These days I spend at most two hours per week working in my productize service business. Sometimes less.
This has afforded me the freedom to devote full time focus to creating new products.
Delegation—and getting really good at it—became the centerpiece of how I build a productized service. Without it, I’d never reap the benefits of this career—creative freedom, a steady comfortable income, ownership of assets that grow in value.
So let me ask you:
Do you struggle with delegation? You know, the idea of you not being the one doing all the work? You not being the only person your clients ever talk to? You not being one putting out all the fires?
You’re not alone. I’ve been there and so has every other business owner—especially those of us in client services.
Here, I’ll boil down the 3 key ideas that took me from delegation frustration to owning a predictable, profitable, service-business that runs without me.
Early on, I figured out what makes the work repeatable. Then I mapped out the steps involved. I did thought experiments around picturing a day where I’m not the one doing those steps, which helped identify the specific roles I’d need to fill once I hire a team.
Then I spent a relentless amount of effort crafting processes that can run predictably. As new edge cases came up, I updated the processes to account for those. As things inevitably fall through the cracks or mistakes are made, I added quality assurance checks.
I made hard decisions about things we would do and wouldn’t do. Areas where we could be flexible, or could not. Systems that could take variables and dependencies, and those that must run the same way each time.
Having great processes has made my business resilient to changes and surprises. It has also made it an enjoyable place to work, and has been able to retain amazing people who’ve stuck around for years.
Crafting processes and putting them to work has become a labor of love. That’s why I built ProcessKit, a tool for creating and delegating processes with your team.
You have to establish an enormous sense of trust in the people you choose to delegate to.
No, I’m not going to just say “hire great people” and leave it at that.
How can you truly get to a point where you trust other people to do the creative work that you’ve been doing yourself? How can you trust others to talk to clients, when you’re the one the clients are paying? How can you trust others to have the same sense of personal accountability that you do when it comes to delivering what was asked of them, on time, every time?
It begins and ends with trusting yourself.
You have to trust in your ability to identify talent. Trust your gut on choosing the right people to work in your business. Trust in your ability to foster a healthy working relationship with them. Trust your processes to manage how their work gets delivered, while ensuring they have the space they need to do their best work possible.
When you trust in your own ability to hire and manage people, you can trust in their ability to execute. That’s how you go from you delivering the value, to your business as a whole delivering the value.
Trust doesn’t just come overnight. It takes lots of trial and error. But if you commit yourself to becoming a great delegator, then you’ll continuously learn what works and what doesn’t.
It is absolutely possible to go from being solo to a team of 5, 15, or 30+ (and it’s up to you to decide how small or scaled up you want to go!). I have seen this happen for me and others. So no, I won’t accept the all-to-common complaint I hear, that “my work just can’t be delegated to others.”
When I started my productized service business, I had a very clear-cut requirement for it:
I would not be the one responsible for creating the work that we deliver to clients.
In other words, if I am forced to be the one creating the deliverables myself, then this won’t be the business for me.
By setting that constraint for myself and my new startup, I focused from day one on making this a fully delegate-able business. A value proposition that can and will be purchased, even if the customer doesn’t know who I am. A process that can be executed people other than myself. A team that can continuously evolve and grow—even to the point where someone else manages the hiring process!
So now that my business runs and grows with less than two hours of my time per week, do I just sit at home watching Netflix all day?
But most of the time, I’m working on new ideas, learning new skills, and creating new products. Owning a delegate-able, profitable business that doesn’t require taking on investors or debt makes that possible. With that space to breathe, I’m able to work on ideas that have legs…
Which might someday walk and then run without me.