How to delegate work to succeed as a small business owner

Editorial Team

4 min read
Two people talking with their hands

As a small business owner, you may feel you have to do everything yourself. It is true that many small business owners learn new skills to support their main area of expertise—just ask a restaurateur poring over permit paperwork or a ceramicist fixing her shop’s leaky plumbing. But as your operations scale up or life gets in the way, there will come a time when you have to give up on overexerting or cloning yourself and instead try delegating work to others.

If done well, delegation can save you valuable time and energy. Once you’ve trained an employee or automated software to perform routine tasks, you’ll have paved a nearly frictionless path to getting things done without having to do it all yourself. Plus, you’ll likely have more time to invest in accomplishing the business owner responsibilities that need to stay on your plate, rather than constantly task-switching and/or feeling overloaded.

Not only can delegating duties help you balance your life, it can also help deepen your relationships with employees. Entrusting someone with new responsibilities can make them feel valued and help them see a future at your business. Staff turnover is expensive and generally harmful to employee morale, so retaining existing employees can make all the difference for your business. And when you take the time to teach an employee a new task, you can also show them your preferred method of doing that task–and that can build mutual trust.

So, whether you’re growing your business, taking a much-needed vacation, or experiencing unexpected medical or family issues, knowing how to delegate work to employees can help relieve the burdens you carry as a business owner. Here are a few key tips.

Know which tasks to delegate

As a small business owner, you are ultimately accountable for the big picture. That means maintaining ownership of the tasks that impact your business’s strategy and long-term performance–for example, hiring decisions, equipment upgrades, and recipe development. Conversely, consider delegating routine tasks–those tasks that should have the same outcome every time. Depending on your business, routine tasks could include taking inventory, counting down cash drawers, or baking the same muffins that have been on the menu for years.

Pair tasks with the right people

Delegation has an element of matchmaking. Although getting to know your employees should be an ongoing process, learning how to delegate tasks may require holding one-off meetings with each person on payroll (or each team leader) to check in on your workers’ career goals and specialized skills. For example, if a certain manager has studied statistics or is great at mental math, see if they would be interested in analyzing sales reports for you. Likewise, a plant-loving server may be just the person to nurture your restaurant’s houseplants. Make sure your newer employees are settled into their jobs before you add more responsibilities to their workloads.

Consider digital process automation

You can even delegate tasks using your POS system. Clover software and apps can support your business by automatically generating sales reports, paying vendors, setting aside sales tax, and even ordering receipt paper. Browse the Clover App Market to find your next big time-saver, and log into the Clover Dashboard to conduct and manage your business from anywhere.

Prepare yourself for mistakes

An employee who has never performed a particular task before will almost certainly not perform it as well or as quickly as you could. That’s ok, because perfection and speed are not the primary goals–reducing your workload is. Know that mistakes will happen and may sometimes cost you more time and effort than if you had simply done the original tasks. However, your workers will learn from their mistakes and will trust you more if you handle errors gracefully. Efficiency will come in time.

Give employees room to perform their new responsibilities

Nothing demoralizes certain workers like being micromanaged—and if you’re micromanaging, you’re likely not making effective use of the time you have saved by delegating work. After you have trained your employees to perform certain responsibilities, allow them a reasonable amount of time to complete those responsibilities before you check in. Of course, let them know they can access your support as necessary. But until the preset window of time is up, let them be the ones to initiate that conversation. Afterward, check in with your workers to see how the task went for them—did they feel challenged, or did it come naturally? Would they feel comfortable continuing to perform that task?

Know how and when to reward your workers

Employees will only perform so many additional tasks without additional compensation. Show that you value their time and effort by rewarding them with extra pay and perhaps even a better title. Extra pay could come in the form of a one-off bonus—even a small sum—or be awarded at an annual review. This kind of recognition can foster goodwill and loyalty among your employees.

Learn how Clover is helping small business owners, like you, simplify and automate routine tasks, like inventory, customer engagement, and more. Be sure to check out the Clover App Market, or reach out to a Clover Business Consultant to learn more. 

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