Essential Delegation Skills for Small Business

One the biggest complaints I hear in the graphics industry is that work either comes in waves or it is dry and barren. It’s the classic “feast or famine” syndrome that many business owners and managers face. As much as people dislike this cycle, it often becomes an acceptable part of being in business.

But what if there was another way?

What if there was a way of rationing out the flow of work projects so that a business could enjoy healthy portions instead of constant feasts and famines? It is a challenge, but I think it’s possible.

Most of the creative directors, marketing managers, and small business owners I know enjoy doing what they do. And so do I. Helping bring creative ideas and concepts to paper or screen is often very difficult and prone to errors. But overall, my job is very rewarding. I get to work with some pretty cool and creative people in some very interesting industries.

But what often happens in small business is that just when the balance of projects seems ideal and manageable, a new opportunity comes along to tip the scale. Rather than decline these new projects, we usually take them on, which then turns a regular work day into overtime for already overworked staff or business owners. Our customers are happy that the job gets done, but our personal life suffers because of it. Sure, we get paid for the work, but inevitably a slower time comes along to offset the busy time.

Does this sound familiar?

A recent article I read has made me realize that a simple solution to this common scenario may well determine the success of a business. In the article, author and marketing expert John Jantsch states that if you are serious about building a lasting business, you must delegate.

Delegating tasks that are unrelated but necessary for your business is common practice. If you own a design studio, you want to delegate accounting and legal tasks. If you are importing products and marketing them locally, you need to delegate things like packaging and printing. But Jantsch believes that the two tasks every successful business owner needs to delegate are:

  1. Doing the actual day-to-day work that makes money for the business.
  2. Selling the actual day-to-day work that makes money for the business.

If you love doing the actual work of your business or if you love getting out and selling, this simple solution may be difficult to swallow. I have a tough time with it because I love doing graphic production projects and producing websites. But it does make sense if you ever hope to balance out the feast-famine cycle. So how does one begin to shift into this mode of delegation?

Finding Trustworthy Partners

One way to start delegating production and sales tasks is to begin establishing strategic alliances or joint ventures with either freelancers or other businesses that offer similar services as you do. This is not an easy task and often involves a lengthy trial and error period before trusting business relationship are established (formal contracts don’t hurt either). The constant fear is that if you find someone to do the actual work on your behalf, they might steal your customers. If you find someone to sell for you, they might send the work elsewhere or even get offered a sales position with one of your clients.

But the reason I know this works is that my business has been built on doing excess graphic production work for busy designers, marketing managers, and small business owners. The ongoing success of my business depends on my trustworthiness. And I know I’m not unique in that way – there are many people who will work on a freelance basis and only look to you for recognition. If your workload gets to the point where you need to hire someone full time, that’s great! Your hiring process will be much easier.

So no more complaining about the feast or famine cycle. Start delegating the actual doing and selling that makes your business worthwhile. And don’t worry: you can still do some of the work or some of the selling. Just loosen your grip on the workload a bit and find some trustworthy partners to do some of the heavy lifting.

Note: I liked Jantsch’s blog so much I am now reading his book Duct Tape Marketing – an excellent resource you might want to check out (read more on Amazon.ca).

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