It’s the challenge that just about all entrepreneurs stumble over — knowing when and how to hand over some of their responsibilities to someone else so that they can focus on the most important stuff.
For a growing company, it’s a vital move. For the company’s founder, it’s as difficult as lending their Porsche to their teenage son. There are all sorts of ways to delegate though, some of them easier and more likely to bring success than others.
Here are some of the best:
1. Go to India
Not literally, unless you really want to, of course, but the sub-continent is stuffed with talented, skilled locals who can do some of the hard coding while you focus on the plans. And they’ll do it for less than the price of a lunch in Silicon Valley. Start here.
2. Find a Virtual Assistant
Or you could keep things local — relatively speaking, at least — by hiring a virtual assistant. They can handle all sorts of office and secretarial tasks without you having to buy another desk or cough up huge amounts of money in benefits. You can read about them here and find one here.
3. Use Family
Yes, it’s old and traditional. But it works, family members can’t walk out on you, and best of all, you might just end up getting tax benefits for giving your kids their pocket money.
4. Use eLance
When it comes to offering freelancers, few sites have got the system down better than eLance. Freelancers themselves aren’t crazy about it, but if you start by finding someone reliable to outsource to, you can slowly build up the responsibility.
5. Form Joint Ventures
One way of sharing the load is to share the profits. Find a business with a market like yours and you should be able to pass on some of the marketing.
6. Partner with an Expert
Or you could just find a partner. If you’re a whiz at something creative, for example, team up with someone with a nose for sales and share the profits. Shoving the work sideways still counts as delegation.
7. Award Responsibility
The reason that delegation is difficult is that it’s hard to trust someone else to do the job as well as you. One way to make that more likely to happen is to make them feel that they own the job. Give them the responsibility to make their own decisions and you’ll make them feel like — and work like — you.
8. Use Shipwire
There’s nothing worse than doing something as brainless as stuffing boxes when you could be building a future. This is something that anyone can do — even Amazon. We prefer Shipwire though.
9. Ask Suppliers to do More
Not every business can do this, but if you’re doing anything that involves manufacturing, then squeezing a little more out of your suppliers — whether that means pre-cutting parts to fit or removing the labels — could help to save you time and another pointless task.
10. Get an Intern
Big businesses have been doing this forever. If you want to create a big business, then try acting like one. Find a student who’s prepared to be paid in experience and bring them in to lend a hand. But make sure you really do pay them by giving them plenty of responsibility to show off on their resumes.
11. Build a Fan Base
Sometimes, you don’t even have to look to find people to delegate to. If people are excited by your work — perhaps because it brings real benefits or maybe even just because they want to be associated with it — you might find that a call for help on your site is enough to get the offers. Political campaigns, for example, thrive on volunteers.
12. Make the Cause Cool
It’s not just Obamania that can get people to contribute hours of their time without pay. So can any cool cause, especially when the reward is neat too. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, for example, managed to get millions of people scanning the skies with its [email protected] screensaver. Everyone wanted to be the first to spot an alien — and it made their computers look pretty too. What can you hand out that will let people work for you, enjoy it and not cost you a dime?
13. Go Open Source
You could hand out your technology, of course. Opening up the code will make it harder for you to make money out of your product — although not impossible — but just unlocking the door could be enough to find that hackers have broken in and done all your housework for you.
14. Make the Deadlines Easy
It’s impossible to delegate all your work to someone else — just the act of delegating takes effort, management and preparation too. So plan ahead and makes sure there’s plenty of time to get the work back. Nothing increases the chances of failure faster than a too-tight deadline.
15. Create an Affiliate Program
It’s true that affiliates won’t help to put CDs in disks or handle customer enquiries, but they will do your marketing for you. It’s not very original but as a way of delegating your evangelism, it doesn’t get much easier — or much more effective — than this.
16. Team up with Non-Profits
A charity isn’t going to help a business to make money just because the owner asks. But it might if the interests of the business converge with the aims of the group. A company trying to create a green engine, for example, might find that an environmental group was willing to help with the marketing. And the association would make the business look good too.
17. Run a Competition
This is an old marketing trick that still has legs. Instead of wracking your brain to come up with a good tagline, logo or new product idea, ask people to send in their thoughts and hand out a prize. (An iPod Nano is cheap and desirable). The temptation of being a winner can be enough to get the entries flooding in.
18. Ask for Help
Or you could just ask for volunteers. Admittedly, this is going to be less tempting than dangling a reward in front of them but just asking people if they have some time available to lend a hand might just be enough to get a few people turning up to be part of the team.
19. Make it Fun
That’s especially true if you can make the work itself fun. Even something as boring as stuffing envelopes, for example, can be turned into an experience with some good conversation and a plate of tasty, home-made brownies.
20. Call in Favors
When something really needs to be done — and when you really don’t have time to do it yourself — this could the opportunity to call in a favor. Most people know someone who owes them one. While it might not work for an ongoing gig, this sort of delegation can get you through a tough period.
21. Teach… and Employ your Students
Just about every entrepreneur has skills that other people would love to own. One way of finding worthy people to delegate then is to teach — always something worthwhile anyway — then pick the best students to take up some of your extra work in their spare time. Community colleges and adult education centers are good places to start, but you could also hold your own classes.
22. Use Big Thinkers
There are really only two kinds of staff: big thinkers and little thinkers. Little thinkers do the job, then stop. Big thinkers understand why you need the job done, and do more. Only delegate to the big thinkers… then encourage them to grow with you.
23. Only do the High-Value Stuff
That old rule about 80 percent of your profits coming from 20 percent of your customers holds true when you look at productivity too: 80 percent of your revenues is likely to come from 20 percent of your tasks. That means you should be delegating the other 80 percent. Just make sure you know which tasks are the most important.