It is too early in 2014 to declare a winner for the best quote of the year, but this one is certainly the leader in the clubhouse.
It comes from Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, in an interview he did with Inc. “When I first started working as a software engineer, I had really high standards, and I often felt other people weren’t meeting them. But over time, I realized that even if others on the team weren’t doing everything as perfectly as I wanted them to, if they got to 80 percent of the way there then that’s awesome.”
“Because there were five of them, and five times 80 percent is much larger than 100 percent of me. That led me into this idea of leveraging other people.”
This is Hard to Do
Before I started my microbusiness, I could go on at endless length about how working through others was the most logical thing in the world to do and anyone who didn’t take to it naturally was a dolt.
Once I had to actually try to do it, I realized how hard it could be.
Managing, even if it is one person, is difficult. And I am no longer surprised that entrepreneurs running multi-million businesses are still doing a number of tasks that could be easily handled by someone else.
So, with that by way of background, I began checking with a number of entrepreneurs I know to see how they handled the problem of leveraging themselves.
They all agreed that once they had personally become as productive as they could–the typical focus when the subject turns to productivity–leveraging themselves by working through others was the next logical step.
Then they gave me four ideas. See if any–or all of them–resonant with you.
1. Start small
A CEO of a $5 million company has never had a personal assistant. At first there wasn’t enough work to delegate. When the company grew bigger, she refused to hire one because it “seemed pretentious” and lately the explanation has been “I really don’t want to add another direct report.” Her New Year’s resolution is to hire one, which she will share with her second in command.
2. Take baby steps
You can begin by adding to the responsibiliies of the people you already have in place. The person in charge of the stock room can order supplies. The person at the front desk who has to deal with the over-night deliver people anyway can be in charge of the packages you send out. That sort of thing.
3. Set a price limit, if you are uncomfortable
One of the major reasons entrepreneurs give for not delegating is the cost if something goes wrong. If that is the case, begin by capping the spending authority of the people you delegate to. As you grow more comfortable, you can rasie the limit.
4. Diversity is good
Look to add people from different backgrounds, people with different experiences from yours, the best entrepreneurs told me. For example, people in their early 20s will invariably suggest new technology tools you can employ to get more out of your day.
But perhaps the biggest tip is to keep re-reading Omidyar’s quote.
Even if people won’t do everything as well as you do, if they come close, you will have substantial exceeded what you can do on your own.