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Owners: The Ultimate Danger of Delegation

As a business owner, you’ve likely heard that the secret to a successful, scalable business is “delegation”. I myself have given that advice, and benefitted from it as well. It does come with one major, major drawback though.

The benefits to delegation are many. I often have told a business owner something like, “If a team member can do it at least 80% as well as you can, then you should delegate it.” I’m a big proponent of delegation because most owners hold onto tasks far too long even though the potential benefits are almost too numerous to count: better outcomes, training value, freeing up your time for other tasks or time off, scalability of the business, etc. However, there truly is one huge issue with delegation that you will need to face if you are to continue to be happy in your business.

That issue is boredom. Yes, your own boredom. In my own business history, I found that it took years to be able to ‘let go’ and delegate tasks to my team. I would hold onto something far too long just because it was easier to do it myself. I knew better, but it didn’t matter. It was a form of business-owner-laziness... not making the short-term investment of time to train your team even though it will produce long-term returns. However, when I eventually flipped the switch and learned to delegate well, it was almost an impossible habit to break. I would slip on occasion, but I quickly got into the habit of allowing the team to take care of all the business’ needs, and frequently in a better way than I did! That was when the problem occurred.

If you find yourself approaching full delegation of your daily duties, you need to have a plan similar to that of an owner considering exiting their business, even if you have no plans to exit. Simply put, you need to answer the question, “How will I spend my time?” Even if exiting your business hasn’t crossed your mind, truly delegating everything can leave you with an empty feeling similar to retirement with no future plans. Anyone that has retired will tell you that it’s important to have activities to do post-retirement. For a fully-delegated business owner, those are likely much different than retirement, but the line of thought is still the same.

So what do you spend your time on once you have delegated everything?? You may choose to work on expanding the business. You may choose to pursue a tangent business. You may decide to do community-oriented work that has professional benefits as well, but still isn’t working in your actual business. Or you could even decide to act like you are retired (travel, family time, etc) and stay invested in the company for the near-term. No matter what you do though, you have to do something.

I know this from experience because once my company was operating largely from the efforts of the team as opposed to my own, I found myself sitting at the desk just waiting for email... with not much else to do unless there was a problem. It can be nice from a profitability standpoint, but it also can leave you without much feeling of purpose. It’s a very empty feeling.

If you are a business owner reading this, I truly do hope that you reach a point of close-to-full delegation of daily tasks because that is when the business is most valuable on the market should you decide to exit later on. And in the meantime, it is much more enjoyable to see the company operating successfully without your daily required involvement. However, you simply must have a plan for your time as that period of freedom approaches. Otherwise, you may find that the uncommitted free time that you so desperately wanted becomes a curse instead.

If you need help with delegation in your business, or long-term planning, please reach out on our Contact page. Thank you. I wish you the best as you build your business.

Mark Goldman


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