Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

How start-up founders delegate while developing business

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The power of a man is limited, but it is not as he has a team. As we know, the key to maximize team power is to delegate. The following questions are when to hands off, how to delegate, and how to guarantee performance. Three pieces of impressing experiences taught me answers to these three questions.

Don’t hands off UNLESS both you and teammates understand your business well.

In the past few months, there were two main function departments within our startup. l took leading charge of production and almost totally handed off sales department. At that time, I still needed to talk with more customers to confirm what specific values our service really provides to them, needless to say my teammates. However, the sales department delegation prevented me to do so. It is not difficult for you to imagine how wrong my production work would be, on condition that neither I nor my teammates didn’t understand customer demand.

The best way to do market research is to sell. If company founders stop to sell or talk directly with customers, they will become less and less confident on what they are doing. Sometimes, founders will pray that their managers are willing to find out how to collect customer demand info and analyze it. Unfortunately four times in five, they will get unexpected results. Managers will not achieve what founders expected, because, in startup, there is no standard work process for teammates to follow. Most of the works need flexibility. Founder is the most flexible person, as he or she knows about his/her own business better than anyone else does.

Assign teammates work duties as specific as you can.

In a startup, only the founder and co-founders should be supposed to be multi-task workers.

Startup will have interns, part-time workers, or even full time employees sooner or later. Then founders are more willing to assign interns as much work as they can, because there is no clear position definition. Although founders hope that interns or other part-time workers can finish all the work well, in reality, multi-task will decrease their performance, because efficiency is based on familiarity.

During this summer, we had a telemarketing intern. She was pretty good at phone call communication. At beginning of her work, I only asked her to focus on one customer segment; she finished a given load of work faster and faster day after day. Now that she could finish one segment phone calls quickly, I gave her another segment to contact with to do market research, which is different from her familiar industry. It meant that she had to call clients in two totally different industries by switching phone call script. As a result, her performance decreased a bit.

Track your teammate’s work performance after your delegation.

Without tracking, you never know how badly or well your teammates do their job. Don’t pretend to know if you don’t track. According your tracking, you can not only resolve other teammates’ problem along the way, but also reducing accumulated mistakes that might be created by teammates. Meanwhile, your comments should be constructive, so that your teammates will think you are really helping them rather than you are just a picky leader.

Once I focus on production rather than sales, I asked telemarketing peers to put all main points of each phone conversation on a spreadsheet. They said yes. Actually they did write some points down but not in a manner asked by me. After few dozens of photo calls, the record seemed to be a little bit chaotic. Over time, the number of phone call records ran up 400, then I found difficulties in summarizing these conversations.

All in all, I hope this article can help founders who confronted the same problems as I did while delegating.