Don’t Be a Victim of Your Success—Delegate!

You’re busier than ever. Clients are coming back for more and referring others. Business is booming but it’s beginning to take its toll on your stress level. You’re beginning to feel overwhelmed. Essential “back office” business tasks are being neglected. Are you filling your pipeline? Are your books current? Are you taking time to relax and have some fun?  You’ve been doing it all, but now it’s time to delegate.

Thanks to a paradigm shift on the workforce over the past decade, small business owners now have excellent options for covering essential tasks without hiring an employee and incurring the many employment costs and taxes. Seasoned professionals with backgrounds in accounting, advertising, sales, customer service, management, IT and just about every other area you need to cover, are working as independent contractors. They work with little supervision or time commitment by you. Many are choosing a less-than-full-time career path in order to balance work with family or other interests. And you don’t even need to provide workspace because most of them work virtually from their home offices.

But how do you decide what to delegate and how do you find the right contractor? Here’s a winning game plan:

Understand Your Needs and Work Style

Definitely keep for yourself tasks and activities that only you can do and delegate the rest. Analyze how much time you are spending on tasks such as bookkeeping, marketing support, sales support, special projects, and research. These are the types of tasks that are the easiest to cover with by a virtual professional business contractor.

Develop a Job Description

Determine the skill set necessary to accomplish the task—one person may not be able to do it all. Then develop a job description. Keep in mind, however, that the professional you engage will likely be able to suggest ways to improve your approach to a task, given his/her specialized experience doing that specific kind of work, so be flexible and open to suggestions.

Recruit and Engage

Either work with a staffing agency or do the recruiting yourself. Either way, conduct rigorous interviews. Good “chemistry” is essential. Clearly communicate your expectations, deadlines, and standards. Ask about the prospect’s backup plan (when out sick/vacation/emergencies/technology issues). Discuss pricing/budget—by the hour, by the project, on retainer. For on-going work, discuss working style and how best to communicate—schedule time for updates/progress reports. Then meticulously conduct reference and background checks.

Execute a Letter of Agreement/Contract

The contract should include all terms and conditions. It should include the job description; specify performance evaluation procedures and timeframes; cap the number of hours/month or set a fixed fee; and establish payment procedures. It may also include a Confidentiality Agreement.

Manage the Virtual Team Member

Based on the job description, develop a detailed, prioritized work plan outlining the scope of work.

    • Focus on desired outcomes; expect your virtual team member to make them happen professionally and efficiently in conformance with your expectations, standards, and schedule.
    • Include procedures for dealing with unexpected contingencies and emergencies.
    • Include milestones to make sure the project is heading in the right direction and accomplished on schedule and within budget.
    • Specify information and materials that you will provide, such as  content/graphic files/data/materials/supplies.
  • Use your work plan to as your guide. Calendar milestones and check in with your virtual team member at specified times. Examine and tweak the work but don’t micro-manage.
  • Nurture your new relationship. Be patient, flexible, trusting, and respectful.
  • Within the timeframe specified in your agreement and workplan, evaluate performance. You will know soon enough if the relationship is destined to last for the long haul.
  • Be mindful that working virtually precludes critical non-verbal communication. This means it’s more important than ever to have good verbal and written communication with your virtual team member.

You can do the recruiting, screening, and engagement directly yourself, or you can use a staffing agency—a “matchmaker”— who can help identify just the right individual and ease your transition from “do it all yourself” to “make sure it all gets done.”

If you go through Office Angels, we’ll make sure you have a match made in heaven!