If you have just started up a small business, probably the last thing you think about is delegation. Small business owners lead from the front, setting an example for the staff and making sure that all the important things get done. However, while this is just fine when there are a few people in the company, the problem is that it doesn’t scale once you really start to grow.
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If you look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs – for example Bob Parsons GoDaddy founder – you will see a common thread. They all focus on what should be an entrepreneur’s strength – not getting involved in the minutiae of the business, but figuring out where the business needs to go next. That doesn’t mean they can take their eyes off the ball, but as the business grows they need to build a team that can be trusted to take care of the day-to-day running of the company.
Making the transition from individual heroics to effective organizational management can be scary for many entrepreneurs – and many of them fall at this hurdle. Not only is it frightening, they also feel a sense of loss as total control of what they created starts to slip away. However, the sooner that an entrepreneur starts to let go of the reins, the easier it is to make the change. In fact, it’s never too soon to start delegating – even if what is delegated is relatively simple. By doing this, entrepreneurs start to build the skills in their company that are going to be needed once the company reaches a critical mass.
To be able to do this, it is important to get high quality people into the organization from the very start. It may be tempting to hire the cheapest employees, but it’s more important to find people who can work independently. Entrepreneurs have to be able to give people the opportunity to grow in their current positions and be candidates for promotion when the time comes. Richard Branson stressed the importance of this in a recent interview, saying that “The trick is to start promoting from within on day one. I’m not just referring to moving people to new positions, but giving all employees enough flexibility to take on new responsibilities within their current jobs. When employees tell you about their good ideas for the business, don’t limit your response to asking questions, taking notes and following up. If you can, ask those people to lead their projects and take responsibility for them. From those experiences, they will then have built the confidence to take on more and you can take a further step back.”
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Of course, there are some things that no entrepreneur should ever delegate – but these are few and far between. For example, they need to set the strategic vision and values of the company, otherwise the company will lose its direction. They also need to be intimately involved with the positioning of the company’s brand, and maintain personal contact with key customers. For everything else, they need to ask themselves whether an activity can be delegated – and if the answer is no, ask why.