One of the most important aspects of running a business is knowing how to delegate.
Our job as entrepreneurs is to ensure our clients are happy and our businesses profitable. If we bog ourselves down with all the minutiae that goes into running a successful enterprise, we’ll never be able to focus on the bigger picture.
I’m a delegating queen. Before I start any task, I ask myself three questions: How long will this take? Can someone else do this task? And, finally, can my time be better spent doing something else? With those three questions in mind, I find that a lot of the items on my to-do list can be delegated so that I can spend time on the projects that will move my law firm to the next level.
But delegating isn’t always easy. I’ve learned the hard way. Sometimes, even though the answers to my three questions were “yes,” I was really only abdicating a task because I didn’t want to face the hassles that came with the work.
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I found myself overwhelmed with the human resources aspect of running a business. Dealing with people all day takes a lot of time and energy. And as an introvert, I found the work draining.
So I delegated it. But in honesty, I just handed the responsibility to someone with no guidance or direction. And believe it or not, it did not end well.
This happened another time when I hired someone to help me with the financial aspects of my business. I’m not a math person, but dealing with numbers is a necessary evil to running your own business. I hired a bookkeeper to help me input data, and eventually the role evolved into managing our accounts receivable and paying our bills.
Soon, everything was out of my hands. It was great. Until that person left.
I had never learned how to use QuickBooks or understand how cash flow works. I’m a lawyer, not an accountant. But when my bookkeeper left, I was totally powerless. I couldn’t even crank out a check. I didn’t know what bills were due when. I didn’t even know the basics of generating an expense report.
I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. I’ve since found another bookkeeper, but now I understand the basics of what they do so I can check in on their work and, more importantly, handle it myself in an emergency.
Now, whenever I want to delegate a task, I take the time to think it through and beyond my three questions. Why do I want to hand this over? Is it just a matter of trying to get it off my plate? If so, what do I need to do to empower someone to be successful at the work? How can I empower myself to be hands-off but still understand how the task works and how I would handle it if this person left?
It’s a bit of a dichotomy. It takes work to have people work for you. But if you devote just a few minutes of mindful focus on the task, the results are worth it.
Case in point: A few years ago, I hired someone to manage our client intake. We spend a lot of time upfront with potential clients, getting to know them and their situation. It’s an important part of our business and a huge factor in our success. But it’s a total time vampire. I was spending 40 to 50 hours a month on calls. And again, as an introvert, it was zapping my energy.
So I hired someone to help me. But this time, I did it the right way. I gave her guidance on the process. I showed her how I handle the task and put together a step-by-step process manual (which may have been a bit overkill — but, trust me, it was a lifesaver!). And because it was work I had done in the past, I knew I could answer any questions and, if she took a vacation or quit, step in and prevent my practice from grinding to a standstill.
It was one of the best moves of my career. My intake specialist loves the work. She is happy to spend an hour and a half listening to someone’s issues and parsing through the details. And I’m happy to have her on my team.
By taking the time to set her up for success, I can focus on the other million details that go into running a business and trust that my team and I are aligned for success.