Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Early in my career, I fell into a trap that plagues many entrepreneurs: I took on every responsibility myself. I was really good and fast, and completing tasks faster instantly resulted in greater immediate short-term profitability. After all, why would I assign a task to a team member to complete in four hours when I could complete that same task in two? Why would I hire a new designer, when I could tackle an extra project over a weekend?
I suffered from the short-sighted trap of overvaluing time efficiency. Sure, this project would be slightly more profitable, but I failed to educate, provide institutional knowledge and set our team up for scalability. As a leader, one of my primary responsibilities should be ensuring our workflow and processes can scale and grow the business. If I’m doing the work, I’m working for the business, not on the business.
You can’t grow your business if every task relies solely on you. If you are in the process of scaling and growing your business follow these tips to ensure your company is on the path to success.
Delegate early, delegate often
You have to let go and you have to delegate. If you only delegate tasks when necessary, you’re not giving your team a chance to succeed. Delegation is a muscle that needs to flex. Your team needs to know what to do, how to do it and they need practice. Build operational protocols for repeatable tasks so your team knows your expectations and processes. Give them the tools and time they need to do the job right.
Surround yourself with smart, high-integrity people
As a business owner, you don’t want to be the best at every job. If you are, you’ve hired the wrong people. You want to be the best entrepreneur, not the best widget maker, creative, designer, accountant or lawyer. Your team members — who specialize in these skills — should be the experts. Likewise, you need to trust them. I don’t believe in hiring shifty savants. Your business is your reputation. Bring in people who you trust to steward your reputation. Would you trust your employees to watch your house for a weekend? You should.
Encourage collaboration to foster innovation
Competitive advantage is rooted in good working conditions, collaborative team interplay and the marriage of creativity and data-based analytics. It is the work of teams that drive work forward. Successful businesses work together, with each team member incrementally improving on the work, ideas and processes of the last. Many of your best ideas will come from playful back-and-forth sessions.
Build scalable processes to grow profitability
Without scalable processes, uncontrolled growth can ruin a business. Your average cost per unit of work output should decrease with scale. If your margins aren’t improving, you have no incentive to grow and you may even be discouraged. Your business should be implementing models to identify efficiency areas, and leveraging automation technologies to make repetitive tasks faster and easier.
Related: Are You Scalable?
Systems and processes are essential for growth, but only if they are readily available and accessible for every member of your team. Your team will face problems every day, and you need to leverage lessons learned for your entire organization. Document every procedure as you go with a detailed account of precisely how a task is achieved. Better yet, document processes as you accomplish them. This guarantees you won’t leave anything out, or even forget. Moreover, tie these processes to specific work tasks (like a project management system) such that when a task is triggered it is accompanied by the appropriate procedural document. After all, if your team isn’t reviewing your processes, what’s the point?
Job roles and responsibilities should be also be clearly documented, such that new hires can more easily acclimate and train efficiently for what’s expected of them.