shutterstock_270492107The first post of this series, Big Challenges for Small Business Owners, examined the three biggest challenges owners face: people, finances, and time. In the The Small Business People Puzzle: Part 1 and Part 2, we looked deeper into the challenge of finding, selecting, attracting, orienting, training, motivating, and retaining the right people to ensure a small business has the human resources to be successful. Likewise, the last post addressed finances. Now it’s time to take a look at the last challenge which is time.

Most small business owners I meet are working more hours than they desire and are not happy with their work/life balance. In my Big Challenges post I suggested some beginning actions to help business owners gain more control over their time. Now, let’s dig a little deeper.

One of the most effective methods for small business owners to reduce their work hours is to increase the work they delegate to direct reports. All too often, owners fail to increase their delegation in proportion to the growth of their employee base.

As noted in Why Can’t You Get Anything Done?, an article based upon a talk given by noted Vistage speaker Jim Alampi (,

“Unfortunately, there is often a learning curve involved in learning to delegate, and small-business owners don’t have the time or patience for that. Delegating involves empowering – and trusting – your employees.”

This statement hits at the heart of the issue. Entrepreneurs frequently start out wearing many hats and out of necessity make all critical decisions in their company. As the company grows and the number of decisions to be made explodes, they tend to only let go of those decisions they see as non-critical. This forces their direct reports (and others) to continually bring issues and decisions to their boss’s door.

Breaking this dynamic and gaining back hours means you, as a business owner, must change your behaviors and help your people understand that you are making permanent changes that empower them to make more and more decisions … even at the risk of making mistakes!

Here are a few basic questions to consider in formulating a plan of action for delegating more and working less (hours):

  • Which of your people do you trust to do the right thing?
  • Are there things that are preventing you from trusting in them enough to delegate more, or do you just need to break an old habit?
  • If you trust their ethics but feel they are not knowledgeable enough to make good decisions, what can you do to make them more knowledgeable and when will you do this?

If you are in the majority and complain about long work hours while failing to delegate in a reasonable manner, guess who’s the problem? That’s right. YOU are the problem. Your people won’t step up unless you give them clear authority and assure them you don’t expect them to be perfect.

So, what’s it going to be? Continue running yourself ragged and failing to develop your people, or make an honest effort at delegating more so you have the opportunity to get your life back?

I hope you choose the latter and wish you the best!