Business and Leadership Thought Capital

Celebrating Independence: Learning When to Let Go

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I want to make one thing clear: this is NOT a post advocating that entrepreneurs delegate everything they can at the first opportunity they get in an effort to free themselves up to “focus on what’s important”. Rather this is about knowing WHEN an entrepreneur should delegate or let certain activities be handled by someone else. I have tried to formulate a few but important rules to follow as you build your business:

Rule #1: Accept the fact that during the first few years of your business you will be doing just about everything from answering telephones, emails and texts to making coffee to hiring employees, running the financials and closing deals. Likewise, understand that over time if you don’t build an organization that you can delegate these and other important tasks to you will burn out at one point and/or face one crisis after another.

Rule #2: Get to know what your strengths and weaknesses are – which coincidentally are often the areas you are most passionate about and/or interested in. This helps you formulate a hiring plan focused on finding employees with certain skill sets you know you need to build an organization that will support your business. For example, if you love to sell and close deals but hate or are not very good at delivery, then make sure you hire excellent back office, production and/or delivery people. If, however, you love delivery or product development you will have to focus quickly on what kind of sales force (or training for yourself) you need to fill in that all important gap.

Rule #3: Once you have built an initial organization of sufficient size (usually about 10 to 25 employees, depending on the business) take a hard look at those employees you feel are competent, willing to take on additional responsibility and are also comfortable enough to tell you when things aren’t going as well as they could be. Just remember that once you’ve delegated a task or process that requires a certain level of skill and expertise, it will be increasingly difficult and distracting to personally take that activity over again and/or find someone else to be responsible for it. Outsourcing some of this processes to independent consultants or organizations is another option, but can be costly and managing outsiders can sometimes be even more difficult than managing employees.

Rule #4: Recognize the signs of organizational stress. Unlike King George III who had to weather a revolution before he let go of the American colonies – and, by the way, was considered insane – a good business leader should not wait until there is revolution in his or her rank and file before making changes. Have your ear to the ground by listening carefully to those employees in the organization you trust and respect; be open and vulnerable with them so they feel they can confide and tell you uncomfortable things you may otherwise not want to hear.

Rule #5: Success in business is as much an art as it is a science. You will make mistakes and probably a lot of them. Just make sure you recognize those mistakes quickly and make the changes necessary….and don’t forget to learn from them. And most importantly: have fun both at work and with your friends and family.

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