Blog Post

Deciding to Delegate Responsibilities

A lot of entrepreneurs start out having to do it all for their business. They simply can’t afford to pay anyone to do things for them, so out of necessity they do everything themselves. Being an entrepreneurial CEO can mean doing everything from the marketing to the accounting, as well as creating the actual product.

However, at some point, a business gets too big (hopefully) for one person to do it all. Choices have to be made about starting to delegate tasks to other people. Which areas of responsibility should an entrepreneur hand over to others, and at what point in their business’s growth? Those can be hard calls to make.

I’m currently at the point of having to make some of those decisions myself. My business, which up until recently I’ve been running basically by myself, has grown exponentially in the past 12 months. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I need help, but I’ve been struggling with how to best go about getting it.

I did make one recent change, which means I’m not doing absolutely everything myself. I brought a contributing writer onto my web site to help me produce content. But that decision was more the result of happening upon the perfect opportunity than of strategic planning, and now I need to figure out how to move forward with more delegating of responsibilities.

As I’ve weighed how to go about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are several prime factors to consider in deciding what tasks to offload and how to do it.

  • Know your value. Remember to focus on what your true value is to the company. In my company’s case, my personal brand is closely tied to the brand of my company. Readers equate me with Scrapbook Update. It would be counter-productive to the success of the company for me to hire writers to be the visible face of the company while retiring into a behind-the-scenes editorial role. (The writer I recently added expanded the site’s offerings rather than taking burden off of me.)
  • Know the true cost. Some types of help will cost more to bring in than others. But these costs must be weighed in relation to how much time will be freed up for you to expend on income-producing activities. Help that seems expensive but which provides you a lot more income-producing time that you are able to take full advantage of may actually be very cost-effective. Also, don’t forget that paying for an expert to take on certain responsibilities could lead to those tasks being done in a way that saves the company money (for instance, an accountant might be able to find tax savings for the company that would offset the costs of accounting services).
  • Know your abilities. As our businesses grow, some of our company’s functions may get complex enough that we really have no choice as a smart business person but to call in experts to perform them. There might be other tasks that you could more cost-effectively outsource, but if your needs in a certain area are getting too complex for your DIY skills, then you need to make getting help in that area a priority. Experts that you may need to hand off responsibilities to might include accountants, lawyers, web designers and sales people.

Don’t forget to factor personal tasks in your evaluation as well. There are only 24 hours in a day. Since time spent on non-work related tasks can’t be spent elsewhere, examine everywhere that you are spending your time and consider whether responsibilities can be delegated. Perhaps it would be cost-effective to outsource cleaning your house, or mowing your lawn. (And I’ll bet you wouldn’t miss doing those tasks, either.)

At some point, we have to admit we can’t run every function of our business ourselves. Even a control freak like Steve Jobs (s aapl) has help. Admit you need help, then go about getting the right help for you and your company.

What responsibilities would it be a good idea for you to delegate?

Photo by Flickr user ralphbijker, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

5 Responses to “Deciding to Delegate Responsibilities”

  1. Anon, the image represents where I am at unless I learn to delegate…totally locked up and unable to move forward. So you’re right, that image is a mess. :)

    Michal, I’m afraid that I am clinging to too many responsibilities for the same reason! Trying hard to take a deep breath and take the plunge. What’s the worst that could happen? Ok, I won’t think about that. :)

    Patrick, my new contributor is working out great, and you are right, it is making me braver about taking on more help!

  2. Things have gotten very busy for me in the past 6 weeks, so it made since to bring someone else into the mix. I’m able to pay a college student a fraction of my billable rate while he gets great experience (and money) and I focus on bigger-picture issues, like art direction and business development.

    It does take some time getting a new person up to speed on your process and workflow, but that cost decreases rapidly, especially if you hire wisely.