Often, to succeed, you have to get out of your own way. That may be especially true when you run your own business: You can carry all the responsibilities for just so long. You know you need to shed tasks — replacing yourself in the field, in the office, as a manager — but a combination of fear and hubris stops you.
A lot of the reasons remodelers come up with for why they can't replace themselves are just rationalizations, says Shawn McCadden, a former remodeler who is now director of education for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen and a REMODELING columnist. “When people don't know the steps along the path of success, they panic and fall back to their comfort zone.” Looking at those reasons and planning ahead — beginning, as author Stephen Covey writes, with the end in mind — will take you a long way toward fulfilling both your business goals and your life goals. For every objection that remodelers typically raise, there's a response that facilitates letting go:
I can't afford to hire someone. First, you must understand that employees are an asset not an expense. Then you have to do the math.
Victoria Downing, co-owner of Remodelers Advantage and a REMODELING contributor, recently consulted with a client who claimed that he couldn't afford help. So Downing walked him through what it would take to hire an additional staff member: Say you want to hire an office manager with salary plus benefits, a $50,000 package. Divide that figure by the gross profit. The company would have to produce an additional $143,000 approximately to afford that office person. Then the question is: If you could stop doing all the administrative stuff yourself, do you think you could sell another $143,000 worth of work and produce it this year? That client's resounding answer was yes. “The remodeler recognized that doing this would enable him to focus on other important areas,” Downing says. “If people would do the math, they'd see it's not anywhere near as intimidating as they thought.”
To ease fears, Downing suggests starting with someone part time. “Get a bookkeeper for six months until you see leads and backlog growing.”
It will take too long to train someone. It does take time to train people, yet you have to jump in and do it or you won't make progress. How you train makes a difference. Educating people to take over a task must include allowing them to understand the bigger picture, to challenge themselves, and to make decisions — otherwise, you're merely lengthening your arms. Mark Sass, owner of Sass Construction, Chanhassen, Minn., puts it this way: “I wasn't training employees; I was driving them to extend me.”
Gradually Sass was able to wean himself from getting involved in day-to-day work. Now he has three key employees — managers in sales, production, and office administration — who have the autonomy to make decisions. He used role playing and suggested solutions to train them to handle issues.
Training is not just for employees; you have to grow with the business and think long-term. If you're going to be replacing yourself in one area, it's usually because you want to be free to focus on another area. Steven St. Onge, owner of Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath, says he knew he needed more understanding of how to run a large remodeling company, so he attended classes at remodeling shows and worked on his CGR while his lead carpenter was training to become the production manager.
No one does it as well as I can. This is possibly true, but you shouldn't avoid delegating for this reason alone. “If you have someone who can do [a task] 75% as well as you can,” Downing says, “that should be a pretty good standard and allow you to let it go. They might not do it the same way as you — they might even come up with a better way to do it. You can't get too hung up on that. Think about results and not process.”
Ron Trull, owner of Trull Building Co., Newtown Square, Pa., says that even after 26 years, questions about delegating still cross his mind. “As a business owner you're never going to totally rid yourself of the fact that someone won't do it as well as you, but if you want to grow and advance — and the customers are happy and the product is good — you've got to let it go. There are always different ways of getting from point A to point B.”