Most startups, especially in the very early stages have the owner doing everything from operations management to sales and marketing, product development and accounting. This is not only exhausting but also ends up compromising productivity with work suffering as well as the ability of the company to grow. Delegation can save not only the company but also the founder. There are however things that a founder should never delegate in an early startup.
If your startup is one that requires external fundraising, this is not a task you can delegate regardless of how insufficient you believe your sales skills are. Startup funding can make or break an infant startup. This is too critical a function to delegate. Investors fund people. The decision to back a startup is not just a factor of the idea’s potential or the validity of the business model. Investors want to meet and hear from the founder. Trusting and liking the founder have a significant impact on whether they decide to fund a startup. Fundraising is also about more than just getting the money, it offers access to many valuable relationships and potentially beneficial partnerships. The entire process of trying to secure funding provides quality, much-needed feedback and connects the founders with key stakeholders who may be able to offer help beyond immediate startup funds.
2. Crisis management
It is inevitable that you will eventually be forced to deal with a crisis of one form or another at some point in your startup. You cannot risk letting someone else make the decisions at a time when both the pressure and the stakes are so high as in a crisis. It is in your best interest to take a hands-on approach in dealing with crises, monitoring the situation and making the call at every step. This is especially critical if and when there is media coverage. This shows the investors if you have any that you are in control. It also shows any employees, if there are any that you are at the help of the ship and is also reassuring to customers.
3. Sales and Customer development
Sales is a daunting task that often leaves founders feeling insecure about their abilities and rushing to hire ‘expert’ or ‘experienced’ salespeople. Even if you are not the best at sales, no one can do a better job at telling your company’s story, vision and value. Sales also puts you face to face with customers. You get to know first-hand and very early on customers’ requests, complaints and suggestions. This information is valuable when it comes to improving current products and making better products in the future. Talking to customers is how you test your business hypothesis and validate your ideas and business models. These are critical insights for a founder.
The mission and vision of the organization as well as the organizational culture and the first hires should also not be delegated. Tasks that can and perhaps should be delegated are repetitive tasks, time-consuming tasks and those that require very basic skills and can be handled by subordinates. Tasks that are completely beyond your skillset should also be delegated. Delegation is critical in a business as long as you choose wisely what to delegate and never abdicate your responsibilities just because you have delegated tasks. Delegation and shooting yourself in the foot!
For more advice on entrepreneurship, check out this piece with entrepreneurial lessons from KCB’s the Lion’s Den. Also, check out No Money To Start Your Business? Here Is How To Crowd Fund And Get Customers In The Process