How to Stop Letting Your Business Run You — and Start Running It

  •    Meredith Wood is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans.

As a small business owner, you’re probably used to juggling most, if not all, aspects of your company yourself. While this is a common, and to a certain extent unavoidable, reality in the early stages of a business, you may reach a point where you find it is no longer sustainable for your lifestyle. Or maybe your company is growing so quickly that you simply need more hands on deck.

Whatever the reason, you can delegate tasks to your team—even if that means building a team first—so that you can stop letting your business run you and begin to run it. Here’s how.

​Decide Which Tasks to Delegate (and to Whom)

Make a list of tasks you will continue to do yourself versus those you’ll need to hire someone to handle, or reassign to existing employees. Will you need new employees to work full-time, or are there specific tasks or shifts for which you need more help? Are there any roles you can potentially outsource to a freelance contractor?

Keep in mind that with a small but effective staff, roles may not be completely distinct. Everybody will likely wear multiple hats and do a little bit of everything, and there may be some overlap among roles to ensure that you’re fully covered on specific tasks.

Even with these considerations, you’ll want to map out which types of tasks will be done by whom before beginning the hiring process. The most important thing is to define your own role as clearly as possible. That way you’ll have a good idea of the roles you’ll need to fill—and the best candidates to fill them.

Find the Right Candidates for Your Business

According to Wall Street Journal’s guide How to Hire Your First Employees, the best candidates for your small business will be flexible and self-motivated: “In many cases, the ideal candidate can operate with a great deal of autonomy and doesn’t require hand-holding.” Experience working in a small business and cross-functionally is a plus—these candidates will be comfortable in the unique and changing environment of small enterprise, where roles may be more fluid than in the big corporate world.

To find these ideal candidates, ask for referrals from your current employees if you have them. Post on small, industry-specific job boards to receive a manageable number of relevant applications, or attend an industry meet-up event to network. Consider bringing in a recruiter or employment agency if you are filling just one or two roles, particularly if these will be high-level positions. Mashable’s Lauren Drell offers lots of other great hiring advice in 10 Hiring Tips for Your Small Business.

Communicate Clearly

Delegation requires you to communicate as clearly as possible, helping your staff to understand (see) your vision for your business and their roles within that vision. How can employees know where you want your business to go, how you plan to get there, or their roles in that process unless you tell them? It is important to have a clear mission statement for your business, although it may evolve along the way.

Reference your business plan. How do you fund, operate, and market your company? How do you plan to develop and grow your company over time? Your business plan should be a living document that evolves and grows along with your business. With these goals in mind, outline employees’ roles and responsibilities as much as you can at this time, while making employees aware that the business and their roles may evolve.

Next, you’ll need to create an employee on-boarding process and handbook, detailing expectations, codes of conduct, compensation and benefits, leave policies, and the like. In the beginning, these may be fairly bare bones. That’s okay, like your business plan, your handbook should be a living document that you update as you add staff and their duties become more clearly defined. Make sure that you communicate to your staff a sense of your long-term goals and your company’s philosophy.

Update and Organize Your Paperwork

Bringing on employees for the first time will affect all aspects of your business—and that definitely includes the records you keep and the taxes you file. See the Small Business Administration’s how-to guide on getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN), beginning to withhold employee taxes, setting up appropriate insurance, and more.

While some of these changes may seem daunting, the biggest pieces will be learning the legal requirements and putting a system in place to meet them. If you have questions or concerns, the SBA offers free advice on its website and locally through district offices of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Your bookkeeper or accountant can also guide you through how to set up the proper withholding and file the appropriate forms.

Delegating some of your many tasks to staff so that you can transition into a more executive role may be challenging at first—both emotionally and logistically. But ultimately, you will be glad that you did.