Entrepreneurship and the art of delegation

The road to successful entrepreneurship is long and strewn with potholes. Navigating the road successfully requires the ability to delegate — especially time-consuming tasks.

Starting a business requires a great deal of time and energy, a significant challenge, especially for entrepreneurs who work alone. Multi-tasking, however, has its limits. Spending time on routine day-to-day tasks instead of identifying and pursuing potential clients or improving your company’s offering is counterproductive. The solution: delegate.

Here are some tips on how to master the art of delegation:

Simple, but difficult

Even if you’re great with numbers, have an employee (or train an employee) or accountant handle bookkeeping, for example. “There are many people who can handle the numbers side of a business,” says Jean-Philippe Dufour, founder of the web-design and marketing firm Tegara. “Bookkeeping was one of the first tasks I delegated.”

Invoicing is another task worth taking off the to-do list. “When billing is on your mind, you’re not focusing on other matters, such as business development and marketing,” says Mr. Dufour.

Since money is the name of the game, the future of any business requires careful tracking of accounts receivable. This should be done by someone other than the entrepreneur to ensure collection doesn’t affect relationships with clients and, ultimately, sales. “If the person who calls to chase down late payments is also the person who pitches new products or services, it can get complicated in a hurry,” says Mr. Dufour. “It’s far better to assign someone else to handle stale invoices, because sales requires a bit of charm and diplomacy.”

Entrepreneur, not receptionist

Wearing a receptionist’s telephone headset is a colossal waste of time for an entrepreneur. “My life, and that of my associate, changed dramatically when we stopped answering the phone,” says Mr. Dufour. “It’s incredible how much time can be wasted on phone calls, especially when employees can easily handle three-quarters of the calls that come in.”

That said, a savvy entrepreneur knows which calls to take—dealing with complaints for example. The entrepreneur knows how to handle difficult calls effectively, solve problems quickly and satisfy the person at the other end of the line.

Leave IT to the pros

Unless you’re a true specialist, relying on an IT professional not only saves time, but also protects your mental health. “It’s crazy how much money and time we lose when we try to improvise our way through computer problems,” says Mr. Dufour. “And there’s nothing more maddening than computer problems.”

Delegate what you hate

Tasks that an entrepreneur finds particularly unpleasant should be assigned to people who don’t mind doing them. Doing tasks we don’t like wastes time and worse, diminishes motivation—something to be avoided at all costs, because an entrepreneur’s most important asset is enthusiasm and a determination to succeed.

Not-so-good ideas

Delegating customer service to an outside specialist might save money in the short term, but it’s rarely worth it over the long term, according to Jean-Philippe Dufour. “Those who work for an outside firm don’t share the same DNA as your employees. In the end, outside employees often struggle to represent your company properly and they don’t have the same vested interest in its success.”

Working with recruitment firms can lead to similar problems. Recruitment services are often too expensive for new companies. “It’s not appropriate for a start-up,” says Mr. Dufour. “The entrepreneur will spend many hours working alongside an employee and is best placed to determine whether a candidate fits the company’s values and culture. An outside recruitment firm simply can’t do that.”


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