Efficiency and productivity are common pains in the startup community. How can you squeeze more productivity out of the 24 hours you’re given every day? Some say you need to sleep less. Some say you need to sleep more. Here at Verge, we say Keep Calm and Delegate.
Jenny Vance, the highly-acclaimed (and highly-awarded) Founder of LeadJen has a lot to say about delegating as an entrepreneur. Here are her 4 biggest keys to use delegation to survive entrepreneurship.
1.) Know thy business
Start with what your business does best. Identify the core competency of your business. Is it critical for your business strategy to develop expertise outside this skill set? For LeadJen, the core competency is lead generation. It is fairly straight forward to seek outside support for functional areas that require scholastic specialty like finance and legal. However, its not as straight forward when looking at sales and marketing support.
Most people believe they can do it better, faster cheaper by hiring an internal resource and training them. I disagree. I run a lead generation company and we have quite a bit of experience in sales and marketing. However, I look for outside expertise when working to improve the win rate and to ramp up our sales team and prepare them to manage more complex selling efforts. When trying to grow our local and national presence in marketing, we hired a PR firm. Partners in these areas allow our company to stay laser focused on what we do best – lead generation. On the flip side, it makes sense for me to hire lead generation talent and develop them internally because this is in line with our business strategy and will fuel our growth.
2.) Know thyself
What do you personally want to be great at? Where do you see your role in the company? Do you enjoy client interaction or behind the scenes work? For me, there are a lot of things I can do but some I do because its necessary. For example, I have run operations but what I realized about myself is that when I focused on operations, I died a little bit inside.
Operational stress is the type of stress that steals my energy. When that happens, trust me, no one wants to be around me. It negatively impacts our culture and the company is getting neither the most out of me nor what it needs to thrive. There was a time when it was necessary for me to run operations. It taught me a lot about our business and our model. That said, I slogged around for more years than necessary in operations feeling like it was my responsibility to run it. Stress wasn’t the issue. I’ve learned that I can handle a great deal of stress when that stress comes from strategy, vision, ideation and competition. Now I seek to keep strategic needs of the business as my top priority. I’ve hired talent that thrives on improving the operations of the company and that is a terrific compliment to what I do best.
3.) Take tactics off the plate first
While I realized that running operations wasn’t my favorite activity, I didn’t get it off my plate overnight. I started by looking at the easiest things to teach to another person and worked to first remove those administrative items from my list. These roles for which it is easier to hire and promote in a young start up because there is less risk and less cost. Being a founder of a new business is overwhelming and sometimes it feels really good to cross items off the list during the day. Be prepared as an entrepreneur to feel pulled back into those tactical questions. After all, it feels good to know answers and solve problems, no matter how small. It’s extremely attractive as well as misleading to think that a busy day is a productive one for the business.
4.) Hire the right partners
Gaps in talent don’t always have to be filled with a strategic hire. Identify strong partners who have the essential core competencies and can speed time-to-market. Make a commitment to partners and have reasonable expectations. Partners cannot replace the founder’s expertise and passion in their market. This has come full circle for me in several entrepreneurial ventures. When I hired a PR firm to help grow the presence of LeadJen, I had a lot of misplaced beliefs about it:
1.) I wondered if I could do it cheaper in another way.
2.) I assumed it would save my time and someone else will do all this work for me so I shouldn’t have to be involved
3.) I expected to have an immediate and measurable ROI. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Yes, I could do this cheaper on a per hour basis but I found that it would take a lot more hours to do the same work. Plus, the PR team had relationships they could leverage for quicker placements and could share expertise in areas I simply didn’t have. The program would require my time and effort on a consistent basis. The asset which I owned that the PR firm couldn’t replicate without my help was passion and core competency in my industry. They needed me as a subject matter expert to share my story so they could craft it, tweak it, improve it and take it to market.
Finally, immediate and measurable ROI is what we all want at all times. However, its a rare exception to have those results. Our PR partner has built our expertise over time – not just with one article placement. We had to build credibility and continually craft stories to earn trust with journalists and editors. After 4 years of working together, we have more inquiries for blog content and more editorial opportunities that are finding us! My lesson learned is that I will pursue partnerships where I’m willing to commit my time and will work with the selected partner to establish a realistic timeline for ROI.
Finding the right talent and delegating tactical items has allowed me to focus my energy on what cannot be replicated by simply hiring another person – my passion, my vision, and my knowledge that comes from working with over 300 companies on their go-to-market strategy over the last 15 years.