CHICAGO — In a small-business setting like a laundry, where there can be many tasks but only limited manpower to complete them, the owner who learns to delegate certain tasks to others can ease his or her daily burden and create opportunities to further build the business and plan for the long term.
It brings to mind a familiar phrase: work on the business, not in the business.
Wayne Meyer co-owns a pair of fully attended laundries in Lafayette, Indiana, with son Chris and daughter-in-law Chris; the senior Meyer now lives in Florida, and the younger generation handles day-to-day management.
Meyer built his first store in 1992 and opened the second three years later. The junior Meyer has been working in the stores since graduating from college in ’92.
“When we first moved to Florida (in 2003), my wife had a hard time delegating to our son to make sure he was doing things the way she would want them done,” Meyer says. “It was a training process to ‘cut the umbilical,’ let him get bloodied, but be there behind him to catch him in case he did trip.”
Before he became a Laundromat owner, Meyer provided management consulting services to major companies, hospitals and other clients, both domestic and international.
“Having been in consulting, I knew we had to train people and trust people to do things on their own. We began delegating at a very early stage,” entrusting certain employees to open and close the stores among other responsibilities, he says.
“But the key with delegation is following up, because you don’t want them to think they can get away with this, that or something else if you’re not there.”
Computer systems in place allow Meyer to check on store operations anytime but he’s left the day-to-day stuff behind: “You have to delegate to have a life.”
Hank Walter owns Whale of a Wash, a West Virginia-based business operation that includes 10 Laundromats and three car washes. In the beginning, when he had no partners or employees, he “had to do everything” himself, he says.
He thinks some small-business owners might have trouble learning to delegate: “Everyone has a tendency to micromanage. It is normal to initially expect too much from those to whom you delegate tasks.”
Today, he’s delegating responsibility for everything except capital investment decisions to Anne Sechler, his daughter.
“My daughter is chief administrator now and a gift from heaven,” he says. “Trustworthiness is the hardest attribute to find in an employee, but it is essential to the delegation success formula.”
Walter favors analyzing the choice to delegate through three lenses: the hard cost offset saving, the functional cost saving, and the opportunity cost saving: “If you think your choice through this matrix approach, you should not get ahead of yourself or lose control.”
His last advice on the subject? Don’t tell anyone to do something that you can’t do yourself.
“From there, you will gain the respect of your employee and harvest the results of productivity that go along with it.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.