This week, three different events occurred in my life that all pointed to a crucial topic for business owners. Here are the short summaries of each event. Bear with me, this will all come together in the end.
Event 1: Two days ago, during my open office hours, a client called in and we chatted about her busy and successful Q4. All was going so well that she had to help out with fulfilling orders. She was also thrilled that one of the platforms she advertises on, offered her a dedicated manager to help her maximize her sales. She gave some general guidance for managing the account and stepped into the warehouse with all it's the busy-ness.
She barely glanced at email and noticed a larger credit card bill but just assumed the ads were working their magic. Once the dust settled, she realized that in just a little over a month, there had been over $85,000 spent on ads and the return on ad spend had tanked far below the previous level.
That money had left the business with little return on her investment. She could have hired a warehouse person for far less to handle this seasonal bump. She could have hired a fractional marketing manager to have actually managed the ads and that certainly would have resulted in more sales. She could have given better directions to her new dedicated ad manager. In short order there are three ways this could have gone better.
Event 2: On Monday, I attended a presentation given by a CPA of a larger firm. His topic was hiring challenges facing the accounting industry. The challenges facing traditional accounting firms are many as technology is changing rapidly. But hiring is particularly daunting because tax firms have overworked their employees each March and April for years. People can't manage their lives to exist without seeing family and participating in family life for 2 months out of the year.
Yet accounting firms have a growing demand by clients that need their services. There is an opportunity to grow and serve clients that need their help, but accounting firms must get the hiring right. That means the owners must set the right culture and manage the workload of their team. To do this they must not be so busy doing the work to actually manage the team and the firm.
Event 3: Over the weekend, my husband, an engineer with an MBA from Duke, was analyzing the patterns of our robotic vacuum. He explained to me that the vacuum went through the house and got the most open areas. Then it would make a second pass going in very illogical patterns to get the areas around the baseboards. He was trying to understand the logic, but ultimately decided it was beyond him. He said, "It makes no sense why it is programmed in this way. It's actually painful to watch it being so inefficient. I just closed the door, I couldn't look."
Now, what do these three events have in common? The answer is delegation. Effective delegation could have put $85,000 to work for my client in a productive manner. Realizing as an owner, tending to strategy and managing a new ad partner was more important than fulfilling orders especially during the busy holiday sales season was a lesson she learned.
The presenter at the Hiring presentation made it clear, "You must delegate in order to grow." The challenge however is that we as accountants got into our profession because we are good technicians. Delegating typically means that we have to let go of the tasks we really like to do. We have to use skills that may not be as developed, such as managing the team or creating systems. In addition, we have to accept that the person that will be doing the work, may not do it as good or in the same way we would do it. And we have to be ok with that, at least to the point that it meets our criteria for an acceptable work product.
Finally, we may just have to turn our heads and not watch as our team member figures it out and operates inefficiently for weeks when we could have done it right in half the time. Delegation is one key ingredient that a business owner must master in order to grow their business and to ensure that they keep their eye on the important strategic work, only they can do.
Delegation Brings it All Together
To get started on the path to delegation, think of one task that you could hand off to an employee or contractor. Think about how much it will free up to do higher level jobs. Find that special person and train them on the outcome you expect. If there are certain steps that must be followed, teach them the steps. Then observe, give feedback and encouragement.
Even when they don't complete the tasks as perfectly as you, express your appreciation and find something good to say. When you see that they have it figured out, ask them to document their process and add it to your process documentation library. In this way, you don't have to think about this activity again, except to spot check. This is one part of your brain that can now be used for developing the next product, or marketing strategy, or maybe it will allow you to go home an hour early and spend a few extra minutes with your family. Afterall, work is supposed to support our life, not the other way around.
If this is something you truly struggle with, and just can’t figure out where to start, I would be happy to chat with you. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can dive in to delegation together.