Manage Your Business
What entrepreneurs should know about delegating
Business owners that delegate are more likely to see their business grow
The following story is intended to help small business owners navigate some of the trickiest aspects of managing their business, brought to you by Chase Business Banking.
When Sarah Cannon founded Party in a Cinch, like most small business owners, she tried to do everything herself. She created the product—pre-made, themed boxes of party decorations—built the website, fulfilled the orders, and kept the books.
She quickly realized, however, that finding ways to delegate responsibilities could be a critical step in enabling her business to grow and improve. Over the past two years, she hired five people, including a webmaster and sales representatives, to help with day-to-day operations. "It's given me back time to think about the creative side of the business and where I want the company to go," Cannon says.
In 2014, Gallup studied the entrepreneurial talent profiles of 143 CEOs included in the Inc. 500 list. Companies led by CEOs with higher "delegator talent"—that is, the ability to hand over responsibility and authority—experienced a 1,751-percent revenue growth over the prior three-year period. That was a full 112 percentage points higher than CEOs deemed to have limited or low delegator talent.
While successful delegators are able to use time gained back to prime their company for growth, it's not always easy to let go. Here are some tips from experienced entrepreneurs, on how to effectively delegate:
1. Develop an understanding of what you need
When Jason Siffring started Surprise Highway, a 10-person, Chicago-based web development agency, he thought he was the most qualified person for every task. He quickly found that certain tasks—from reconciling the books to invoicing—placed significant demands on his time. "They were important, but I didn't dedicate the proper time to do them," he says. He made a list of everything he did during the day. That exercise not only helped him justify the investment in his first employee, an office manager, but he used the list to write a job description.
2. Train employees to help them get started
"When you delegate, you're really trusting an individual to do the job properly," says Joe Anthony, president and co-owner of Philadelphia-based public relations company Gregory FCA.
To build that trust, Party in a Cinch's Cannon meets weekly with employees until they've settled into their jobs. If anything has gone wrong, she takes the time to explain to employees how to put things right, rather than simply correcting the work herself. While that initially requires more time, Cannon thinks long term. "They need to be able to make mistakes and then improve." she says.
3. Empower your staff to make decisions
Once he's trained his staff, Siffring trusts them to get their work done. He doesn't gain time back if his staff constantly comes back to him for permission to take action. "My team feels empowered to try to figure things out themselves and make the business better." he says.
4. Give your staff room to succeed
Once your staff is comfortable in their job, give them room to expand their horizons. In turn, they'll help grow your business. "You have to promote the idea that people can self-identify what they want to work on—and then help them focus on what they excel at," says Anthony. For instance, one of the many vice presidents at his firm recently expressed an interest in mentoring younger employees. "So we look for ways to incorporate that," he says. Tools like the Chase Access ManagerSM help in this effort, its a tool that allows business owners to delegate certain online banking access to employees or accountants.
5. Recognize when someone isn't working
"Part of delegating is learning to let people go," says Casey Meehan, founder of Chicago-based content marketing agency Epic Presence. Meehan establishes goals and performance metrics, and regularly tracks progress of to assess whether employees are meeting them. Meehan says the key is to be honest with yourself and your employees—and take action. The sooner you can identify that an employee is not a good fit, the sooner you can find an employee who makes more sense.
Kelly Kearsley is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Money, and CNN.