Picking the Right Time to Start Delegating

Most of us got into the kitchen and bath remodeling business by starting out small, either designing or performing remodeling projects. We often did this as a “one person show” or with a single helper, often our spouse.

In those early days, we did everything: design the project, sign the contract (if you actually had one), order the materials and install it on the job. We would get the bills, look them over and write the checks to our vendors. At some point we may have acquired an employee or two and had to start dealing with payroll issues, likely using an outside accounting service to help with basic accounting requirements.

As time went by and the business grew, more employees were hired and more than one job would be in progress at the same time. About this time, you probably found that you had to rely on others to handle some of the day-to-day details of your business. This marked the beginning of delegation.

This month, we will look at the challenges that face us when our business grows to the point where we have to start to let go of much of the direct involvement with our vendors, employees and customers.

Decision to Grow

The first, and basic, decision that must be made is whether you want to see your business grow to the point where you are not longer involved at the detail level. Here is a list of questions you should start with:

  • What are the things I most enjoy doing?
  • Can I get satisfaction from “big picture” accomplishments without actually doing the hands-on part of the business?
  • Can I tolerate, financially and emotionally, serious mistakes made by others?
  • Do I enjoy supervising and motivating others?
  • Am I a risk taker?

Not everyone is comfortable stepping back from the hands-on involvement with what our business’ actual work is. Many of us get a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment from actually creating the designs or performing the construction that goes into the execution of these designs for our clients.

When a business grows to a point where one person can no longer control all of the details, the decision to allow this growth to continue comes with a number of changes. Expect the stress level to increase as things get done differently than you might have done them. You will have to determine how to monitor those to whom things are delegated without stifling them.

There are many successful remodelers with no desire to see their businesses grow into large organizations. Such limited operations are capable of providing a very comfortable living for their owners; never-ending growth is not a requirement in our business.

Start Delegating

Once the decision is made to grow the business beyond the one-person show, delegation begins. At first this will consist of having people to help you with the detail work, such as drafting, carpentry work, etc. A system of tracking transactions (other than keeping track in your head) should be put into place. This should include a general ledger accounting system, purchase orders, matching procedures for material receipts and vendor invoices, etc.

At this point, you can still closely supervise and control what is going on. It is possible to have a couple of jobs in the design phase and a couple more under construction and still stay on top of all of the details. Relatively few important details will have to be delegated up to this juncture.

When you find that you are working 60-80 hours per week and still not feeling as though you are in control, it is time to take delegation seriously. If you do not intend to pull back the volume of business, make sure the systems to track transactions mentioned previously are up and functioning.

So where to start? The answer to this should come from the questions posed earlier. Begin by listing the things you like to do and those you do not like to do. Next, list the things you are doing that are critical to the survival and success of your business. Finally, write down all the other things you do. Now mark all the items on this list that really must be done by you.

Are you still taking the company truck in for service, changing light bulbs or cleaning up job sites?

By following this process of identifying all of the tasks that your business needs to accomplish, and matching them up with the least experienced person capable of performing the task, you will find that the most important tasks wind up with the most capable people, and that you will wind up focused on those things that truly require your attention. If you do not already have these capable individuals at your business, this process will help you develop a job description for the person or people you need to hire.

Keep it Going

Once this process of delegation is started, the challenge becomes how to prevent back-sliding. The transition to delegating is not an easy one, requiring a balance between jumping in too quickly and waiting too long.

If you continue making all the decisions, you are not delegating. Rather, your job should involve managing the relationships within your organization and being responsible for the big-picture, long-term vision for the business, trusting your employees to handle the detail work without your involvement.

Although there is no hard and fast rule, one individual can probably directly supervise four to eight others who are in a position to make decisions for the business. As responsibility is pushed down in your organization, it is important that every member of your team understands how your business functions and makes a profit. They should understand what your organization chart looks like, and responsibilities need to be clearly defined.

The decision to grow your business by delegating some of the real responsibilities is a serious one and will require a commitment on your part to see it through. You will have to resist the temptation to jump back in and take things over if you ever expect those with delegated responsibilities to take ownership of them.

Delegation does not lessen your own responsibilities, but it can free you from the “tyranny of the urgent.” Properly done, it can allow you the freedom to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.