Delegating in a small business

In this article, KashFlow look at how technology is making delegation easier than ever for small businesses.

Owning and running your own business means you get used to doing everything by yourself. But there comes a time in every business’s success story when the workload becomes too much for one pair of hands.

If you’re a sole trader, or used to managing your team in a very specific way, then delegation probably won’t come easily to you.

It might not even occur to you as an option.

But not knowing how to delegate, or even who to delegate to, can result in small business owner/operators holding on to too much work of their workload, often to the detriment of their business.

Delegation is an essential business skill

All small business owners need to learn how to delegate. Whether it’s to cover for a sick day, hard-earned holiday or another cause of absence – it’s important to have people around you that can pick the work up when you’re not doing it.

Beyond that, there comes a point when you have to stop working ‘in’ your business and start working “on” the bigger picture.

By passing routine tasks, or tasks that others could do better, on to other members of staff or external parties like contractors or freelancers, you’re giving yourself time to look at important areas like business strategy and analysis.

There are plenty of overall benefits to delegation – it saves you time, helps you achieve more and it allows you to produce higher quality work in critical areas as opposed to spreading yourself over multiple projects. It’s good for team building too, and one way to encourage better staff retention is to involve your employees in the business to a greater extent.

The key steps to successful delegation

Whether you’re outsourcing the work or delegating to someone internally, there are five key steps to successful delegation:

  • You need to start by identifying the right person for the job, taking into consideration their skill level and workload.
  • Clearly specify what your desired outcome is by giving a clear handover with the parameters and expected targets clearly defined.
  • Discuss the project to establish that the goals have been understood, establish ETAs and find out how the employee will approach the job so you both know what to expect.
  • Keep up to date with progress and offer support where it’s needed, but don’t get too involved!
  • When the work is done, give recognition where it’s due. This’ll help build team relations and establish you as a likeable leader.
  • Just remember to focus on the results, not procedures. Everybody has their own way of working, and part of being a better leader is letting others work in their own way.

Using technology to delegate

Many modern workplace standards like email, instant messaging and video conferencing make it easy to check in on projects even when you’re not sharing an office space with your delegates. But technology goes way beyond that now.

If you’re delegating externally (also known as outsourcing) then websites like eLance and Upwork can put you in contact with creative freelancers, while Speakernote can help you find a keynote speaker and LinkedIn can help with new hires. A quick search online will bring up plenty of sites that’ll put you in contact with contractors and aides in any industry.

When it comes to managing the work itself, look at workflow management apps like TallyPro and ProWorkflow, which make it easy for you to track time and projects from one digital space. They’re well suited to time-strapped business owners looking to automate select processes, share documents, manage projects from wherever you are and collaborate online.

If you need to share resources, look at sites like Sharepoint or Dropbox. Both will allow you to share access to your resources without compromising on security. And all of these options also allow you to centralise your data, so that everyone is working from one place.

In KashFlow’s Accounting Software, we’ve recently added Multi User functionality to help small businesses achieve just that. By assigning business specific roles like Sales and Purchases to trusted employees, you can delegate ongoing responsibility in a controlled manner.

Delegating externally

If you’re a sole trader, or your team has skill gaps, then you’ll have to consider outsourcing. Outsourcing often results in reduced overhead costs, as operation and labour are usually cheaper.

If you hire a seasoned freelancer or contractor then you’re likely to get professional work and bring seasoned skills into your business. Alternatively, working with someone new to the industry might expose you to a range of new ideas and come at a cheaper cost.

Whoever you work with, make sure you draw up a comprehensive contract that covers the work you want doing, the payment due (including any instalments if this is a long-term project) as well as any further amends or follow up work you may expect to be made at the end of the project.

Delegating internally

If your team is already in place and you feel they have the skills to carry the workload then you should preferentially consider delegating internally. Doing so can benefit your team by allowing them to develop new skills, increase their personal investment in the business (which in turn improves staff retention) and improving teamwork across the business.

Internal delegation is best for recurring projects, or jobs that require a better understanding of the business. It can build trust, communication and engagement amongst the team and can contribute towards a positive business culture.

Of course, not all delegation requires responsibility for projects. You can also reduce your workload by empowering employees to take control of their own personal admin. Adopting HR software with employee self-service is one quick way of achieving this.

Self-service allows employees to access and update their own details, file holiday requests and track their own personal progress. You can find other ways of encouraging employees to be more self-sufficient in their workplace, for example taking ownership of their office space.

Ultimately, they key to successful delegation is a mix of proper communication, tracking and crediting work where it’s due. Technology allows you to do this on a global scale if needed – giving you access to the best in field from wherever you are, and whatever your budget may be.

Further reading on delegating

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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