How to Use Strategic Delegation to Grow Your Startup

Learning how to delegate effectively is a critical step toward growing your startup. Here’s how to do it. 

Written by Clate Mask
Published on Apr. 22, 2024
How to Use Strategic Delegation to Grow Your Startup
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When you’re a solo entrepreneur, the road is a relatively smooth one. Sure, your revenue will reach a natural cap because you’re only one person, but you also get to set the strategy and run the show. What’s more, you’re not managing anyone else. Everything about your business is in your head, and you make decisions accordingly. 

3 Steps to Start Delegating More Tasks

  1. Practice entrepreneurial organizational design.
  2. Ask for candid, trusted feedback
  3. Run your organizational chart through an ICE exercise

But then, you make a hire — and another and another. What started as fairly straightforward decision-making and operations can quickly become chaos and strain. The good news? You can prevent this outcome, but you have to remember this: New hires can’t read your mind. It’s up to you to lean on strategy and delegation to keep your business on the rails as you grow. Here’s how this looks in practice. 

 

Do Less, Lead More

Early in your startup’s growth, you might hire a small team of employees. These are typically people you may already know or share in your vision. This is the easy part. There’s typically a high level of trust here. Your employees know you on a more personal level and you know them, making communication and delegation easier. 

But once you scale your company and begin to augment your team with new hires, the dynamic can become strained. There’s not enough of you to go around to manage more employees, and you see that you need to hire another leader or manager. Someone has to “co-parent” the company with you. 

When you bring this individual on board, or promote someone already on your team, it’s time to slow down and teach them everything that’s been floating around in your head until this point. Once you have this second layer of leadership, your employees will no longer be able to read your mind like they used to. 

This happens most commonly around the time you reach $1 million in revenue. Companies often plateau around this stage or the $3 million stage due to processes, product or, in this case, people.

As your team requires more leadership, a need that will feel very unnatural arises. As the owner, you’ll need to stop trying to steer every single aspect of the ship and start focusing more on leadership. This is a major adjustment for many entrepreneurs, most of whom have gotten as far as they have because of their grit and round-the-clock work ethic. 

But now, you have teams. This requires a different level of leadership, trust and communication. As you continue to grow from this point, the health and success of your business will depend more and more on your leadership team and how you, along with them, evolve and lead through changes.

More on LeadershipHow to Lead by Letting Go

 

3 Tips to Start Delegating as Your Startup Grows

So, how exactly do you accomplish that? Here are the nuts and bolts of what it takes.

 

1. Practice Entrepreneurial Organizational Design 

This is something I can’t recommend enough. You can really do this at any point in your business, but the earlier, the better. This is because going through the exercise will provide you with a roadmap that helps you align your existing team with the team you’re most likely to need in the future, should you hit your goals

Of course, it can change over time. But going back to this effort ensures you’re looking ahead and making changes on your team according to how you plan to grow. 

This starts with first looking at your mission and determining what your company will look like in three years’ time (or another period of time, if you wish) if you’re on track. Then, consider what the organization chart will look like when you’re in that place. 

Map out how many sales and service representatives you’ll need, and which departments you’ll have. For example, if you have two salespeople now and you hope to double in growth within three years, it would make sense you’d have four salespeople at that point in the future. Yes, it’s all projection, but doing a visual exercise like this, which shows what your org chart will look like if it matches your mission, helps you start working toward both. 

 

2. Ask for Candid, Trusted Feedback. 

When you create your organization chart, you’re also going to discover something startling: Your name will probably be in 10 different boxes. It will be immediately clear why you feel so overburdened and stressed all the time. This is the moment when entrepreneurs need to decide to relinquish control over some of those responsibilities, because here’s the truth: there are some you’re not good at. 

Take a look at all the areas you’re trying to remain involved in, and list all your associated tasks. Then, run it by someone who knows you and the business well. We all have blind spots, so it’s important to ask another person which ones you’re skilled at and which ones you struggle at. This will help you identify areas you’re stretching. But it doesn’t end there.

More on Leadership10 Ways to Effectively Handle Negative Feedback

 

3. Run Your Organizational Chart Through an ICE Exercise

Next, run it through an ICE exercise. Label each part of the business and associated task with either I for incompetent, C for competent or E for excellent. Plan to stop doing the tasks you marked as incompetent, and gradually aim to stop doing the competent ones as well. This will help you relinquish control over every single business task and find people who excel in those areas to optimize your company’s growth. Over time, you really should only be spending your time in the areas in which you’re excellent and delegating the rest. 

There are always growing pains when your business brings on employees and leaders, but ultimately, the point of both is to draw in new revenue and lead your business to success. If you remember that new hires can’t read your mind, and make sure you’re communicating what you need from them to drive your business toward the fulfillment of your vision, you’ll be well on your way to sustainable growth. 

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