As a small business owner, do you always have just the right amount of work to do? And, even if you can answer “yes” to that question, can you guarantee that you will always be healthy enough to do that work every single day? Do I even have to bring up the occasional need for time off or even a full-blown vacation?
Whether you employ one or more people, or even if you alone are the entire business, you need a contingency plan that covers times when you cannot fulfill your responsibilities for some time period. Only a plan for delegating your work can help ensure that your business can run smoothly in your absence while keeping your customers satisfied.
Tips for Delegating Effectively
The chances are that you are most comfortable when you do most things yourself. This is a common trait of entrepreneurs. But, as explained in the article, 7 Strategies for Delegating Better and Getting More done (Inc.com, May 7, 2015), the first step toward effective delegation is learning to let go.
An organized approach toward delegation is an effective way to increase your comfort level in this regard. The following five tips help create a strategy toward passing some of your responsibilities onto others.
#1. Identify Likely Candidates
If you have already hired employees, hopefully you followed the hiring practices in the STARTicle, Seven Attributes to Look For When Hiring Small Business Employees. In other words, you carefully chose individuals with the flexibility and desire to do whatever it takes to get a job done.
So, how are those employees doing now? Do any of them display such an aptitude and interest in the business that they might be able to undertake some of your responsibilities? These are the people whom you might want to train in certain aspects of your job. You might find a single person who can become your second-in-command, or you might choose several people who can work together to run things effectively in the event that you need to step away for any reason.
If you operate a one-person business, you have more limited options. But, engaging a virtual assistant (VA) might provide you with services that can lighten your load right now while having someone on hand to notify customers when you experience unexpected downtime and reschedule appointments and deadlines.
#2. Prepare a Reference Guide
Training is essential, but if your trainees have to take notes, they can lose many important details. They will learn better if you have pre-written notes that you can point out during training. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but make sure you provide enough how-to information, along with information such as the following:
- Where and how to reach you or someone who can get a message to you if absolutely necessary
- Resources who can answer vital questions and help make decisions when you can’t be reached (for example, the accountant or lawyer)
- Key clients who require extra attention, and where to find information about current projects
- Vendor information, including backup vendors to contact in a pinch
- Business software information, such as techniques and passwords needed to do the books, provided that you trust any individuals with vital tasks like these
Of course, some of this information may not be appropriate for VAs, but they typically have the experience to ask you for the information they need.
#3. Take Some At-Work Breaks
The completion of training does not mean that you can walk away. Give them the chance to practice their new skills, but remain available for questions. Supervision is perfectly appropriate during this time, but try to resist the impulse to continuously look over any shoulders. The more trust that you display during this time, the more confidence your trainees will develop.
For the record, you might want to engage a VA for a short-term test, just to check performance levels.
#4. Go Away for a Few Days
Once and your trainees (or VA) feel comfortable with their performance, it’s time for a dress rehearsal. Your employees need a chance to demonstrate their proficiency with the newly-assigned tasks. At the very least, spend a half day away from the workplace, but two or three days away would be better.
#5. Rinse, Repeat and Promote
At this point, you need to decide if you need to do any additional training or even if you chose the right person. If you did, then it’s time to recognize that you now have a valuable junior executive who deserves recognition or maybe a salary hike for the new responsibilities. If you went with VA support, then maybe this would be the time to create a firm contract.
Disconnection from Your Business is Not Always Optional
If your small business is still in its infancy, you probably have no intention of jetting off to the Bahamas for two weeks. Still, if you fail to plan a vacation at some point, you are doing a disservice to your business, which deserves a refreshed owner.
The good news is that you have ample opportunity to plan for scheduled time off. You can even take a device with you for a periodic checkup (but try to leave it in your hotel room, please). The bad news is that you can’t pre-plan for a trip to the hospital, where even smart phones may be forbidden.
Whether you need extra help during periods of work overload, or when an emergency arises, be prepared is the Scout motto for a reason. Particularly when unexpected circumstances force you to fully disconnect from your business, you will rest easier if you know that other people are well-prepared to help your company survive your absence.