Thursday, May 20, 2021

Delegation and the Maui Beach House

Since my store closed in March of last year, I've taken on all the office work and data entry. The employees have come back to work, but I've retained my work load. It's a tremendous amount of hours, but they have enough on their plates with COVID era retail. It is work that was originally mine, but was then delegated to anyone on staff at any given moment, often with a newly arrived order in front of them. 

Delegating this work freed up a huge amount of my time, at the expense of accuracy. The work was critical to inventory management and the health of the business, and it was done very, very poorly. Nobody "owned" that job so nobody really cared or understood it. That's entirely my fault, of course. It's really a management level responsibility at the least, despite being a lot of clicky clacky.

The solution to giving that work back begins with tracking my hours. I can't assign hours if I don't know how many there are. What do I do on a weekly basis? I've been reluctant to start this tracking, because I know how this goes. I've done this before, when I gave it away initially. 

Before you give away your work, there's an important pre-requisite that's really obvious, like the key to the whole concept, but a pre-requisite I failed to grasp. You have to have something else to do. The goal is not to make yourself dispensable, that's just a step to bigger things. The best reason to delegate is so you can do "more important" work, otherwise known as work only you can do. If you don't have anything more important to do, don't even bother tracking your hours.

"More important" could mean high level owner tasks, but it could also mean taking a vacation, retiring, or having more time with your family. Maybe you want to play games more often. All good motivations. Really, anything you would rather do is a fine motivation. What you can't do is have nothing to do. You can't delegate and twiddle your thumbs, because I know you, business owner, you are not a thumb twiddler. Idle hands results in weird projects, at least for me.

I've quoted the Harvard Business School study of successful business owners before, and I regularly reference my "beach house on Maui." You get to a point in business where you sell, shut down, expand until you fail, or accept your slow growth level of business existence .. . and plan your beach house on Maui. The beach house on Maui represents outside interests you pursue instead of mucking up your business. Maybe it's coaching kids soccer or painting all those unpainted miniatures. 

This problem came to a head when I was handed a quarter million dollar, thirty year, government loan. Having all the money in the world, in the form of government money, and not having a plan to spend it to expand my business or start a new one, accentuated that I would be building beach houses on Maui. I called it a failure of imagination, but it was just a final acceptance of the fact my business is fine, it doesn't need to expand to any great levels (it did somewhat with this money), and I have no desire to start another business. It was an imagination exercise and I both failed and succeeded. It accelerated a thought process that might have taken another decade. I am done ... for now.

So I'm not going to track my hours yet because I have nothing better to do right now. As I research trucks and travel trailers in my spare time, and work on my online Spanish (yesterday was day 600), I imagine what I'll do with those extra hours. But for now, that work is mine. 

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