Are you limiting your business by not letting go?
If you are a new business owner, you must wear many hats until the company achieves a level of success to warrant support staff. You might find yourself being everything from CEO to receptionist. Eventually, though, most business owners will start replacing themselves, which is the proper way to grow. How effectively an owner delegates tasks, responsibilities, and entire positions, the stronger the company becomes. Effective delegation ensures the health of any business.
But if you, as the owner, only delegate tasks to employees but not the responsibilities that come with the position, then you are a parasite infecting your business, inhibiting its growth and success and eventually leading to its death.
Often, it is our egos that keeps us from delegating. That very thing that makes us successful can also be the very thing that is stunting our overall business growth. When we step away from trying to manage everything, we free ourselves for unlimited growth, instead of capping that growth by trying to do everything ourselves, and likely only doing some of it well.
Fred was a very successful solopreneur whose business grew rapidly in its first year. Fred worked tirelessly in his business. As it was growing, he sat in many seats and saw a lot of success, but he also saw his share of failure, which actually enabled him to perfect his product and service for each of his clients.
Eventually, though, Fred became overwhelmed by doing everything himself, and even started getting complaints from his customers because they couldn’t reach him. Fred knew it was time to hire support staff. His first hire was Beth, a bookkeeper, to relieve him of this burden that he didn’t enjoy and wasn’t particularly skilled at.
Within three months Beth was fully trained and was even going beyond her role to suggest process improvements. Fred saw the value in delegating tasks to Beth and even gave her some other areas of the business to fill her capacity and reduce his.
Then, Fred decided to bring in Jacob as sales manager to focus on business growth. Within thirty days Jacob was trained on the sales process and started delivering results. Three months into his employment, Jacob had increased the company sales by twenty percent. Fred was happy with the growth of the business and the team supporting it.
In the face of their respective success, both Beth and Jacob noticed a frustrating occurrence. Each on separate occasions would try to perform a task specific to their roles only to discover that it had already been done. At one point, Jacob followed up with a lead and found out that Fred had already contacted them. Beth contacted the accountant to request a report she needed and was told that Fred had requested the same report only hours prior.
At first, Beth and Jacob let these seemingly minor irritations roll off their backs, but then it started happening regularly. One day Fred stopped Jacob in the hall to tell him that he’d been working a lead, but that something had come up and he needed Jacob to take it over. Jacob agreed to take the lead, then struggled to get the information he needed from Fred so he could properly work the lead.
After successfully closing the deal, despite coming in midway and feeling frustrated about not being given the opportunity to do his job at the outset, Jacob decided to explain how hindered he felt by Fred’s not completely delegating the responsibility to him. Fred agreed to do a better job of letting go and allowing Jacob to do the job he was hired to do.
Unfortunately, Fred continued to involve himself in areas that were under Jacob’s purview, leading to Jacob feeling undervalued, mistrusted, and doing more work than was necessary just to keep up with Fred’s interferences.
Beth was experiencing similar situations. She had changed the bookkeeping process to be more inline and compliant with what the accountant wanted. She had updated Fred on the process so that he would be prepared in her absence. On many occasions, however, Beth would access her accounting software and discover expenses that were mislabeled or even accounted for entirely incorrectly. She contacted Fred to find out why he had made these changes and asked why he didn’t rely on her to do her job properly. Fred responded, “This was an easy task and I didn’t want to burden you.” But just as he had done with Jacob, Fred was creating more work for Beth and also leaving her feeling frustrated, undervalued, and mistrusted. Fred’s parasitic ways were starting to infect his employees and the health of his business.
After more months of Fred’s micromanaging and interfering, both employees decided to discuss with him how his actions were continuing to create additional work for them. Instead of listening to his employees’ valid concerns, Fred retorted, “This is my company and I will run it the way I want.”
Shortly after that meeting, Fred found himself looking for a new sales manager and bookkeeper because Jacob and Beth decided to move on to a company where they felt respected and empowered.
Fred started missing deadlines again, lost out on new business opportunities, and even lost some existing customers. By not letting go and inhibiting his employees from succeeding in their positions, Fred was effectively a parasite on his own business, killing it from the inside.
There are two ways to grow a business — through leadership or dictatorship. Both are effective, but only one yields a truly healthy business. A leadership mentality is about growing your business past you by empowering your employees to be successful in their positions. A dictatorship mentality assumes that everything in the business depends on you as the owner. It is this mindset that actually ends up capping the business’s growth potential.
When I see business owners struggling with letting go, I use a quadrant method to help them effectively delegate tasks and empower their employees. We start by listing each seat in the company, accompanied by a list of the top responsibilities for that seat. (Depending on the size of your company, some of these seats may be filled by the same person.)
I then ask the owner to put a check mark next to each seat that involves tasks that they love doing and are good at. For anything that doesn’t have a check mark next to it, we either create job descriptions/positions or move the task to another seat. Then, for each task under each seat, the owner creates three columns:
Column 1: Do it and don’t tell me about it.
Column 2: Do it and tell me how you did it.
Column 3: Don’t do it until we talk.
Applying this type of system builds trust and clarity. Employees are empowered to do their jobs, everyone is clear about expectations, and a system of checks and balances is in place. If you start to take responsibilities from one of your employees, they can point out that you’re overstepping based on what you agreed on.
When we foster a business culture in which we delegate tasks and responsibilities and everyone is clear on their roles and feels respected and empowered, we create a productive, growing, healthy business free of parasites.