After owning a business for over twenty years now, here’s something I firmly believe. Your business is worthless until it can operate without you.
Now that may seem a bit harsh to some, but until you’ve created a system that allows others to bring in the business and provide the products and services without the need for you to make it happen, you’re stuck in a job. It may even be a well paying job, but it’s probably not one that you could convince someone else to come in a buy some day. In many ways, your business is stuck to the degree you can successfully delegate the work you do today to others. Others may mean key employees or it may mean other companies or virtual support staff, but your goal as the owner of the business should be to actually rise to the level of CEO.
We could all argue about what CEO work is, but I’m guessing you spend large parts of your day not doing it. I get that, the printer gets jammed, the package needs to be shipped, the copy must be proofread, and then it’s time to go home. One of keys to growing your business to the point where you can rise to the level of CEO, the place where you can focus on the highest payoff work, is to adopt a mindset of systematic delegation. The first step in creating this mindset is to analyze the work you currently do each day and assign a value to it in a way that creates priority.
The value matrix
I like to do this little exercise with people because is assigns a fictitious monetary value to work that helps with delegation thinking. To me there are four kinds of work we do each day – $5, $50, $500, $5,000. (The actual numbers you use for this don’t matter as much as the concept of differing values.) The idea here is that some work you do has great value and is likely the work you should attempt to focus on and some work has little value and is certainly the work you should delegate if you are to ever get to the high payoff work.
$5 is stuff you can easily delegate such as proofreading, link checking or many kinds of basic research.
$50 includes stuff that you’re probably not that good at and should pay someone that’s likely better to do, such as getting your site to run faster, creating PPC campaigns or most of your bookkeeping functions.
$500 is the trickiest one of all. This is usually stuff that’s important, expensive to delegate and that you may indeed be pretty good at, but that will keep you from truly getting free. This includes things like writing sales copy, creating key PowerPoint presentations, delivering your services or even making sales calls.
$5,000 is the high payoff work, but it’s also the hardest to accept because the payoff may indeed be off in the distance, so sometimes it doesn’t feel like the most important work. Spending more time in the $5,000 box should be your goal if you’re ever to set your business free to create value. This is innovation work, strategic partner creation, product and service development, masterminding, documenting and delegating your success systems. The items left in this box should be things you enjoy doing, that serve your passion and purpose and that tap your core abilities or you might need to rethink your business entirely.
Draw a box and create four squares, placing one of the above numbers in each box. Now, go through you typical work week and think about the tasks you’ve done or do routinely and put them in one of the boxes according to what you think they are actually worth. For most people the easy delegation starting point is the $5 and $50 boxes. Right now, commit to documenting how to successfully get that work done by others and start looking for ways to stop doing anything that keeps you in these boxes. Look at your $500 box and start thinking about items in that quadrant that you could delegate. This will be the hardest one because this box almost always contains things that you enjoy doing or that you don’t think you can ever get anyone else to do as well as you, but this is where the real progress comes from.
The to-delegate list
As you start to adopt this thinking make it a daily habit by combing over your daily to-do list. Write it down and then break it into two tiers – to-do and to-delegate. Identifying the things you’ve come to realize you can and should delegate, but still do on a daily basis, will train you to focus on getting them off your to-do list.