How founders and entrepreneurs can, and why they should, practise delegation from day one — especially before that first hire.

When an entrepreneur starts a company, they’re involved in absolutely everything. They are the CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, and mailroom all rolled into one. Most entrepreneurs are natural multi-taskers, and the constant variety is part of what attracts them to the job in the first place. Between rolling out new marketing campaigns and closing big deals, there is rarely a dull moment.

Some experts say that a CEO should delegate any task that their employees can do 80% as well as they can, but for a perfectionist business builder, kissing that last 20% of achievement goodbye can feel next to unbearable. At some point in the company’s lifespan, all of that has to change.

As a company scales, defining its overall vision and direction becomes a full-time job – one that founders leave vacant at their peril. A fast growing organization needs a leader able to see beyond the day-to-day. So how can founders learn to delegate or outsource without causing themselves undue pain?

By setting themselves up to do it from the very beginning.

Read on for four tips on how to build delegation into your company’s DNA.

1. Time-manage multiple personalities.

When Olga Vidisheva founded Shoptiques in 2012, she recognized that, as the boutique-shopping site’s sole employee, she was actually doing the work of several people. So, she decided to treat herself like several people, too. Vidisheva allotted separate blocks of time for her to “be” Shoptique’s CEO vs. CFO vs. sales manager vs. CMO.

Like an actress in a play, she refused to break character while she was in a role. For instance, if during her CFO time, she had an idea that the sales manager should handle, she would send her “sales manager” an email asking “her” to follow up on it later. This method can be really helpful to those early stage business builders before they have the budget to hire up. Time management is by far one of the biggest indicators of success in a company’s early days.

2. Build everyday tasks into scalable processes that you can easily hand off to other people.

Vidisheva’s multiple-personalities approach might sound kooky, but it allowed her to transition smoothly to delegating tasks to employees, once she had them.

Preparing to delegate in a company’s early days doesn’t have to be as intense as Vidisheva’s approach, of course. It could be as simple as labeling incoming emails with different roles, or blocking out a few hours a week to put on your CTO hat.

For each task you perform regularly, think about building it into a scalable process that you can easily teach new employees. This enables you to ensure a smooth onboarding process for new employees, and allows a business to scale more quickly because people aren’t constantly reinventing the wheel.

It also reduces errors, which in turn reduces the time business leaders spend on service recovery. Everyone wins with a planned approach: the customer, the employee and the founder.

3. Outsource to carefully vetted vendors or virtual assistants.

You can also delegate tasks before you even have employees. Outsourcing can be an incredibly useful way to grow a business in its early days, especially when you’re outsourcing to an experienced specialist with extensive knowledge about your industry. It can help you carefully manage staff costs, permit you to start projects faster, and increase efficiencies; all creating space so you can focus on your core business.

Outsourcing lets you leverage your strengths by freeing up more time for you to focus on what you’re good at. A great specialist partner will also help you learn best practices, so as the business grows, you can internalize these resources with confidence.

Outsourcing is possible no matter your budget. Virtual assistants – both human and AI – are driving down the price of administrative outsourcing bringing it within the range of even the most bootstrapped founder. Services like web design and accounting can be pricier, but they’re a worthwhile investment if they let the CEO of a company spend more time being the CEO, and less time being a CMO or CFO.

4. Remember that delegating actually strengthens your team.

Every person has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to a good leader to identify them. If you can give employees opportunities to work in their areas of strength, even if they are outside their day-to-day job scope, it can grow your company’s productivity and the individual’s skill set exponentially. It will also increase morale and provide team members with skills that could be useful to the company in the future.

If someone has come to work for you in a small business or start-up, it’s likely that they also enjoy a variety of tasks. Not to mention it feels good to pitch in and help your team! Delegating tasks is a quick and easy way to provide professional development for all your employees.

The transition from “do-it-all multitasker” to leader and delegator is a necessity in the growth of any business. Too many entrepreneurs stubbornly cling to micromanaging every last detail, ensuring that they become bottlenecks in their own organizations as projects requiring their personal approval keep piling up.

It doesn’t matter which path you’re on: The sooner you start practicing delegation, the readier you will be when you hire that employee.

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