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Learn the Art of Delegating

Turning over tasks clears your calendar and builds better employees.

As a business owner, you are the final link in the chain of responsibility. Every operation, product, problem and reward ultimately lands on your desk. But that doesn’t mean you have to shoulder every burden alone. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or have a staff of several employees, plan to delegate tasks whenever possible. By freeing your time from mundane activities, you can concentrate on delivering a quality product or service, as well as making those all-important sales.

Delegation is often anathema to entrepreneurs, who are generally “take charge” individuals. Many an entrepreneur has said “I can do that better myself.” Beware of such words. If all you had to do was that one task, you probably could do it better yourself. However, you’re “to-do” list is already lengthy with the inherent responsibilities of being a business owner. You shouldn’t add to that burden with projects that are best delegated and supervised. Consider delegation as part of your overall plan for the business, even the owner needs a break. You need to plan for contingencies, such as an illness or time to take a vacation.

Select the right people to undertake delegated duties. Evaluate interns, part-time employees and contractors carefully. Provide time for orientation and training. If you have a staff of employees, begin cross-training so there are back-up systems for the absence of key employees, including yourself. From your employees, choose competent employees with an interest in new tasks. Delegation can be an opportunity to learn new skills and/or take on added responsibility. Don’t hand off tasks without discussion and training if needed.

Employees should be valued. Delegation should provide an opportunity for you to ease your workload and communicate to the employee that you are entrusting him or her with the tasks because of your confidence in the employee’s abilities.

FYI

Santa Barbara SCORE meets every Wednesday, from 8:30-11:30 a.m., at 402 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 805.563.0084, visit www.santabarbarascore.org or register for counseling online at www.edmisscore.org/0166.

In addition, the Santa Barbara SCORE Chapter publishes a great tool for aspiring entrepreneurs, How to Start a Business in Santa Barbara County.

Clearly define responsibilities and the authority that accompanies the task. Be sure to plan on recognizing and rewarding employees who assume additional duties. If employees step up to the plate, you want to be sure to demonstrate appreciation for the extra effort.

The team of people to whom you delegate responsibility must be responsible for their own actions and results, as well as for those they may supervise. Request periodic written reports and staff meetings to provide a forum for comments on activities, accomplishments and challenges. Become the communicator and facilitator for the work of company. Bring the big picture into focus. When it makes sense, delegate. Create an environment that allows for the company and its workload to grow, without overburdening you. As the owner, your vision and management ability are best served when details are managed rather than when you complete tasks yourself.

And if you’re a solo entrepreneur, don’t think you’re stuck with all the work. You have options. Consider hiring a part-time employee, contract employee or intern to help with specific tasks. Contact UCSB, Westmont College, Santa Barbara City College and Santa Barbara Business College and speak with business teachers. They may know of some sharp students who would be perfect candidates to take on a share of your work in return for a smaller wage or even the experience alone.

You can plug into a wealth of business know-how by contacting your Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE counselors offer free, confidential advice about every aspect of starting, running and growing a successful business, even mentoring.

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