I remember the first time I fired myself. That probably sounded funny in your head. But, as an entrepreneur, there comes a point in your small business’ lifecycle where delegating makes a lot more sense than continuing as a one man (or woman) band.
The first few months and sometimes years of a business can be defined by constructing effective processes that support the company’s mission. These processes outline how a customer is initially engaged, their order is processed and ongoing support is provided. There are hundreds of moving parts in your business that need to add up to an incredible customer experience.
At some point, scaling out involves firing yourself from at least a few of the roles you fill. Bring in experienced hands to take over critical aspects of your business, with clear guidance based on your first-hand experience.
Training these experts to take your place is a scary proposition. Letting go of a specific role or daily task is tantamount to letting a child walk on their own for the first time. But it must be done. For your business to grow, you need a competent team to give every aspect of your growing business the undivided attention it deserves. You can’t do it all on your own, things will fall through the cracks.
1. Defining the Business Processes that Can Be Offloaded
The first step involves taking an honest look at how you spend your day. Running from fire to fire, playing slave to the inbox is no way to spend your day. At least not if you want to maintain your sanity.
There are specific things that you repeat every day. For my business, the things that were repetitive and eating up time centered around:
- Compiling reports on online customer engagement.
- Analyzing site traffic and drawing insights from the data.
- Drafting content updates for social media channels and our blog.
- Handling customer requests via chat, email and phone.
- Creating how-to-guides for common customer requests.
By spending a couple weeks mindfully tracking how I spent my time, I could identify areas where I could significantly free up my time by delegating. Delegating is something I’m still working on getting better at. Thankfully there are a plethora of online articles that have provided me with the guidance necessary to take the first step in firing myself.
2. Create a Recruitment Target
After you understand the tasks that need to be offloaded, it’s time to imagine an ideal candidate to fill the role. I use the following list to better define the role and understand the attributes that will help a candidate fit well:
- What is the time commitment required?
- What experience is necessary to complete the task?
- Is the task mostly repetitive, or does it require some ingenuity to complete?
- Does time-of-day matter for completion?
- How important are people skills to the role?
- Does the task increase revenue through sales or upselling?
- How important is planning and analysis to the task?
I’ve found the best members of my team are the ones that were recruited based on experience and measurable aptitude to complete the tasking they would be responsible for. While the big guys like to rely on college degrees and other social indicators in their hiring guidelines, I prefer to dig into the specific experiences and skills that a candidate has, which are directly applicable to the tasks I need them to complete.
Because my business is relatively small, with just 12 full-time employees, I’m able to craft the role to the perfect candidate. For example, if I conduct an interview with an applicant that has all of the skills necessary to complete my data analysis tasks, but lacks the ability to create compelling content, I can shift the role to better fit the candidate.
This approach doesn’t always make sense, but letting a talented individual back into the wild can be a horrible business mistake. Especially when that person starts doing great work for the competition.
3. Invest in Both Initial and Ongoing Training
After you’ve pre-screened, interviewed and short-listed a candidate, it’s time to make a final hiring decision. Congratulations, you’ve defined the role and completed the recruiting and interview process. The next step is onboarding your new hire.
This is where it gets tricky. You’ve spent the past few years in the trenches, crafting your start-up from the abyss into a brand people trust. Part of that brand trust comes as a result of your company’s unique culture. Your new employee’s first experience with your culture starts in the interview process.
For my business, my culture revolved around my personal involvement in virtually every decision-making process. While a few of my team members might beg to differ, I avoided micromanaging. I simply wanted to be in the loop and ensure every member of our team felt comfortable communicating with me.
If they hit a stumbling block and needed help, I wanted to know about it. That meant I could give them the benefit of my wisdom without sacrificing the time it would take for me to handle a task personally.
Beyond corporate culture, ongoing training and competency was the next most important factor in the onboarding and talent retention process. We used online training tools whenever possible to conduct training; tutorials, slide shares, explainer videos and even boring whitepapers helped us provide training without tying up valuable company resources (conference space, trainers, HR, etc.).
Today I’m enjoying a more manageable and productive workday. I have a competent team that helps me keep the trains running on time. And, as I use my time more productively to chase new opportunities, the only thing I’m left asking myself is why I waited so long to fire myself.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.