For someone who has started up a business from scratch and fulfilled every role required to get their company off the ground, delegation can be difficult.
Learning how to delegate successfully will make a huge difference to how you run your accountancy practice. It’s not easy; there is a huge amount of planning and hard work involved for most people, but once your fledgling venture finds some success you have a choice to make – do I keep my business at a comfortable size, or do I try and build it up to its full potential?
For many, striving to take your business further is the obvious choice, but that usually requires the help of others. This is where some smaller accountant practitioners – and small business owners – have a problem. At this point you realise that it is impossible to do more on your own, but you have to trust others with your company’s best interests.
You may believe that no one will care as much as you (which is true) and that no one else will carry out tasks to your own high standards (which isn’t true). You have to trust staff or subcontractors to take work off you to ensure that you are utilising them fully and making the most of the resources you have at your disposal.
Here’s a revelation – they might actually be better at some tasks than you. Recognising areas where you are not an expert can provide the opportunity to pass these tasks on to people who have more expertise in that particular field, enabling you to concentrate on the areas that you are good at.
So how can you learn to delegate effectively? We asked Sage Australia HR Manager, Rachel Sutton, for her views on this topic:
1. Identify tasks to be delegated
There are only so many hours in the day, and you don’t want to take on an overly punishing workload that will inevitably lead to burnout.
Draw up a list of every task or project that is essential to keeping your company ticking over or growing. From here you can decide which of these be delegated. Decide whether you want to offload the more menial work that could be done by an admin assistant, or earmark specialist projects for external experts?
Tracking how long tasks take is also useful when deciding to delegate as you can pass over the more time consuming tasks in favour of billable time activities that actually impact the profitability of your practice.
It’s also worth considering what you enjoy doing, as it may make sense to continue this work yourself, to ensure your own work satisfaction levels are maintained. For example, if you find marketing to be a necessary evil, why not get someone else to do it instead?
2. Draw up a brief
Now that you have decided what you want to be done by someone else, make sure you give them very clear instructions on how you want the work to be carried out, and what you expect the final result to be.
The level of detail that you provide will depend upon the experience and expertise of the employee or contractor, be careful not to assume someone else has the same level of understanding about the expected process and outcomes as you do.
Make sure that you are available to the employee or contractor if they have any queries whilst they are carrying out their task.
Try and be open to any suggestions they might have as this may increase efficiencies or reduce costs.
By discussing your brief with the employee or contractor and remaining flexible, you can allow for some fresh ideas to be incorporated into the project.
3. Track their progress
The last thing you want to be doing is looking over someone’s shoulder, and it is something they certainly won’t appreciate either. Schedule regular meetings – ideally face to face – and video conferencing might be a good alternative if meeting in person isn’t practical. If you have a timetable for a project, regular catch ups will help you to ensure that everything is running on track. It will give both of you peace of mind that things are going well, and if you come across any glitches, it’s always a problem halved!
Always back up your team even if things go slightly wrong, and this show of support will keep morale and confidence high.
When you have established a certain level of trust you will find it much easier to let go a little and be able to spread out meetings a bit more. It’s always good to keep an eye on things, but at some point you should be able to get to a stage where you can hand a project over completely and allow people get on with it.
4. Remember your manners!
You might have paid someone to do some work for you, but always make sure you thank them. If everything has gone well, you might want to delegate increasingly responsible tasks to them and encourage them to develop their skills further.
Making workers feel appreciated will result in their keenness to maintain high standards, meaning that you can have increased faith in their capabilities and results. This will then free you up to focus more on the work you find more enjoyable and allow you to take your company to the next level.