
I saw this tweet earlier in the week too from the UK Prime Minister. I think it’s highly likely that he delegated this particular task to someone on his communications team.
OK, so perhaps that’s being simplistic but you get the idea: without proper delegation you will end up micro-managing every aspect of your business and will burn-out.
Not only that, if you’re constantly working IN the business rather than ON the business, then you’re going to be missing out on opportunities.
What does that mean?
Well, if you’re building a successful business is your focus better spent on managing your accounts or on looking for opportunities for growth, such as harnessing new innovations in your field, or creating new income streams?
If you’re working IN the business – and let’s go back to the consultancy example for a minute – perhaps you’re now at the point where all of your time is taken up managing client relationships and checking the accounts and invoicing.
However, if you’re working ON the business, then someone else might be managing client accounts and the finances, while you are creating new income streams and have a constant weather eye on the future and the opportunities that it holds.
Growth is unlikely without a focus on opportunity.
Delegation is vital as it will:
Bring in knowledge and expertise that you don’t have – such as Branson’s accountant, Jack Clayden or the combined skills of Paul Allen and Bill Gates in building Microsoft.
Provide you with a mentor who has more experience that you – the expertise that you turn to may not always be someone who carries out something within the business. They may instead provide you with guidance that will help you to grow at this particular time. For example, I know an entrepreneur whose business had grown to the point where he was considering floating on the Stock Exchange. He wasn’t quite there yet, but it was nearly within his grasp and he wasn’t sure what to do next. So he turned to a seasoned entrepreneur who had floated his own company 10 years previously for advice on getting his business in shape – and to determine whether that really was what he wanted to do (I can’t say who they are because he hasn’t floated the business yet – but you get the idea).
Frees up your time to do what you do best – in order to do this, you really need to know yourself well, so be clear on what your strengths are and what you bring to the table. Do you really have a great head for figures, or do you just think that you should? Be honest with yourself and use your time doing what it is that you do that has made your business successful up to this point.
Allows you to focus on the bigger picture and the next opportunity, while others concentrate on keeping the business running and moving forwards – the successful entrepreneur is the one who is always working in the areas where there is potential for growth.
Builds a strong team – by delegating projects (rather than simply tasks such as filing) you will be giving those around you the opportunity to use their own strengths and will give them ownership of what may have previously been viewed as very much ‘your business’. Not only that, but you will have more people working FOR the business who will be actively spotting opportunities for innovation and improvement.
More creativity – as Kellie Richards writes, having an engaged team, working to their strengths and proactively moving the business forward leads to greater creativity for your business overall. Think about it. At the moment, perhaps the only person coming up with the ideas is you. Imagine having a team that you trust who are looking at those ideas, each adding in their own viewpoints and expertise to shape it, take it through the various permutations in order to perfect it and make it even better than one person ever could. Pretty powerful stuff.
Increase productivity – it goes without saying that if everyone is focused on doing what they are good at – and provided that isn’t the same thing (you need a balance of expertise to grow) then productivity is likely to increase as a result. You will be searching for new opportunities for growth, while others are implementing and managing the day-to-day aspects of the business. Even in the early stages – if you’re not at the point where you will need an entire team to take the business forward – having one person who you can delegate to will increase your productivity, provided you are both working to your strengths.
What Should You Delegate?
Now you know WHY you should delegate, the next question is what?
You need to know where you should focus your efforts to get the best results for your business and also to help you to identify who you should be delegating to (which I’ll come onto next).
Is your time really best spent dealing with the minutiae?
Ilya Pozin, CEO of Ciplex recently wrote about how to determine what to delegate – as he has learned these within his own business. He talks about the need for focus and to avoid concentrating on details – 80% is good enough. Absolute perfection is not required.
However, while I would love to give you the fail-safe aspects of WHAT you should be delegating the reality is that this will differ for every business model and for every entrepreneur.
It’s safe to say, however, that:
- Knowing your strengths,
- Understanding what the business needs to do to grow, and
- Staying away from the tiny details
are the key aspects for every entrepreneur to consider.
Who Should You Delegate To?
As Branson says, the best people to delegate to are those who understand your passion, but also want to make their own contribution to the business and have recommendations for improvements.
You must delegate to people that you trust – and one way to achieve this is by really understanding their expertise and strengths. Good communication is at the heart of all successful delegation, and through it, you will know and understand your team better. Make sure that you delegate the right aspects to the right people. Getting a clear idea of this takes time, but if you lead your team from the start in a way that is transparent and which encourages communication, then you’re likely to inspire their trust relatively early on.
Of course, another consideration is affordability. Are you (realistically) in a position where you can afford all of the expertise that you need? This is a consideration for every business – whether you’re a relatively small startup moving on to the next level or have a turnover of $1m+ pa.
Let’s consider that you are at a point of growth – but perhaps you’re just looking at the next level rather than leaping off to the point where you are going to create a $30m business in the next 3 years – can you afford to delegate? Perhaps you don’t have any employees – or the ones you do have are very much dealing with the admin side of the business.
Clearly, there is an opportunity cost associated with delegation. You have to weigh up the cost of delegation (ie how much will that expert cost) against the cost of not delegating (not growing, not moving forward, stagnating).
There’s no doubt that the latter is the higher cost – but there’s also no point in denying that you may need to make an investment that you can’t currently afford.
What Can You Do if You’re Still Relatively Small?
Much is made these days of the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ philosophy, but the reality is that, if you are about to move to the next level and NEED to delegate in order to grow, that just isn’t going to work.
Partner Up – Taking the consultancy example again, maybe you need to consider getting a partner to join you in the business. This could be another consultant with either similar or complimentary skills who is happy to team up with you without you having to ’employ’ them. Or perhaps you could team up with another business on a similar scale and leverage your resources between the two of you to mutual benefit?
Use Your Networks – When it comes to getting a mentor, approach someone who is maybe 2 or 3 steps ahead of you in their business and ask if they would consider mentoring you informally in return for lunch once a month. You can find business leaders through local business groups, chambers of commerce and even the Rotary Club – or you can approach people that you’ve ‘met’ via groups on LinkedIn.
What about your college professors? Did you have one who was the leading expert in marketing or a specific technical aspect of your business that you’re struggling with? Ask them if they would be happy to allow you to pick their brains and share their expertise with you. You may even be in a position to approach a previous employer who is happy to act in this role for you. And don’t forget that your business mentors will change as your business grows – so this doesn’t have to be a relationship for life (although as is clear from Branson, valuing your mentors is vital to success).
How NOT to Communicate With Your Team
How Should You Delegate?
As I said earlier, it all starts with knowing yourself and understanding your key strengths. From there, everything else will follow as you will understand where you are best placed within the business and when you need to get out of your own way to help it to grow.
Effective delegation is not – as I touched on before – simply handing off tasks to other people. Sure, there will be people within your business who WILL manage key tasks but here we’re talking about delegation for growth. And it all starts with trust – you trusting your team, and in return, they trust your decisions.
Martin Zwilling talks about delegating the right things – and not the wrong things – by referencing Jan Yager’s book Work Less, Do More.
To effectively delegate, you need to:
Communicate clearly with your team – share your passion and your aims for the business. Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve and what you expect from them – and then leave them to do what they do best. By trusting them – and providing ongoing two-way communication – you will achieve the best results for your business.
Make sure you are not just offloading tasks – give people ownership and particularly the person you are delegating to – in order that they not only understand but that they can take ownership of the project you are handing over to them. Perhaps it isn’t so much a project but an entire aspect of your business that you are handing over – say to an accountant or a marketing manager. Give people the opportunity to come to you with their own ideas and suggestions for improvement and value their contributions.
Celebrate success – and give people credit for the hard work that they do – and they will respect you for it. No-one likes the manager who takes all the credit for the hard work of their team. And no-one works particularly hard for that type of manager either. Don’t be that person.
Delegation is The Key to Growing a Successful Business
Team Growth – it boosts team morale, provides opportunities for personal development and growth and empowers people through ownership and authority over decision making.
Personal Growth – as an entrepreneur, good delegation gives you the potential to identify and act upon potential opportunities. It frees up your time to focus on priorities and build upon your strengths. And it allows you to gain new knowledge and skills that will, ultimately, continue to push the business forwards.
Business Growth – by enhancing the power of the entrepreneur and the business team, your business will grow faster – and stronger – as a result.
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Successful entrepreneurs MUST have the ability to prioritize – and delegation allows that ability to be used to its best potential.
What are some ways that you struggle or have successful with delegation?