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Delegation Skills; Do you have to do it all yourself?

Amanda runs a small graphic design firm in Atlanta. She is the head designer and does most of the sales, works hard to keep her clients happy and does invoicing, customer service as well as trying to balance the books and keep projects on track.

Amanda started the firm about 8 years ago, and worked on her own for the first three. As her business grew, she realized she needed help, and now has four employees; all with varying degrees of design and administrative experience.

When we first spoke last summer, Amanda was on overload. Although she struggled to make payroll each week, Amanda still felt she was doing the lion’s share of the work. She was in dire need of some good old fashioned delegation skills.

Amanda admitted to adding staff by grabbing “smart and capable” people when she the workload became too overwhelming. Because she had no hiring strategy and was short on delegation skills, merely adding personnel didn’t get her very far.

Here’s what we did:

1. We looked at Amanda’s long term goals. She dreamed of retiring to the Carolina coast by the time she was 60, in less than 10 years. In order to do that, she needed to pay off her business debts, increase revenues and profits and put 15k per year into her retirement and savings accounts once the debt was paid off.

2. We focused on her strengths and which aspects of the work she most enjoyed. Amanda was very creative and loved coming up with the big picture design concepts. She loved dealing with clients and they adored her. She was a natural born sales person for her own work. Amanda wasn’t as in tune with finances, hated dealing with minutia and paperwork, and uncomfortable with delegation; skills that she felt were important to running her business effectively.

3. We identified the values that were most important to her. Quality and integrity were two of her guiding principals. She was passionate about good design and had built her reputation on it.

4. We listed the myriad of different tasks and responsibilities that were involved in running the business, and sorted them by category: creative, technical design, sales, customer service, financial and administrative. When sharpening delegation skills, it’s critical to understand what you’re delegating.

5. We determined what Amanda wanted to keep doing and what she was willing to part with. She realized that her forte was design direction and sales. It took a while, but she finally agreed to delegate the rest to others who had the appropriate skills another key step to sharpening her delegation skills.

6. We created job descriptions for each area so she would know what each employee would be responsible for, and how to judge if they were appropriate for the job.

7. We took a hard look at the skills and experience of her current employees, and compared their strengths and weaknesses with the job descriptions. Although the process made her a little uneasy, Amanda was pleased when she realized that John was well suited for the technical designer role. Whew – she could keep him on without hesitation. Instead of using him as a jack of all trades, she could have him focus on what he does best.

Another designer, Nancy, was a bit flighty and not good with administrative tasks, dealing with clients or finances. Amanda liked Nancy, but realized that there was no place for her at the firm. Amanda had no choice but to let her go.

Marion was great at paperwork, work-flow and organizing, and not as strong a designer. She was still in school, and readily agreed to stay on part time in an administrative role.

No one on staff was interested or capable of doing the bookkeeping. It was a task that had been passed around the office, leaving a trail of unpaid bills, bounced checks and late billing. With newly honed delegation skills, Amanda readily agreed to speak with a bookkeeping service that many of my clients use.

Amanda was quite pleased with the results. She has reduced her staff to 2 full time and one part time employee and pays a bookkeeping service to come in once a month for net savings of $300 / week. Amanda has developed the delegation skills she needs to manage her small firm effectively. She understands where to focus her and her staff’s efforts and time. Most importantly, work is getting done expeditiously and Amanda no longer feels as if she has to do everything herself.

Do you have to do it all yourself?

Susan Martin, Business Leadership Coaching

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