Evolving Beyond a One-Person Show

by WOHe

The decision to grow your business by delegating duties
requires a genuine commitment on your part to see it

The typical kitchen and bath remodeler got into the business
with a vision of making a living in an industry that allows us to
combine design and creativity with financial success. Few of us
come from large corporate backgrounds, where business is conducted
within the context of a structured organization. Instead, we’ve
each discovered, largely by trial and error, what it takes to make
our dream work in the day-to-day real world.

Like most small business owners, once the enterprise is under
way, we become caught up in managing day-to-day functions, problems
and successes that come at an ever-increasing speed. All this, of
course, leaves little time for long-range planning or thinking
about where our business might be headed.

However, there’s a real danger here: For small businesses, this
cycle of urgency ultimately leads to a situation in which the owner
reaches the limit of his or her ability to control all aspects of
the business, and growth stalls.

Examine your revenue figures for the last few years. If you see
a pattern of sales that’s up one year, only to fall back the next,
the cause is probably that you’re “maxed” out. In many ways, that’s
understandable. In a business where a single, major mistake can
wipe out a year’s profit, most owners prefer to make most of the
serious decisions themselves. In short, our situations transform us
into “control freaks.”

In this column, I’ll look at how we can break through this
ceiling if growth is our goal. I’ll also take a look at a process
that enables us to determine what to delegate and what to hang on
to and how to accomplish a delegation of duties.

The first decision

Before you begin to contemplate the delegation process, it’s
necessary to again answer the question of where you want your
business to go. As we’ve seen with so many basic business
questions, the question of growth is a “crossroads” issue. To
answer this question, you should ask yourself the following:

  • What are the things you most like to do?

  • Can you get satisfaction from “big-picture” accomplishments
    without actually handling the hands-on aspects of your

  • Can you tolerate financially and emotionally serious mistakes
    that are made by others?

  • Do you enjoy supervising and motivating others?

  • Are you a risk-taker?

If you’re prepared step back from the front lines of your
business and hand some real responsibility to others, then you’re
ready to begin the transition from a one-person show to the type of
organization that can grow to accommodate an ever-increasing volume
of business.

While an ever-expanding business can offer opportunities for
personal growth and financial reward, it usually comes with an
increased level of stress. It also means having to let go of many
of the things that you’ve always considered your strengths, and
which perhaps have even given you a sense of identity.

Attempting to make this transition is not something you should
undertake without careful consideration. After all, there’s nothing
wrong with a smaller, stable business that earns a regular profit
and provides you with a steady income.

What to delegate

Once you’ve decided you wish to delegate, begin with the list of
questions above; finish it by listing not only the things you like
to do, but also those you hate to do.

Now review the list and honestly note which of these items
really have to be done by you. Obviously, how you mark the list
will depend on the staff resources you have available to you.

Once you’ve prioritized your list, you’re in a position to
determine how you might reorganize your business to allow you to
focus your attention on those areas that are really important to
business growth. The list will also have provided you with the
basis of a job description for a person to whom you can begin the
delegation process.

This may seem pretty basic, but how many of us still find
ourselves changing light bulbs, hauling material or picking up the

By identifying all the tasks that your business needs to
accomplish, and matching them up with the least experienced person
capable of performing each task, you’ll find that the most
important tasks wind up with the most capable people, and that
you’ll wind up focused on those things which truly require your

Staying on track

Keep in mind that this process of “pushing down” responsibility
must be an ongoing process. As your organization grows, you’ll need
to make sure that it becomes part of your “culture,” and happens as
a matter of course.

Your business will need to begin to utilize paperwork and
procedures which had been avoided as it evolves to an organization
where work is broken down into tasks and your staff members become
specialists instead of generalists.

While this characterization may seem stark, it points out the
necessity of establishing ways of communicating with each other
that are more formal and provide the kind of documentation
organizational charts, job descriptions, schedules, purchase
orders, etc. that are necessary to function in this fashion

Delegation involves setting up systems and processes that allow
you, and your managers, to be able to operate with some assurance
that the overall business is moving in the desired direction. It
also means that individuals within the organization will need to be
able to perform a portion of the overall task without completely
understanding how it fits into that bigger picture.

All this is not to diminish the benefit of making sure that each
member of your team understands how your business accomplishes its
goals and makes a profit. As with any team, all members should
understand and be committed to the team goals and understand how
the team functions as a whole. They also need to understand that
any team’s success requires that all members of the team know and
can execute their role to the best of their ability.

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

Delegation may not lessen your own responsibilities, but it can
certainly give you a renewed sense of accomplishment.

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