by Maren Kate, founder of personal concierge service Zirtual
There once were two young people who dropped out of college to chase down their dream of entrepreneurship. Both had good ideas, both worked hard, yet one spent thousands more hours working on their business than the other.
Now which of these two young, bright entrepreneurs do you think ultimately succeeded? The answer might be surprising. It’s the person who didn’t work the additional thousands of hours. Why? Maybe this quote from one of the great entrepreneurs of our generation will lend a clue:
I am often asked how I manage to keep my finger on the pulse with so many different companies and ideas to think about. This is all about the art of delegation. From a very early time, when we went from one company to two companies, I realized I couldn’t do everything myself. I had to learn the art of delegation and try to find people who are better than me to run the companies…
Stepping back frees the founder to focus on the bigger picture – to dive in when there are problems or to help close a deal. This is how I manage our diversified group: I am not involved in the daily business of any Virgin company, unless I need to be. – Richard Branson
The person who spent a lot more time working in their business was the same person who micro-managed their employees, spent too much time focusing on what they weren’t necessarily good at and wasted energy trying to become the best at everything. Instead of spending a fraction of that time finding people who were already the great and convincing them to join his team.
The second person acted more like Branson. She focused on the sliver she was an expert on and then surrounded herself with competent colleagues who could take her “big vision” and run with it. This not only freed up her time so that she didn’t work herself into an early grave, but it gave her the time she needed to invest in the certain parts of her business which would greatly affect success in the future.
Our natural desire is to want to be in control and in the workplace, especially in a startup, this often manifests through micro-management. The old idiom “If you want something done right, do it yourself” sounds logical on a small scale – but when you’re trying to build a business it can become crippling.
Not only will your team resent you if you’re constantly cramping their style, but you’ll waste precious time trying to keep tabs on 20 tasks versus focusing on one project and pouring all your energy into it. Richard Branson points to delegation as the reason behind his success, isn’t it time you give it a try?
Not only will you feel better (micro-managing saps energy and focus) but you’ll be more effective. An easy way to start delegating is by writing down a list of things you need to do, then writing down the people who work with you.
If you don’t have anyone working with you think of hiring on an assistant or intern. Choose a few projects that need completing and you know you’re either super passionate about or super good at, those are the things you’ll pour your energy into. Delegate the rest of the tasks to your team, assistant or intern.
Feel free to check in with them along the way and offer pointers if they get off track, but allow them to spearhead these projects with your input needed only at critical junctions. This will force you to jump into delegation mode head first. Once you get started you’ll be amazed at how much time this frees up for you to pursue “big picture” goals and the overall vision of your company.
Maren Kate is the founder of Zirtual, a personal concierge service for busy professionals, and writes about the startup life and unconventional living on her blog Escapingthe9to5.com.