How to Delegate for Small Business Success

by bcope

Every successful small business owner must learn how to delegate if he or she wants to be successful. Many skills are involved and no person can be an expert in all of them. That’s why you must put others in charge of some aspects of your business if you want to maximize all your opportunities.

But when you give up control it creates fear. So the question becomes how to overcome this fear, maintain high quality control and delegate at the same time. The answer is to create black boxes.

What Are Black Boxes?

“Black boxes” in business are mini- systems. This is a great way to invest in your business because the payoff is huge. You detail exactly what steps need to happen for a given task so that someone else can complete the work. In some cases, you hire someone else to detail exactly what must happen. Either way, the owner (or manager) initiates and holds the employee or service provider accountable. But the owner /manager doesn’t do the work. This is how to delegate.

Advantages of the Black Boxes Management Approach

Perhaps the most important advantage of “managing black boxes” is that it keeps you very focused on the entire business flow since it enables you to have a birds-eye-view without being distracted by little technical details. As a result you’ll make better business decisions.

As a small business owner, you should choose carefully when to delegate and when not to delegate. So you must think through which boxes you define as “black” and which boxes you define as “white”. In every business there are some core tasks that should never be outsourced or delegated.

These core tasks, in most cases, define the relative advantage of the business which enable the business to have a unique selling proposition (USP). Another business function that should never be outsourced are those that would provide sensitive information you wouldn’t want your competitors to know about. For some businesses it could be the customer base and in others it could be manufacturing process of their products.

Example for Defining Black Boxes in a Small Business

Let’s take a simple example. Say that you want to start a decorative candle making small business. A candle making small business requires dealing with several aspects like production, marketing, ordering and delivery.

Production is your core business unit. Since you are just starting the company, you’ll make the candles yourself. So this will not be one of your black boxes.

Marketing can have several channels and tasks. Some of the marketing channels you’ll handle by yourself and some you might define as black boxes and outsource them. For example, you might have someone else design flyers and distribute them, create a website and promote it and you might have someone else sell to stores.

In each of these cases, you tell someone what you want done and they are supposed to do it. You don’t get involved in how they deliver results.

Handling orders can also be done through different channels. Orders can be by phone, face to face or online through a website.

Let’s say that you choose to have orders by phone and through your online store. The online store orders do not require your immediate attention as you can check the orders at your convenient times but you cannot control when the phone will ring with a potential client at the other end. You can define the phone orders as a black box and hire a virtual assistance service to take the phone orders and provide you with order details in a format you are comfortable with.

Delivery is the final area to consider for our example. If you are just starting out and you have only few orders to deal with, then you probably package and ship yourself. But volume increases you might want to either hire an employee or employ the services of a fulfillment company.

Neal’s notes: My experience in small business is that in order to grow, you simply must learn how to delegate. In order to delegate and maintain high quality service, you must break down the job into understandable mini-tasks. You must then document the mini-tasks and make sure the other person understands what you are asking them to do. I do this by interviewing people on staff and outside my company. It has been a huge part of my success.What I have found to be super effective lately is to create screen capture tutorials that allow me to actually demonstrate how to complete the job correctly. This has been a game changer. I just sit a new person down in front of the screen and show them exactly what I want done – without me having to be there. They can watch the video and refer back to it as often as they like without me spending any additional time. I have also noticed that it makes a lot of sense to update your “black boxes” periodically. That’s because things change. Also, you get smarter over time. You may figure out a way to improve your “black box” but you’ll only know it if you roll up your sleeves and try it on for size.


This guest post was written by Assaf Katzir, founder of and other online ventures.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sian Phillips June 18, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Great post Neal. I am a great believer in delegation. Especially as most of the time someone else could do that job quicker and better so why struggle yourself and waste important time. Thanks for sharing.


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