Once you’ve figured out the high-value items on your To-Do list, you may be wondering how you’re going to do all of those other tasks that you haven’t listed as critical, but that are still important to the maintenance of your business.
Here’s the short answer: You don’t.
Someone else does!
Oprah doesn’t film her own show (heck, she doesn’t even choose her own clothes!). Tony Hsieh doesn’t answer the phones at Zappos.com. And Jay Leno doesn’t write all his own jokes. These powerhouses know the secret to their success is to focus on what they do best – the things only THEY can do – and pass the rest onto someone else.
Before you hand your company passwords and your Rolodex over to your 16-year-old son and head out the door for that long-desired Tahitian vacation, let’s review some of the basics of delegating and outsourcing.
First, what’s the difference? “Delegating” typically refers to handing tasks off to someone else in your organization, while “outsourcing” generally means you’ve contracted someone outside your company to handle specific tasks. You might delegate responding to e-mail to your assistant, while you outsource the janitorial services to a private firm. The distinction isn’t a big one, but it’s important because the cost structure is different.
If someone’s already part of your organization, they can take on additional tasks without having to be compensated for each and every one. But if you’re outsourcing, passing more activities to another, outside party will mean you’re paying more.
If you’re a work-at-home entrepreneur, you’re likely flying solo, so you’ll be doing more outsourcing than delegating. (You’ll be hiring contractors rather than hiring employees who work for your company.) But the same principles still apply. Here are five questions to ask before you pass a task on to someone else:
1. Does it really need to be done?
What would happen if NO ONE did this particular task? Would it impact your business’s credibility, profit, or customer service? If you can’t answer “Yes” to at least one of those categories, then you might want to think about crossing this one off the master list and letting it go undone.
2. Can someone else do it as well as or better than you can? If so, then this is not your core competency, and you should pass the activity on to someone else. Let other people do their thing while you do yours.
3. Will you ever have to do this again? If this activity is a one-time deal (installing software, creating an RSS feed, registering a product with Clickbank.com), there’s no value in you working your way up the learning curve. Let someone else do it for you.
4. How much will it cost you to outsource? We often overestimate how much we’ll have to pay someone else to do the tasks that we can’t or don’t want to perform. Get an estimate before you write it off as too expensive. You may be pleasantly surprised how quickly and cheaply an “expert” can handle those tasks that are languishing at the bottom of your list.
5. Do you enjoy it? If you don’t like doing it, find someone else to take it off your hands, pronto. Life’s too short to spend your time on activities you detest. And even more important, your displeasure will show in the end result. Do what makes your heart sing and leave the rest to someone else.
Entrepreneurs are do-it-yourself types, and you may be tempted to keep everything under your own control. But by trying to do everything with your own two hands, you’re actually stunting your company’s growth. Let others help you out, allowing you to concentrate where you add the most value. It’s the fastest and best way to grow your business.