by Bryan Miles, CEO and co-founder of BELAY
Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch.
Although I don’t usually like to generalize, there are certain qualities and personality traits that seem like must-haves for entrepreneurship — determination; a willingness to take risks; a preference for action over deliberation; self-reliance; persistence; and perhaps the most common of them all, confidence.
Confidence is clearly a good thing. It propels us through the inevitable periods of doubt and hardship, and helps us inspire allies to join our cause. But as in all matters, there’s always the possibility for too much of a good thing. And overconfidence in entrepreneurs is about as common as Birkenstocks at a Phish concert. Yes, I was in college in the 90s.
Now, before you get your hackles up, I’m not excluding myself from this criticism. When it comes to entrepreneurial missteps, I live in a glass house. So, I’m not here to throw stones … but, I’m going to. My goal is to help you avoid the mistakes that I made when first starting out, so please don’t take any of this as an attack. When I first started BELAY, I frequently caught myself slipping into the stereotype of the do-it-all entrepreneur.
Sometimes, especially when first starting out, entrepreneurs have no choice but to shoulder excessive loads. Limited capital, unexpected complications, 28-hour days, and too many instant-ramen dinners can make young entrepreneurs feel more like workhorses than innovators.
But don’t miss this, the “swiss-army” entrepreneur is overworked by choice alone. Their unwillingness to give up even the tiniest bit of control forces them to manage every single aspect of their business. They are the hero, so the hero must do everything. Wrong.
At its core, this tendency can be chalked up to two things — overconfidence and arrogance. I know that might sound a little harsh, but if you’re one of the many entrepreneurs who won’t delegate, it’s something you need to hear. By refusing to delegate, you are expressing supreme confidence in your own abilities, and full-on disrespect for those of everyone else.
To that point, there’s something that every single entrepreneur needs to hear (and sometimes more than once) — you aren’t as special as you think you are.
Like it or not, you aren’t the best person for every job, you aren’t superhuman, and there really are only 24 hours in a day. So, if you want your business to thrive, you’ll have to accept some humility and ask for help. YOU have to get out of the way.
An Introduction to Delegation.
When it comes to delegation, the first step is by far the scariest. Handing over that very first task to someone else is like leaving your kid at daycare for the first time. But in both cases, after just a couple of days, a profound sense of freedom will settle in. You’ll probably even have a hard time deciding on how to spend all your newfound time.
But as liberating as it is, it’s important not to dive into delegation too quickly. To help limit risk (and psychological discomfort), begin by delegating a few straightforward, administrative tasks to a virtual assistant (VA). Things like event coordination, travel arrangement, and report preparation can serve as excellent first projects for a new VA. In actuality, there’s a litany of common business processes that are ready-made for delegation to a VA.
Obviously, more complex tasks will require extra training, and may take some time before proving more efficient when delegated to a VA. When it comes to delegation, it’s important to always have patience, and take time to invest in your delegates. The more time you spend integrating them into your business and processes, the more time and energy they’ll save you in the long run.
Effective delegation will give you time to do the things that, as a leader, only you can do. By busying themselves with administrative tasks, do-it-all entrepreneurs often confine their businesses to “maintenance mode” — wherein all one’s time and energy is spent trying to keep the company afloat.
Businesses that employ effective delegation, on the other hand, liberate their leadership to focus on higher payoff activities, growth, culture, and vision.
One final, parting thought — although delegation is essential to every business’s success, it’s equally important to know what not to delegate. To help you better distinguish between the types of things that should and shouldn’t be entrusted to others, BELAY has produced a free delegation matrix worksheet for download on our site.
There are few things more exciting than starting your own business. Often, the energy and excitement compels young entrepreneurs to dive into (and oversee) every aspect of their new endeavor. Over the long haul, though, passion and enthusiasm are rarely enough to overcome the continuous challenges of running a business. I know this by my own experience trying. By investing in others that you can empower/delegate, young entrepreneurs can prevent barriers to growth, and accelerate their business’s ascent.
Bryan Miles is CEO and co-founder of BELAY. Miles (alongside his wife and co-founder, Shannon) leads a U.S.-based virtual solutions company that has over 550 people on payroll, all working from home, virtually. Prior to starting BELAY, Miles worked for companies in the tech and construction industries.