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Home > Lowe's for Pros > The Art of Delegation

The Art of Delegation

The art of delegation

By Kim Arnott

If you're a small business owner, odds are you love what you do, and you're very good at it. Whether you install windows or fix plumbing, you wouldn't have started your own company without both passion and skill. But if you spend all your hours installing or fixing, how will your business ever grow? And if you let someone else do the job, will they do it as well as you? Will they be reliable? Keep your clients happy?

Although the idea of delegating can be frightening to some small business owners, it's also crucial to the future of the business, says Dan Kelly, senior vice-president, legislative affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). "One of the chief reasons why a small business may stay small is a hesitancy on the part of the business owner to delegate effectively," he says. If you are turning away business, or unable to find time to market your services, it may be time to consider delegating. Here are five tips to consider:

1. Decide what size you want your business to be.

If you're happy staying small and can maintain your business without significant marketing efforts, you may simply need to outsource some of your administrative tasks, says Roger Pierce, small business expert and co-founder of However, if you want to grow your business, you need to make strong sales and marketing pushes a priority, and delegating will help ensure these initiatives don't get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day work, he says.

2. Find people you can trust.

Whether hiring a tradesperson to do a portion of a job or an employee to work by your side, you must have faith in the people you're working with. On the upside, delegating responsibility can help you retain good employees by offering them new challenges and growth opportunities. You may also find employees can surprise you with their skills and enthusiasm when given the opportunity to learn and handle new tasks, says Kelly.

3. Make an investment.

Employees need to be trained, mentored and monitored. By making the time to do this, you not only build their skills and confidence, but your peace of mind as well. Effectively communicating your needs and expectations is key to delegating, says Joel Scopelleti, co-owner of the Toronto-area general contracting company Carick Home Improvements. "If people know what is expected of them and if you give them the freedom and confidence to do what's expected, most times they will do it," he says.

Pierce urges small business owners to create an operations manual to document how tasks should be done. "As your business grows, you want to pass along what works," he says. "It may sound scary, but it's really just a series of checklists outlining how to do a specific task." Putting a job into writing also makes it easier to replace employees.

4. Remind yourself why you need to delegate.

Delegating frees up your time for higher priority work, such as seeking out marketing opportunities or finding lower cost suppliers. It also gives you peace of mind that your company will be able to function if you get sick or take a holiday.

5. Hold on to the important stuff.

There are some tasks you may never want to delegate to anyone else. For Scopelleti, that task is communicating with his clients. "I think customer communication needs to be dealt with by the owner," he says. "You don't want your tradespeople to be explaining problems to your clients. That's your responsibility. Clients sign a deal with you. The reason why they're choosing your company is mostly because of you, and I don't think you can pass the buck on that one."

Kelly adds that small business owners shouldn't delegate tricky human resources issues, like giving negative feedback to employees, unless they have hired a professional to handle those tasks.

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