Recently a client of mine, Chase, who runs a successful landscaping company in Idaho, asked me how you, as the owner “take stuff off your plate” as the company grows. He said, “As you grow your business and get to the point of not being able to handle every single phone call that comes through to your cell, how do you start to delegate or wean clients off of you and train them to rely on your team? I’m talking texts and calls/voice mails about broken heads, service calls, simple things. I can’t deal with all this effectively.”
The trouble is that far too many landscapers don’t learn how to delegate properly and it costs them business and creates stress and frustration in the process. Here are three tips on how to move tasks from your plate to someone else’s.
1. Empower your team. The first step to taking work off your plate as a CEO is to have a capable team you can delegate to. Tell these good teammates what you want them to do via job descriptions and clear instructions and let them do their job. I’ve been there when I could not handle everything my clients needed so here’s what I did. I called them, or, sometimes depending on the situation, I went and saw them personally and said, “Mrs. Jones, I love working with you and because of great clients like you, we’ve grown Grunder Landscaping and I am no longer able to handle your account like I have in the past. So, I would like to bring Brent over and he is going to take care of you.”
I can’t remember anyone being unhappy with this. I take Brent over and introduce him to Mrs. Jones and make it clear that Brent is able to help her and then I also tell her if she ever needs me to call me on my cell phone.
It’s then up to Brent, as I explain to him, to not give her any reason to say anything other than, “You know what, I like Brent better.” I then tell Brent to send her a handwritten thank you note and keep her on his call list. In a matter of time, trust is earned and things are actually better, provided Brent does a good job. I stand behind Brent and show him by my actions that I believe in him. Today, Brent is one of my valuable team members that I can send anywhere any time.
2. Learn the right way to delegate. You don’t just dump all your problems on your team. You delegate the responsibility and the authority to them. The key word here is authority. We just talked about empowerment. Here’s the right way to delegate: “Brent, I need you to call Mrs. Jones and go see her, walk around in her garden with her and get her a quote to update it. I need you to do it by 5 p.m. this Friday and I want to see a copy of your quote, as you always do, in my bin by Monday morning. Let me know through the process what is going on, so I can call her to follow up. I want her to know you are in charge; however, I also want her to know I care. She’s been a client of mine for twenty years, okay?”
I then tell Brent, “I find I don’t always communicate very well. Would you tell me what you heard me say so I am certain that what needs to be done is understood.” Brent then goes on to tell me what he’s going to do. I have used this process hundreds of times. The important parts are the clarity of the direction, a time with a deadline and asking the person to whom you delegated this task to tell you what they are going to do.
There’s no point in talking a whole lot about the wrong way to delegate. Too many times I hear landscapers frustrated with what their people did and after I investigate, I find they told their teams to “call Mrs. Jones and see what she wants.” That’s not delegating, that’s dumping, and that won’t work!
3. Stay out of the way. The surest way to get more work on your desk, not less, is to jump in and take over problems and tasks that you have asked others to do. If you have said to your team a job is theirs to do and if you have delegated the task, you have to say out of the way, even if you don’t like how things seemingly are being done. The myth that you are the “only one who cares” or that “you have to do everything” is false.
Brent started with me almost 10 years ago and the first calls I sent him on as a salesperson weren’t handled the way I would handle them. I watched, pointed out the good, suggested some things he could work on and we kept working on things. Today, he’s a confident, empowered sales professional to whom I delegate large projects all the time. We have a tremendous rapport and I am very proud of him. He doesn’t even ask me for help, unless it’s bad, because he knows I believe in him and I trust him and I don’t meddle. I have other things that make Grunder Landscaping more effective.
Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See www.martygrunder.com; mail