When we start working on a business idea for the first time it is very common to take on a majority (if not all) of the responsibility: from opening the store doors, cleaning, taking care of customers and suppliers, filing taxes, to turning off the lights and closing the office at the end of the day.
The day-to-day of a startup often depends exclusively on us, from the most simple of tasks to the most complex. As founders, our decisions influence each aspect of the business and we become indispensable.
However, essential this mode of business may be at startup, as we take our first steps to plan for the long term, this strategy must definitely change. For this to happen every entrepreneur must learn to delegate. As simple as it may seem, it’s an important challenge for every startup founder.
Consider Yourself, First
To successfully delegate, we are the ones who must efficiently perform those tasks first in order to then delegate them. Otherwise, how are we going to check in the future that they are correctly implemented?
For example, if we you in charge of a specific activity such as generating new clients and you are not doing a good job that generates results, you should not expect that by delegating this task to someone else that it will magically be performed correctly.
It’s our job as founders to be the first ones to find a solution to each activity in our company and to then transfer that responsibility to a new member of the team.
In our startup, Elmejortrato.com, how to efficiently implement email marketing was an important business challenge since day one. We worked for about 2 years on different email marketing strategies until we attained positive results. It was in this last stage, after we had solved different problems and designed a concrete system, that we decided to designate a person to delegate the task and assume responsibility.
If we had delegated it before finding a solution, we are sure that (far from helping the person in charge) it would have caused them a real headache. While it’s now another team member’s responsibility to keep and improve the process, they now (minimally) have a path to follow with clear guidelines in order to do their job.
A startup can be summarized as a constant search for answers to business and customer problems that haven’t been solved yet. We, as founders, are the ones in charge of this and then we have the capacity to delegate and escalate the scope of the project in the long term.
Take it Step by step
Once we find the solution to a business problem (one that we personally experience; reaching known results) it’s time to establish step-by-step documentation (i.e., a manual) to efficiently delegate the task.
In our case, we use Google Docs because it allows our team to easily share information and, furthermore, if the person who is currently in charge of a specific deliverable wants to make a change or improvement, he or she can do it with no problems and so the rest of the team can see it updated in just one place.
Developing a manual or guide isn’t complex, but there are certain factors we must respect including, but not limited to:
- The level of detail must be absolute. Nothing should be left at chance. Every item should be specified from beginning to end. For example, when taking care of customers on the phone, it has been proven that if the assistant has a smile on his face the results are highly superior and the customer can perceive it. In the end, if we want this to be a reality, we must add a point in the guide that says: “When receiving a phone call, before answering, you must have a smile on your face.”
- The steps must be organized in a chronological order and numbered for an easier follow-up. If the task doesn’t require a specific order, implement it anyway in order to reduce the degree of human error and mistake.
- When possible, add as many pictures, videos, tutorials, recordings, etc. as possible. An image can be worth more than a thousand words.
Choosing the Right Delegation Recipient
The last step in delegation is to recruit the right person to takeover the process moving forward.
This search, based on our experience with more than 20 members in our development team, emerges by first contacting partners from a local university (including specialization courses) and acquaintances you fully trust.
The reason we prioritize trust is this: if we are delegating a task, it’s because we need to focus on new challenges and not on constantly controlling his or her job on a daily basis.
The next priority after trust is professional development. It’s not always necessary to have new team members with years of corporate enterprise experience. On the contrary, it’s better if they have a minimum degree of previous experience, but it’s also positive if they have some degree of autonomy to adapt and improve the process that we give them.
The best way to find this type of person is by searching for candidates who are continuously undertaking new things on their own with new personal projects. This degree of independence means they are not only used to following orders from their bosses, but they also have the ability and vision to come up with new alternatives that are different from traditional ones. This is the correct company culture that every startup must maintain over time.
And lastly, there’s unfortunately no guarantee or exact path to follow to find a person that can help us with efficiently delegating our tasks. However, we run a lot of one month tests with team members that have passed the two previous aspects (confidence and autonomy).
This is also beneficial for employees to experiment and decide if they like new roles within their job description. We are always transparent from the beginning about our 30-day trial after which the follow-up of the new activity can be validated or not.
Cristian Rennella is the co-founder of elMejorTrato.com in Argentina, oMelhorTrato.com in Brasil, an online automatic insurance quotation; and CEO of PrecioSeguro, a startup that focuses on the growth of services quotes all over Latin America (Brasil, Chile, México, Colombia, Uruguay, Perú and Argentina). Connect with @crisrennella on Twitter.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.