Why This Question Is Important

By Paul E. Casey

Do you trust people? I ask this because it will have an enormous impact on your business. A big challenge facing small business owners is that we don't delegate enough. This is understandable. We went into business in the first place because we wanted more control of our lives. We have difficulty letting go and a tendency to control other people.

Learn how to delegate the small tasks and your business will run a lot smoother. You shouldn't try to micro-manage. If a person is not performing. Find someone else who can give you the results you need. If you can’t delegate, it means…

  • You are a lousy manager.
  • You don’t trust people.
  • You can’t communicate well with people, and therefore…
  • You won’t succeed in business.

If you can’t delegate, you will burn out sooner or later. I believe that a lack of organizational skills is the number one reason why business owners “burn out.” Not being able to delegate tasks is a close second. When you first start your business, you have a lot of extra energy because everything is so new. But eventually the novelty wears off. As your business grows, you will soon find that you can’t handle every task on every project all by yourself. It will be better if you have some qualified contract workers or employees on hand to pick up the slack and take care of some of the more mundane tasks.

When I put together a radio ad campaign, almost all of the actual production work will be done by free agents or contract workers. Once the client and I have determined the main concepts for the campaign, I call up one of my agents, a writer, and give them the concepts for the radio spots. At that point, my job is basically finished. The writer writes the radio spots and sends them on to another free agent, the producer. The producer produces the spots (with the help of other free agents to handle recording, voice-overs, and sound effects), and sends them back to the client for approval. If the client approves, another free agent then distributes the radio spots to a station. The producer then calls me to let me know that the project is complete.

Some people who have observed my business think that I should be more “in charge,” that I should supervise more or actually be on hand when my free agents perform their duties. I prefer to treat people as professionals, and to give my free agents plenty of room to succeed or to fail. But more important, I make them totally accountable for their part in the process. If something goes wrong, I will know exactly where the problem is and I can deal with it on the spot. If people do not execute their tasks properly, I will replace them.

Like me, my free agents must be accessible. One requirement I have for all my free agents is that they must provide me with backup if they are not accessible for any reason. I don’t care if the free agent who produces my radio spots goes on a six-month vacation to Australia, as long as he makes arrangements for a competent backup producer who to take his place that will fully execute his tasks while he is gone. The burden is on my producer to make sure that there is no fall-off in the radio production area of my business. That goes for all of the free agents who work with me.

I provide most of my free agents with direct access to my clients. I monitor the contacts very closely, and I am always asking the client if they enjoy working with this or that free agent. If the response is yes, I probe further. I ask again if they really feel that way, or if they are just trying to be cordial. I make it very clear that they should call me immediately if they are not 100-percent satisfied with the free agent’s performance. Since I make sure that the people I work with are not only very competent but also have pleasant personalities, it is usually not a problem for my agents to contact my clients.

I have worked with too many people who over-supervise or micro-manage. Another term to describe these kinds of people is “control freaks.” They want to be involved in every detail of every project. They stifle the creativity of the people who work for them. Even more damaging, they slow down the process of getting the job done. This is not only annoying, it also hurts productivity. With control over every detail, it is impossible to determine who is really responsible for what aspect of the project. This type of management style may work (barely) in a corporate structure, but it won’t work if you are trying to sustain your own business.

Bottom Line: Learn how to delegate small tasks, and your business will run a lot smoother. At the same time, you shouldn't try to micro-manage. If a person is not performing, find someone else who can give you the results you need.

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If you can’t delegate, you will burn out sooner or later.