Productivity / Outsourcing

Delegation skills: The magic hats of small business

Soloists wear many different hats. One day you’re a sales person, the next a marketing guru and the one after that you’re wearing the finance hat. On any given day you could be changing hats repeatedly, which is why you need good delegation skills.

8 November 2011 by

I was reminded of this when I read my child a book about a magical hat that drops onto the heads of different people, instantly transforming them into various animals. With each temporary owner, there’s a different story, a guessing game as to what will happen next.

Who’s got my hat?

It’s the ability to share the duties of particular hats or delegate them entirely that makes it possible for many businesses to grow and succeed. Letting others assume certain responsibilities can help you focus on your strengths, but many soloists find it difficult to share or delegate their hat-wearing duties. Here are three of the most common reasons this might happen:

  • You don’t have the finances to hire the people that will allow you to delegate key roles or transition into only performing specific responsibilities yourself.
  • You don’t acknowledge or understand the importance of delegation. In my experience, this is most likely to affect business owners who are specialists in delivering a particular service, and these are the people who have the most to benefit from delegation; it allows them to focus on their specialty while people with skills in other areas manage the day-to-day business functions.
  • You fear failure or change, and find it difficult to let go of controlling every aspect of your business.

Redistributing your hat-wearing duties

How can you unburden yourself of unnecessary hats so that you can better meet your clients’ needs and grow the earnings and value of your business?

In most businesses, the important hats can be divided fairly simply: the finance hat, the human resources hat, the salesperson hat, the inventory or service manager hat, the marketing hat, the legal hat and the operations hat. And then there’s the crown jewel that is the director’s hat.

"It’s the ability to share the duties of particular hats or delegate them entirely that makes it possible for many businesses to grow and succeed."

The typical small business owner performs all these roles and while many perform some of these functions very well, each requires a very specific and distinct set of skills.

Typically, there are areas that are poorly managed or neglected through lack of skill, time or knowledge. This presents a range of risks and can be responsible for the business owner spending time addressing issues.

Simply skilling yourself up to perform all the functions your business requires isn’t usually the answer. It tends to be much more effective and sustainable to divide the roles and delegate those responsibilities you perform least well or that carry the most risk.

Want more articles like this? Check out the outsourcing section.

Outsourcing your headgear

As a business owner, you will always never be able to know everything, so it’s your responsibility to turn to others for support.

It’s not always necessary to hire additional staff, and can often be more beneficial to seek out external specialists who have the training and experience to not only wear the hats you need, but wear them well.

Typical examples of advisors small business owners can outsource to include lawyers, taxation or financial specialists, and sales and marketing experts. These external resources are there to free up your time and take certain responsibilities off your desk, so you can focus on what you do best and manage your responsibilities effectively instead of constantly fire-fighting.

Manage your hat stand not your hats

The secret to successfully managing your hats is to think like a hat stand. Its job is to be the keeper of the hats you’re not currently wearing so you can see what skill sets are available and what responsibilities you need to keep abreast of. Any hats that aren’t currently on the stand are those you’ve outsourced to other people.

In my mind, deciding not to recruit experts to wear your hats is a gamble. You either need to be prepared to bet on your own skills and try again if they’re not up to the job, or invest in others’ expertise in order to establish your success with much stronger foundations.

Which hats do you wear in your business, and which do you delegate? What difference has it made? Do you have good delegation skills?

Karl Veitch

is a partner with Bates Cosgrave, a chartered accountancy firm in North Sydney. With extensive experience across issues that small business owners face, Karl's goal is to ensure business owners set up and grow their businesses with the right foundations.


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