Most small business owners can't find enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. They know they should assign their tasks to employees, but which ones? To help you decide what to off-load, I've developed something I call the Skill/Value/Time (SVT) matrix. It helps evaluate tasks according to how much time they take, how much value they provide to the company, and how much skill they require.

Start by listing all of the regular tasks you perform; then, sort each task into one of several categories. In the example below, the primary categories include estimating, job scheduling, job report analysis, and on-site production work. First, rate the amount of skill required to complete the task, using a 1-to-5 scale (1 is low skill, 5 is high skill). Do the same for the value that good performance of each task brings to the company. The spreadsheet automatically totals these two numbers, but you must enter a delegation “Threshold” total at the bottom of the spreadsheet. In our sample, we've used 8, so any lower total is a good candidate for delegation. In the Y/N column, the matrix displays a “Y” or “N” based on the threshold you entered.

But skill and value are only half of the equation. You also need to consider two subjective factors: time and personal satisfaction. On a 1-to-5 scale, rate how much time a task takes; in the next column, enter a simple “Yes” if you enjoy performing the task; “No” if you don't.

Now you have all the information you need to decide which tasks to delegate. Tasks with a “Y” in the Y/N column are probably good candidates for delegation, but not always. Take “analyze variances,” for example. It meets the threshold for delegation, and our hypothetical owner doesn't like to do it. But it doesn't take much time, and a company owner should keep an eye on the company's efficiency.

Some tasks can be reassigned among several existing employees; in other cases, delegation means creating a new job description, and hiring and training a new employee. For example, the sample matrix indicates that hiring an estimator is a good move. Even though this is a skilled position that is critical to the company's success, it takes a lot of time and our sample owner doesn't really like doing it. He'll be more productive using the hours he's saved doing something else.

Before delegating anything, review the outcome for reasonableness, and pass it around to others in your office for comment and review. Then make your decision. The sooner you delegate, the sooner you'll find those extra hours in your day. —Judith Miller is a construction business consultant and trainer specializing in accounting, finance, and computerization. She lives in Seattle.