Doug and Polly White Special Correspondents
QuestionI have a small business with about 25 employees. The good news is that the business is growing well and is profitable. The bad news has taken over my life. I work 70 to 80 hours a week, and I never get a day off. Do you have any tips to help me get my life back?
Answer: We don’t know the specifics of your business, but it sounds like you need to delegate more. When your business was small, you may have been performing perfectly reasonable tasks. You will be good to them. These tasks include things like making most tactical decisions and hiring and managing front-line staff. Your skills in these areas have made your business successful.
As your business grows, the time it takes to perform these tasks expands exponentially. To get your life back on track, you have only two choices: downsize your business to reduce your workload, or delegate these responsibilities to your managers. Depending on your goals and circumstances, downsizing your business may be a good option.
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We know a contractor who was employing four workers. The workload was overwhelming. Four sailors were too many to manage alone. He calculated that with two sailors he would have all the money he needed to support his family and have the lifestyle he wanted. He destroyed the business.
Alternatively, you can take back your life by delegating many of the tasks you do to your managers. However, this option is not without risk. The only thing worse than not delegating when needed is delegating before you have the proper infrastructure in place. The right infrastructure consists of three things:
Right managersIt is axiomatic that if you want to delegate successfully, you must have the right managers. This means you will have to develop good managers internally or hire them from outside. It’s a decision to make or buy. Be brutally honest with yourself about your people management skills. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the best gadget maker will be the best product manager. These are two fundamentally different skill sets.
Registered procedures: Yes, you should write the necessary steps to execute each important process in your company. It’s not sexist and no one will pay you an extra nickel because your procedures are well documented. However, once your business grows to the point where you can no longer control all tasks yourself, documenting your processes is the only way to ensure that things are done consistently throughout your organization and over time. This is a big job, so take it in small pieces.
Measurements: Good metrics let you know what’s happening in the guts of your business when you’re not around to monitor everything. Those who delegate responsibility to managers are the ones that let mid-sized business owners sleep at night. Your metrics include your financial statements, but they are not sufficient by themselves. You need detailed information on how your operation is doing over time. The best metrics will vary depending on your business, but regardless of your industry, you need to measure quality, timeliness, and cost effectiveness.
Assuming you’ll continue to run your business, downsizing or delegating some of your responsibilities are just two ways to get your life back on track. If you decide to delegate, make sure you have the infrastructure you need to do it successfully. It may sound simple, but this transition is one of the most difficult you will face. If you haven’t done this before, it’s a good idea to seek help from someone who has. best wishes!
Doug and Polly White have a major ownership stake in Gazer, which designs, builds and operates co-working spaces. Polly’s focus is on human resources, people management and people systems. Doug’s areas of expertise are business strategy, operations and finance.