Excuses, excuses. I've heard them all.

"It's faster if I just do it myself."

"I'm afraid I'll forget to tell them something important."

"No one does it better than me."

"I don't know what to delegate."

"I can't afford to hire anyone."

"I'm too critical of other people's work."

"If I give up control over everything, things will start to fall through the cracks."

Sound familiar? You know that in order to grow your business, you need to grow your team. Yet as small-business owners, there's something in us that fights against asking for help. It's almost like there's some right of passage in being able to "do it all" ourselves. But the reality is, you can't do it all and focus on your strengths without stretching yourself in too many directions.

Delegation is about handing over authority, and for many small-business owners, that's a scary concept because you don't know what will happen when you give up control. But the good news is, delegating doesn't have to be scary-you have more control than you think. Because when you've clearly defined what's to be done and what the outcome should be, it's difficult for a skilled assistant, employee or virtual assistant to be unsuccessful. The key to controlling delegation is to establish what the tasks are, how they should be completed and what the final outcome looks like before you assign the task to someone.

Now, no more excuses. Here are five steps, each with specific actions you can take to develop your what, how and the final outcome, to get you on the road to delegating effectively.

1. Determine what to give away and what to keep. First, consider your strengths. What are you directly contributing to your business that's making it successful? Those are the things you should continue doing. The tasks that are outside your expertise or those that could easily be performed by others are the first things to delegate or give away.

One of my clients, who's in the insurance industry, found that she was spending a lot of her time checking in with clients. And while she really wanted to be in contact with her entire client list on a regular basis, she didn't want to spend unnecessary time with clients who didn't need her immediate attention.

So she decided to delegate her client "keep in touch" calls to an assistant. Now her assistant makes each initial client call. If she finds the client has a question or is interested in more information, she adds their name to her boss's follow-up list, who then calls the people on that list when she has time to talk. Now she's only talking to those clients who really need her, but all her clients are happy because they're contacted on a regular basis.

Your Actions: Make a list of everything you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Then go through the list and determine what's essential for you to keep doing and what can be given away.

2.Create a plan. Consider what you need to accomplish and how you want the task done. In order for delegation to be effective, you have to be able to tell someone exactly what it is you want him or her to do. Maybe "no one does it better than you" because no one truly understands what you want done.

So plan out what needs to be accomplished and exactly how you want it done.

Your Actions: Create your processes. Determine what the final outcome should be and create the specific, detailed steps needed to get there. Once you've hired someone to help out, give that list of steps, along with any applicable files, forms and checklists, to the person you've hired.

3. Hire the right person. The key to finding the right person for the job is to determine what skill sets your position requires. What do you really want someone to do for you? Are they going to be taking care of administrative tasks? Are they focused on marketing or sales duties? Are you looking for an analyst? Once you know what skills you need, search for a person who has exactly the skills you need. Don't just hire the first person who happens to be available.

Your Actions: Look at the tasks being performed, and decide what skill sets are needed. When interviewing candidates, ask open-ended questions that allow you to discover if that person has the expertise you're looking for. Remember to ask people you know and trust for referrals of potential candidates.

4. Assign results and accountability. One of the most important steps to successful delegation is to plan ahead by determining what the end results should be. Picture what you want to be holding when those final deliverables are handed to you. Then communicate those expectations. And remember, all expectations have to be reasonable, clear and measurable. For example, you may want to require that someone "complete a minimum of 30 sales call per week" as opposed to just "complete sales calls."

Accountability is not a bad word-there have to consequences if the results you need are not being met. Because if the quotas, goals or results you need aren't being achieved, it's you and your business that will suffer.

Your Actions: Create specific goals, quotas or outcomes that need to be accomplished by the person you're delegating work to. Effectively communicate those expectations, and create consequences if the results you expect aren't being accomplished.

5. Check in from time to time. "Set it and forget it." Some people think that rule applies to tasks that have been delegated. I hate to burst your bubble, but people are human. They make mistakes, they accidentally skip over things-they may even drop the ball.

Instead of leaving them alone once you've assigned some work to them, establish specific times you'll check in with them to see how they're doing. You can set a regular appointment time, such as Tuesdays at 2 p.m., when you'll sit for 15 minutes to an hour and review regular duties, project milestones and answer questions. Or you might select a specific point in the project where you'll review their progress. For example, you might say, "After you've called all 50 prospects, come see me so we can discuss the feedback you've been getting from them."

Checking in with your employees allows you to stay in the loop, fix problems as they arise, and educate and develop the people working with you. And setting specific times allow you the freedom to focus on other things the rest of the time.

Your Actions: Establish a check-in schedule that works for both you and your employee. And then be sure to touch base when you say you will.


Beth Schneider, president of Process Prodigy, helps business owners leverage the best business practices to help them build a thriving business. Beth is also co-author of Inspiration to Realization. To contact her, call (888) 584-5452 or e-mail her at .