Delegating 101: Because You Can’t Do Everything

➽ My business is so small that I’m the general manager, assistant manager, shift manager and more. My budget doesn’t allow me to hire a manager, so how can I delegate duties to hourly employees?

➽ Been there, done that. In my first year of business, I handled sales, marketing, web design and accounting. Oh, I also took out the trash and mopped the floor. At some point, it became clear that I couldn’t do it all, so I enlisted help from people closest to me who wanted me to succeed.

I tapped my mom, whose background was in sales of children’s clothing and (later) antiques, to help me run my career expos geared to women. A quick study, she became my de facto event planner in no time. My husband, a newspaper reporter, happily handled banking between interviews. I trained my aunt, a stay-at-home mom who loves to read novels, to make sales calls. Within months, she was a pro.

But eventually the generosity of friends and family wears out, and you’ve got to hire help.

The solution: an hourly assistant skilled enough to take on multiple roles. Mindy Black, an Orlando, Fla.-area esthetician, says that with enough prescreening, you can identify a worker to make your life so much smoother. “The hourly assistant takes on the role of office manager, marketing manager or, if they’re OK with it, director of organized chaos,” she says. “I have set tasks and office responsibilities that my assistants [one per shift] are responsible for that are clearly defined in the job description and again during the interview.”

Black says her assistants manage her social media accounts, handle daily bookkeeping, set up appointments and field calls. “They knew how to do all of this already,” Black says. “I just reinforced those skills and tailored them to my business during training.”

To figure out the best arrangement for your needs, first determine what duties must be handled by you alone and then what duties you can delegate to someone else.

Black says her role is communicator in chief. “I check in and ask what has been accomplished. If there’s something that needs my special attention, I work with them to get that task done efficiently,” says Black, adding that her assistants are able to do most things independently.

It’s a mistake to assume that hourly workers are capable of performing only menial tasks. Ask what they are interested in learning and tackling. People love to be challenged, especially when there’s an incentive built in and when they feel appreciated and valued.

Alternately, create an internship or apprentice program. If you feel you can teach someone valuable skills about running a business (not simply to obtain free labor, which is illegal) and also to provide support to you, consider it a viable option. Such an opportunity might appeal to students as well as to adults returning to the workforce who seek current experience for beefing up their résumés.

With any growing company the reality is that its owner ultimately will need help. “I like having my hand in everything to know what’s going on at all times,” Black says, “because at the end of the day it’s my business and my responsibility. But it’s essential to let go of some responsibilities and have faith in the people I hired to handle tasks that continue to move my company forward, while I focus on doing my job and being the face of my brand.”

Do you have trouble giving up control? See the 4 most common excuses for not delegating—and a bunch of reasons why you might be wrong.

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Tory Johnson

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