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Each entrepreneur brings unique skills and experiences to the position of small business owner/operator. For some self-guided business leaders, the process of solving startup challenges sparks interest. Another group of entrepreneurs excel when expanding and improving existing business operations. And other owners successfully adopt franchise formulas, thriving in structured environments. With so many bases to cover, the most effective entrepreneurs identify their unique abilities and play to their strengths, but they also learn to delegate key responsibilities.

Entrepreneurs commonly manage multiple aspects of their ventures – particularly during an organization’s early days, when resources are scarce. As operational responsibilities grow in scope and cash flow paves the way for expansion, savvy entrepreneurs hand off various tasks to new hires and existing team members. These critical delegation decisions can have lasting impacts on the health of a business, so it’s important to make prudent moves.

Learning to delegate prepares business leaders for crucial crossroads – points at which they must relinquish control and delegate key functions. Whether you’ve struggled with the concept or simply need a nudge toward better delegation, a recent Inc. article offers advice to help you along the way.

Accept Your Limitations

Sprout Funding logoRecognizing your strengths is a substantial asset, but you can also do a disservice to your business by failing to acknowledge your limitations. Under most circumstances, you can’t run a business by yourself. Acknowledging that you need help opens the doors to productive collaboration with partners skilled in ways you are not.

Spreading yourself too thin may be holding you back, preventing you from executing your professional vision. If you’re not steering your company’s “big picture” trajectory, who is? Delegating a fraction of your current workload directly translates in to free hours, which can be allocated to growing, improving, marketing, or otherwise enhancing your commercial prospects.

Account for Time Spent Delegating

Items included on your daily calendar receive the most attention, so scheduling time for delegating ensures the task is treated like any other essential responsibility. Blocking time to delegate forces you to face conditions head on, allowing you to communicate directly with staff about expectations. Scheduling a delegation “process” also facilitates smooth transitions of responsibility, making it easier for the new report to hit the ground running.

Standardize It

Among the many obstacles interfering with effective delegation, the time required to explain procedures prevents some executives from handing off duties. Standard operating procedure documents solve the problem, providing written drafts of essential procedures and practices.

Each time you delegate a task or set of responsibilities, outline its parameters and the sequence of steps required to fulfil the obligation. By posting a copy of each SOP document online, you’ll eventually amass a significant digital library, describing widespread jobs and responsibilities within your organization. The lasting documents provide a reference each time employees have questions, saving you from rehashing details again and again.

Delegate Across the Board

Many entrepreneurs prefer a hands-on approach, making it difficult for them to relinquish control. As a result, delegating often focuses on “small” tasks and duties, rather than handing-off major responsibilities. Though help is welcomed on any level, it is thought reserving all the higher level tasks for founders and executives may be counterproductive. The practice may leave employees out of the loop, disconnected from the “big picture.”

Delegating larger tasks along with routine duties has compounding effects. Not only does the practice keep key staffers informed, but delegating weighty responsibilities also sparks higher levels of engagement, as trusted employees gain greater understanding about the business.

Instill Trust but Follow Up

Micromanaging works against the gains achieved by delegating. Without some level of trust in the relationship, delegation is doomed to failure. Your trust in employees fuels personal accountability, which better serves your interests than a watchful eye over employees’ shoulders. At the same time, you’re obliged to facilitate positive outcomes, so you naturally want assurance important duties are properly executed.

Follow-up on delegated assignments is to be expected. The practice shouldn’t be equated with checking up on employees. In addition to providing proof of performance, follow-up creates opportunities for employees to ask questions and clarify concerns.

Play to Your Strengths

Just as you must acknowledge your weaknesses and delegate appropriately, it is also important to recognize your strengths when distributing work assignments. Are you a natural accountant? Is big picture planning your entrepreneurial gift? Can you outsell everyone else in your organization? Leaving your skill set idle to fit an organizational formula doesn’t make sense. If your work flow doesn’t maximize your abilities, reinvent the wheel to fully exploit your strengths.

Provide Support After Delegating

Though letting go of responsibilities can be difficult for entrepreneurs, conscious efforts should be made to fully empower others to succeed, after delegating tasks in their direction. Handing off halfway isn’t enough; your collaborators deserve access to every available resource, helping them succeed.

Whether requiring people-power, materials, information, or equipment, empowering employees with trust and responsibility boosts productivity. Delegating with full support is a vote of confidence as well as a smart time management decision.

Understand What is Holding You Back

Entrepreneurs fear altering a winning formula, so some business leaders fail to efficiently delegate responsibilities. Accepting you can’t do everything is a crucial breakthrough; yet clearing the hurdle is easier said, than done, for many entrepreneurs.

Are you afraid the job won’t get done? Does your sense of organizational responsibility prevent you from delegating key tasks? Have you had bad experiences delegating duties? Understanding the basis for your reluctance can help you overcome bias and begin reaping the productive benefits of delegation.

Entrepreneurs are deeply vested in their ventures – frequently financially and professionally. Protective of their creativity and investment, delegating jobs may not come naturally. If you recognize the benefits, yet fall short delegating duties, consider these possibilities for a nudge in the right direction.

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