Most entrepreneurs face the ongoing possibility that they’ll simply work themselves into the ground by trying to do everything themselves. Many small enterprises are directly tied to their owners – which means that the minute the owner stops producing, the cash flow and the business skid to a halt. This is a recipe for burnout.
Raw enthusiasm is a wonderful energy, and a necessary part of bringing a business to life, but you need never allow it to devour you. The trick to surviving the burnout challenge is to maintain peak enthusiasm without draining your energy supply to the point of vulnerability. When you feel the hot breath of burnout on your back it’s time to consider sharing the workload.
An owner’s willingness and ability to delegate will determine the future of a business. “Delegating” is a vital skill for involving more people in your organization, and to building a solid, healthy business model.
Here are seven guidelines to consider when preparing to delegate.
1. Do as much yourself as you realistically can, for as long as you can. Most small enterprises become successful because of the owner’s tireless efforts, particularly in the earlier stages. As long as it doesn’t go on to the point of burnout, this is an ideal opportunity for the owner to get to know all aspects of the business.
2. Build a base of profitable sales. Just as you need oxygen, your business needs cash flow. It’s not enough to simply have cash passing in and out of the business, there must be some profit left in the coffers at the end of each month. Profit will open the door to growth, and to the luxury of paying hired help to handle some of the work.
3. Identify the tasks that you wish to delegate. In some cases, you’ll want to hand off chores that someone else can do more efficiently than you. You may wish to keep some functions because they are core to the business operation, or because you’re skilled at doing them.
4. Write a description of the tasks you will delegate. Where needed, clarify the process for the person you will delegate to. Define how results will be measured, how you and those taking on the tasks will know the job is done, and done well.
5. Select the right people to delegate to. Test drive relationships by first doing shorter engagements – ease into longer agreements only with people you trust and who have proven their abilities to you.
6. Follow-up. Measure and monitor the results of the delegated jobs. From the beginning, establish a culture of performance-based task management. Those you delegate to must understand that you will be monitoring their performance. Where possible, payment and rewards should be tied to performance.
7. Critique privately, recognize great performance publicly. When a worker makes mistakes or doesn’t meet the performance objectives, assess what the problem is and meet with them in private to discuss solutions. Make a habit of showing your appreciation for a job well done; doing so in appropriate and public ways makes the recognition even stronger.
Burnout is never completely off a purebred registered entrepreneur’s radar. If you find yourself working too many 18-hour days in a row, it may be time to re-assess where you’re at, to identify the necessary budget, and to hire help.
What do you do to avoid burnout?