You told me you are the best salesman your company has…if you could only get out on the street and sell more often. With the budget crunch we’re all facing you laid a couple of people off in the office and now you and everyone else are picking up the slack. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t afford to spend a full day in the field because of all the time it’s taking you to run your company.
My question is: “Why?” And the answer most likely is: “Because there are so many things I know that no one else has a grasp of, so what else am I to do?” I have a suggestion: Go out and spend $15 or $20 an hour and get yourself a competent assistant whose sole job is to keep you out of the office.
Add to staff in the middle of this mess? You betcha. If you were free to spend four full days a week out making deals (you should spend a day in the office to keep the wheels on the wagon) do you think you could sell $2,000 worth of stuff? Am I kidding? That’s barely a sale. But if, because you were able to get out of the office, you could make even a measly $2,000 worth of sales, at normal margins (say 40%) your four days of selling would pay for your assistant.
Sounds pretty good! But it’s not quite that easy. People have probably been telling you your entire career that you should delegate more. Your answer, if you’re like most people, is “it takes just as long for me to try to train someone else to do some of these things as it does to do it myself”. And you’re absolutely right. But if you examine the “highest and best use of your time” are all the things that keep you in the office really the best use of your skills? Of course not. So you must learn to delegate so you can get out and make some money.
When you want to turn a job over to someone else, there are two different things you can delegate: responsibility (being in charge of getting a task done) and authority (the right to make certain decisions usually reserved for yourself). You can delegate authority without delegating responsibility but you must never delegate responsibility without delegating authority. Unfortunately people who are not used to delegating often make the mistake of doing the latter because they’re afraid of giving up too much control.
For example, you decide to let your assistant supervise the office staff but you deny her the right to fire anyone. How can she fulfill her assignment if everyone knows she has no clout? Or you put a mechanic in charge of maintaining the trucks but deny him the right to sign a purchase order for parts. In both examples, you force the employee to come back to you before they can finish their job. Oops…but you’re not in the office.
The next difficult thing to do is to isolate the things you do that can be delegated from those that you, personally, really have to do. An easy way to spot the delegable tasks is to separate the things you do into “thinking tasks” and “doing tasks”. A “thinking task” is one in which you have to make decisions or choices such as deciding what to buy for the holiday season or extending credit to a new customer. These are the ones that tend to need you and your years of experience. A “doing task” is a matter of carrying out a “thinking task”. These are the ones you can usually delegate.
Ask yourself, "Does this task really need my brain? Is my personal touch really necessary or do I just do it because I’m in the habit?" Do you really need to sort through the mail every day? If you’re looking for checks (we all do it!) someone else can sort the mail and give you the checks or, better yet, make a list of the checks that came in and give you the list rather than letting the checks lay on your desk while you’re out in the field (selling more product so you’ll get more checks). How about writing your own letters or making your own copies or reviewing the payroll?
There comes a time, and this is that time, when the most efficient among us will survive and the rest will disappear into the ether. Thinking you’re saving any money (or being more efficient) by doing things yourself and being tied up in the office is not true. As the founder, CEO and best salesman your company has, don’t forget your original strategy: get out there and beat the bushes. That’s where you belong.