How to Tell When You Should Start Delegating


In March, I went on my first vacation of more than a few days since starting our test prep company in 2009. For the first time, I left the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business to someone else — my new full-time sales director, Bryan. As I saw an email trail of him taking care of the business as well or better than I would have, I realized I should have brought him on six months earlier.

As the company grew, the day-to-day tasks of running the business took over more and more of my time. Doing all of those day-to-day tasks myself meant that I was no longer spending any time on growth projects. I now realize this was actually putting the brakes on our company’s growth. My job needs to be growing the company -– I’m much better at that than managing day-to-day.

However, as with most small businesses, cashflow is king -- hiring too quickly can be even more painful than hiring too slowly.

As I consider when to make our next hire or bring on freelancers, here’s how I think I’ll know.

  • I’m only actually very good at a couple aspects of running our business. Anything I’m only average at doing, I need to delegate right away. I’m all for building my own skills, but when it comes to building the company I need great work, not the product of me slaving over a book on CSS.
  • You’ve probably heard before that if someone else can do the work 80 percent as well as you (or 80 percent as fast), delegate it. I think that’s true, but I’d go farther and say that I’ve found that when you give someone full responsibility to do a great job on a task that you yourself see as a chore, they’re probably going to do it better than you would have.
  • It keeps getting easier to have someone really talented on call to do specific creative or technical tasks. When I have a small task (like graphic design or coding), I turn to sites like Elance. But when I contract with a freelancer, I make sure that they are available not just for one short task but also for long-term project work. If they turn out good work, I have a new long-term member of my team.

John Rood is the founder and President of Next Step Test Preparation, which provides one-on-one test prep tutoring for the professional school entrance exams nationwide.

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