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As a small business owner, solopreneur or entrepreneur we find ourselves wearing many hats. Within the same day, we may find ourselves meeting with future clients, drafting proposals, project managing the team, executing the work, and handling customer service.

Photo by Andrew Neel

For a while, as your business is getting off of the ground, it’s ok to juggle these roles. However, we all reach a point to where we have to decide to scale or maintain the status quo. For those of you that want to lighten your load from the responsibility of wearing multiple hats, and have more time to do the things you love, keep reading this article.

Some of us feel like it’s a constant struggle to find time to focus on the work that matters to us most. So in an effort to clear our plate, we often will consider hiring people to handle the stuff that we don’t want to do. However, what happens is that the moment we sit down at our desk, we have dozens of emails from customers, contracts to draft, and urgent questions from our staff.

To avoid distractions, many of us try to get to our office early to have focus time before work. Or we’ll try to get all of the distractions off our plate first, and then stay-late and finally focus on the things that matter to us most. While both of these approaches work, getting to the office early or staying late is not sustainable.

So what do we do? We decide to delegate some of our responsibilities. But How do we delegate? What if the people we hire and share responsibility with don’t do things to our standards? What if our customers get upset that we’re no longer the one doing the work? After all, they gave us the job because they liked to deal with us as the founder.

There are many reasons why we delay delegation. We fear losing control or we delegate too quickly and unknowingly fail to empower the team to win. At the end of the day, we want to take control of our schedule and only work on the things that we’re the best at. The real question is, how do we maintain quality, keep our clients happy and properly delegate the rest?

Here are a few practical steps I took to begin the process of delegating aspects of the day-to-day responsibilities to others on my team.

Step 1: Take inventory of all of the things you currently do throughout the day.

You can do this by keeping a journal or log of everything you did each day for one week using Google Docs or Dropbox Paper. For example, a new sales lead may come in via email or phone call. Write down what you did to nurture the lead.

Or another example might be If a vendor or team member has a question, write down the question, and take note of your response. If a problem arises within a project or the day-to-day workload, write down what the problem was and how you addressed it.

Step 2: Categorize the items on your list.

Because we wear so many hats, there are very clear categories that our day-to-day tasks fall into. Within the same document create a table with 7 columns headings.

In each column add the following categories:

  1. Billable Work
  2. Business development
  3. Sales/marketing
  4. Accounting/Finances
  5. Business Operations 
  6. Project Management
  7. Customer Service.

Under the appropriate category begin to list each activity from your activity journal/log into each column.

Step 3: Look for Patterns and Trends and prioritize which activities consume most of your time.

After categorizing the tasks that came across your desk for a week, begin to look for patterns.

  • What seems to consistently come up?
  • What are the triggers? Or What is causing these tasks to become a priority? — Write down why that is so.

For example, if your team consistently has questions about how to do something, or what to do in specific situations; this is often caused by not having a clear process or if-this-then-that scenarios documented.

Another example of a trigger might be that the team might not have the authority to act on your behalf, and therefore they’ve taken their assignment as far as they can without your intervention, and now everything falls back on your plate.

Whatever the triggers are, place an asterisk next to the items that occur the most and then proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Document your processes

In the beginning, it is easy to let things continue as they are because it’s our company, we know how to do it best. The default response of a business owner is to say “just ask me if you get stuck” and we’ll usually roll up our sleeves and explain what to do, or do it ourselves.

The challenge with the “explain as you go approach,” means that 1) you’re setting yourself up to be distracted every day and 2) If that person leaves, you’re going to have to take the time out of your schedule, stop work and re-explain everything to the next person you hire.

  • Look at each task that you’ve marked with an asterisk (*) and commit to taking 30 minutes each day and write out step by step what to do.
  • Include “if this, then that” scenarios to give context to how you would approach completing that task.

Identify which tasks require your intervention to complete, and determine whether or not you’re ready to give authority to key roles within your company to act on your behalf. 

An example of this might be customer service. What happens when the team makes a mistake and it is going to cost the company some of it’s profit. Give guidance on what you would do in an example situation and why you chose to do what you do.

This will help your team understand the “why” and a better understanding of the big picture. From there they will be empowered to make decisions with the best interests of the business and the customer in mind.

Step 5: Share your process.

There are many ways to share the process. You can simply invite your team into the google doc/dropbox paper document to read it on their own time. You can schedule a formal, dedicated workshop training day, or share the process on an as-needed basis.

  • Dedicated training days is very effective, especially if you have the flexibility and time to devote to training your existing team. To do this you will need to carve out paid-time within the calendar month to have your team undergo focused training where you explain step by step how you do what you do, and why. You can do this in a workshop setting or in a 1-on-1 training session.
  • Sharing an explanation of the process as it arises seems to be more manageable for entrepreneurs who already are strapped for time and just need to get the work done. Over time you’ll find yourself documenting questions and tasks as they arise, and sharing them as you go.

There will come the point to where a new hire must have a crash-course introduction into how you do what you do. When you reach that point, you may want to consider delegating the role of training and onboarding to someone else on the team who has experience executing the process you’ve defined. This will cut down the risk of that new hire from making big mistakes as they are learning how to work for your company.

Delegating your day-to-day activities will give you the freedom to focus on the meaningful work that helps you scale your company.