McCadden: Take Back Control by Delegating It

by Kyle Clapham

As a remodeling business grows, the owner tends to absorb any new growth-related task or duty that comes along. These extra functions run the gamut. They include everything from answering phones to project gopher and on-site project management to client billing and warranty work.

When I ask remodelers why this happens—why they get stuck doing everything—they provide many reasons. The two reasons I hear most are not enough money to pay someone else and pride: “No one does it better than me.” If the owner has never had an employee to whom they can delegate such activities and, thus, no experience or method for delegating, they often don’t even know where to start. Additionally, due to absorbing so many duties, the owner doesn’t have time to train a new person.

Frog Soup Effect

Just like the frog sitting in water that slowly increases in temperature until it is a full boil, over-extension slowly creeps up on small remodelers, and they eventually get to the saturation point where they cannot effectively manage it all. Over-extension goes unnoticed until a meltdown finally occurs. Meltdowns are often triggered by a spouse or significant other exposing the problem. The rapid growth has affected them personally, affected their family or has affected their personal relationship with the owner.

You Are Not Saving Money

Another trigger for an over-extended owner meltdown? A lack of profitability caused by the owner doing administrative activities at an owner’s salary. These tasks pull the owner away from what they really should be doing: to make the business and its projects run smoothly and profitable. I find the total, fully burdened cost for an administrative person is typically one quarter of what an owner earns. By making this simple mistake—or let’s call it a misjudgment—there is more money lost than saved in this scenario.

The main reason owners do not delegate control to others is also a reason that many business owners will actually admit: They are control freaks. They fear of losing control. Losing control may affect their status with colleagues. The fear of losing control often supersedes any desire to share the burdens of day-to-day business activities. Hence, unfortunately, the cycle continues.

Reasons vs. Excuses

Oftentimes, but not always, I’ve observed that most of the problems associated with not sharing control become excuses used by business owners to justify not delegating more. This observation can be backed up by a quote one remodeler shared with me as he was assessing his own failures: “Rationalization is the food that the ego feeds the mind.” Translation: When things don’t go the way we plan, we make excuses so that we do not bruise our ego because, after all, “It certainly could not be due to some error on my part.”

Commit to It

As a business grows and responsibilities pile up, the critical error is not realizing that you need to share control in order to actually gain control. For example, if you are in transition to become a design/builder, or you are growing your design/build firm, use the information I share here as a warning and get prepared in advance for the evolution.

To facilitate the delegation of duties, or a sharing of control over designated tasks, an owner must commit to actually allow the new hire to take on identified activities and responsibilities that will begin the sharing of control. Next, the owner must expect mistakes to be part of the evolution. An owner must manage their significance and use them as learning opportunities.

Information Download

One big obstacle to sharing tasks is that all of the information about how things get done is inside the owner’s head. And often there’s no documentation to help with the transition. Unless a new hire is already trained for a position—or happens to be an expert in uncovering, designing and creating systems and procedures—their success may be limited.

Some owners don’t know how to adequately express what needs to get done or how it has been done in the past. It’s not easy. The process of learning new tasks and teaching how to prioritize activities can be a slow, expensive and even painful for all parties.

Sharing control requires an understanding of not only how, but more importantly why, things are done a certain way. Without understanding the how and why a task is done a certain way, jobs will always require the business owner’s input and direction, also known as micromanagement. If an employee already understands the how and why, most problems or new challenges can be addressed with little or no input from the owner.

It is important over time that a comfort level develops. There is confidence in the process and confidence that the employee is providing the right solutions. I suggest the owner and employee make scheduled times to exchange their thoughts and the processes used to make day-to-day decisions. This will improve and maintain control after a probationary or “break-in” period ends.

From my experience, the most common obstacle to common-sense delegation roles and duties is the owner’s assumption, or blind faith, that it will just happen on its own. The opposite is true. Delegation must be managed. Be sure to track progress by having ways to measure the effectiveness of your new strategy. A good goal for a business owner should not to always be in total control, but rather to establish a process that helps confirm things are under control. That’s what I call macromanagement. QR

Shawn McCadden is a speaker, business trainer, columnist and award-winning remodeler with more than 35 years of experience. He can be reached at

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