First, I want to thank Bill Boyer for contributing another business article for us all. I find his thoughts on business management of value and believe you will also. In fact, the following suggestions provided by Bill are often overlooked by growing business owners – or by business owners wondering why his or her business isn’t growing.

How Do I Find the Right Balance?

AIM Custom Media business article Managing a small company is very difficult.  J. Willard Marriott said, “Don’t do anything someone else can do for you.”  Many owners and CEO’s find this hard to do, because they know that they can do everything better than any of their employees.  When an owner thinks, “My people are not good enough to delegate to,” it really means, “I am unwilling to take a chance on my people and give them permission to fail.”  However, at some point you will run out of time.  And your company will not operate at its full potential.

There are many reasons you do not delegate, but most of them have more to do with you than with the talent of your employees.  Do you hire the best people you can?  Do you train them, either internally or using outside courses?  Do you follow up with them and give them feedback about their performance?  These issues must be addressed by you.

When you find you can no longer cope with your unrealistic workload, it is very easy to say, “I have had it up to here; you do it.”  While you think you are delegating, you may really be abdicating.  Abdication is washing your hands of the issue or the task.  Abdication will fail because you have not qualified your employees to handle the responsibility you have given them.

Cindy was an extremely hard worker.  She dropped out of college to start her business and had not slowed down since.  Her business had been wildly successful.  However, there were only 24 hours in a day and Cindy was starting to run out of hours.  When she was involved, the business ran very well.  But when she lost focus on the business, it did not do well.  She tried to find good employees, but in her mind she could not.  There were not enough Cindy clones running around.  No one worked hard enough or paid enough attention to detail.

Then, she broke her leg skiing.  She was confined to a hospital in another state for three weeks.  She was forced to delegate.  Surprisingly, her people performed pretty well without her.  She had taught all her employees that they did not have to solve any problems:  Cindy would rescue them.  Therefore, while she had hired good employees, she had not allowed them to achieve their potential.  She learned “the hard way” that delegation could work.

Unfortunately, she now allowed some of her employees too much latitude and did not follow-up.  Some mistakes were allowed to happen over and over, reducing her profits.  She needed to get back to an even balance.  She now has recognized that all tasks must be monitored.

How do you develop your staff so that they can handle the daily activities?  First, you need to try to get the right people.  Pay them a competitive wage.  Then you must spend time and money training them.  Monitor performance and give feedback.

Start keeping a time log of your day to identify what you do with your time.  Start by delegating a few tasks.  Once a task has been mastered by the employee, pick another task.  Some of the factors to consider when delegating are:

  • Difficulty of the task (the lower the level of difficultly, the more likely you should delegate it)
  • Length of time to complete the task (the longer the task, the more you should delegate it)
  • How often does the task arise? (the more often the task arises, the more you should delegate it)
  • How difficult is the task to train? (the easier it is to train, the more you should delegate)
  • What is the impact on your customers if done wrong? (the higher this is, the less likely you should delegate the task)
  • How much do you like the task? (if you like the task, keep it)

Once your employees are trained and understand that you trust them, you will have more time to concentrate on growing your business and making it more profitable.  But you as the owner must build in some controls to catch any failures and initiate corrective training.  Only then can you maintain the managerial balance of delegating as much as possible while also making sure that the quality of your products and services meets your own high standards.

(Bill Boyer is the President of CEO Focus of the Tidewater, a coaching organization for small company CEO’s/owners).