Are you the go-to person when your customers have a problem? Is being on the front line for all customer issues starting to hold back your small business growth? It’s one of the problems of small business owners that Inc. columnist and veteran entrepreneur Norm Brodsky talks about in “Sidestepping the Needy-Customer Trap.” You build your business based on your skills, reputation and attentiveness to customer needs. Now that the business is growing and you need to turn your attention to other matters, clients keep coming back to you to resolve their issues.
This catch-22 of small business ownership is compounded by the fact that today’s mobile technology enables you to be available to customers anywhere at any time. However just because you can always answer a call; doesn’t mean you should, especially if you want your business to keep moving ahead.
The answer lies in learning to delegate, which, as Brodsky points out, starts with hiring the right people for the job. Then advise your clients if your team can’t solve an issue, they can always come back to you.
Provide training: Whatever the job and regardless of its complexity or simplicity, make sure your team is properly trained. (See: Training your small business team within your budget).
Communicate clearly: Make sure that team members understand their responsibilities and deadlines, if they too matter. Also put assignments in the context of other jobs or tasks in your small business so that everyone understands how their work fits into the big picture. It helps to ask questions after you’ve finished your explanation to ensure that each team member is clear about the task and your expectation. Also, be available to answer questions or provide more guidance if an issue comes up.
Allow for individuality: Not everyone works the way you do. Allow for the differences. Getting to the goal is the objective; not how someone gets there. When you enable someone to work the way they prefer – as long as it meets company policy and procedure – they have a greater sense of ownership over the work and are more likely to succeed.
Check in: Periodically follow up to make sure that work is on track and to provide assistance if needed.
Show appreciation: Everyone wants to feel appreciated in addition to getting a paycheck. Recognize your team members for a job well done and their contribution to helping grow the business. You also can reward good work with a bonus, time off, attendance at a conference or some other way that says ‘thanks for going the distance and more.
Everyone you hire brings unique capabilities to the table. When you delegate and give people room to do their work in their own way, you unleash those talents and skill sets for the benefit of your small business.