For those entrepreneurs that try to do everything themselves, maybe it’s time to delegate.
There are two kinds of entrepreneurs
One type is the big picture, big idea, visionary type (think Steve Jobs), and the other is the super organized, attention to detail, analytical type (think Steve Wozniak).
Most of the entrepreneurs I come across in my life – which skews toward the solo business, independent professional – are more like Wozniak. They’re Type-A hustlers that control every part of their business, from marketing and sales to production and execution.
This is what makes entrepreneurs and small business owners great. They are incredibly focused, wear many hats, and thrive on finding and solving problems. In fact, Steve Jobs is probably one of those people that fall into both camps, as his involvement in the product and obsession with every detail is legendary.
But while the obsession with controlling every aspect of their business can be a positive, and provide great fulfillment for those making it on their own, it can also be their downfall.
I heard a great interview with Chris Ducker, who appeared on one of my favorite podcasts, Internet Business Mastery. Chris has a great new personal website up and running at ChrisDucker.com (which looks so good I’m jealous), and among other things he runs a virtual assistant outsourcing company in the Philippines called Virtual Staff Finder.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a VA, but haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger. I’m on board with the value one can bring… hiring someone at a lower cost to help offload tasks, enabling you to do the things you really want to focus on.
He asked the question:
Do you have Superhero Syndrome?
In other words, are you trying to be the hero in your business, putting out every fire, rescuing every damsel in distress, and saving the day?
Without hesitation, the answer for me, and many others, is yes. As I mentioned, the very skills that make us these superheros can also be our kryptonite.
In some ways, when you’re just starting out and building your business with little revenues, you have to be a superhero. As a one man show, there’s no one in the next office to delegate to.
But once your business starts to grow, your time is being pulled in many directions. The next logical question becomes, OK, I’m ready to have some help, but I don’t know what to delegate.
Chris does a great job breaking down the three areas that entrepreneurs should delegate.
1) Things you hate to do
For this example, Chris made it abundantly clear what he meant. He said if there are things in your business that you hate doing so much that you’d rather swallow your own vomit, then you should outsource it.
As I go through my business personally, I’m trying to figure out what items fall into this category. I have to admit, it’s tough for me to come up with something. I think a popular category for most would be doing the bills and accounting. This is especially true for creatives like graphic designers, who are generally great at right brain, creative tasks, but less good at numbers.
But for me, even though it takes a few hours per month to do my bills (Much of it is automated, then I sit down and do everything on one day), I actually love running the numbers. Part of it is in my blood – my dad is an accountant. Part of it is that I like crunching numbers. And part of it is that I think it is important for me to really analyze the balance sheet for my business to make sure I am on track each month.
2) Things you cannot do because you don’t know how
This is pretty straightforward and makes a lot of sense. In my case, one of the things I (unfortunately) have to outsource is the removal of malware from my website. Like millions of others with WordPress blogs, I’ve been the victim of some hackers getting some code into my sites and causing some issues. Each time, despite my Computer Science degree, I wasn’t comfortable enough digging deep into my database to find the offending code, so hired a pro to make the problem go away.
Another example is design. I’m comfortable in Photoshop manipulating photos each week for blog posts, and I’ve done some coding, design, and basic website creation for sites such as GetYourNameToday.com. I update all my blogs to some degree. But in terms of designing something from scratch? In that case I outsourced to a designer.
What falls into this category for you? Search engine marketing? Podcast editing? Programming? Copyediting? Think about the things you just don’t know how to do, or are no good at, and there’s someone out there that can do it for you.
I took a look at some of the things Chris suggests on his website, as well as new site TaskRabbit.com to get some suggestions.
- Unfollow uninteresting twitter accounts
- Transcribing hand written notes into Word format
- Podcast transcribing
- Crop, edit, and prepare photos
- Research for posts
- Keyword research
- Blog management
- Data collection and entry
Example of a tedious job being outsourced on taskrabbit: “I need to have about 110 store names, addresses and phone numbers be taken off a website and manually entered into a spreadsheet. There is no simple way to do this, it is just a tedious data entry project.”
3) Things you should not be doing
This last category goes a bit deeper and really made me think. Just because you like doing something, and just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should be doing it. Sure, Steve Jobs should have the final say on the look and feel of the user interface on the iPad, but if he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t be the one sitting at a computer and redesigning the color of the icons on the “Photos” icon.
Let me give you two examples of things that I am struggling with in terms of this last topic.
Video editing. I wrestled with this one for awhile recently. For my book trailer, it made sense to go to a pro. For things like my podcast newbie intro, I tried learning Final Cut Pro myself. And now I have a set of travel review videos from my most recent trip to tackle. Knowing the time commitment, should I hire someone to edit them and give them a pro look? Or since I enjoy doing it, should I invest the time, save the money, and do them myself? In the end I chose the latter. I haven’t started yet so maybe once I’m done I might say “never again,” but at this point I made the decision to go it alone, hoping that I get more efficient at doing it, and developing my own style and having this as a valuable skill.
Sales. This is one that I think I am going to try, probably hiring a friend locally to start. I want to do more speaking engagements around my salary negotiation speeches. There is a laundry list of people I should be approaching… colleges, women’s groups, small business associations, job search companies. Yet, I keep putting it off. My thought is to at least have someone else be doing the work behind the scenes to create a spreadsheet with the name and contact information for each of these groups. Or maybe take it to the next level and write an email that is ready for me to send. Or why not go as far as being my “speaker representative” and doing all the work for me, so that they come to me with gigs that I can just accept or decline? Yes, there are speaker bureaus that do this, but that’s not the path I want to take right now. This is something that takes time, can be done while I sleep, and can drive direct revenue. I’m in.
As my business grows, I need to break out of my Type-A, do everything, control every aspect, mindset. Do you? When I reach that point I’m going to check back with Chris to see if an overseas VA is the right choice for me.
Just like accounting or video editing or sales, delegation is a skill every successful entrepreneur needs to learn. Even a superhero.
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