Don't Delegate What You Haven't First Done Yourself
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My first business was called the New York Sausage Factory and it was a tiny fast-food joint in Pinetown, Durban. The mascot for the business — Sausage Sam — was a friendly looking sausage with a smiley face, two arms, two legs and a super hero symbol on his chest.
I had a mascot’s outfit made for Sausage Sam, which was a great expense at the time, so that it could be used as a promotional tool to attract the attention of passers-by and give them pamphlets and discount vouchers.
The first-time business owner's role
On the day that the newly crafted Sausage Sam outfit arrived I donned it with great excitement and pride and spent three hours standing outside in the afternoon sun while enthusiastically handing out marketing material to passers-by.
After it was clear that the lunch-time rush was over, I took off the suit and went back inside to work. Every day for two weeks I put the mascot suit on and handed out flyers to passers-by during the lunch time rush. I then decided to delegate this role to two of my employees on a rotational shift basis.
Karabo took over the first shift the next day and after only 45 minutes he walked back inside and said that the suit was too hot and there was absolutely no way that he could stand in the sun and wear it for three hours straight.
Jenny was second in line to wear the suit the following day and after one hour she walked inside and complained that she was dizzy from being on her feet and couldn’t stand anymore. She said the only way that she could possibly spend three hours outside was if she had a chair to sit on.
Lead by doing
Two employees were given the same task and both complained almost immediately that it couldn’t be done. I had performed the same task for two weeks and knew from first-hand experience that it could be done and exactly how difficult it was. As a result of my personal experience in the suit, I had earned the ‘right’ to determine whether or not this task was possible to carry out, and how to delegate this task to employees in my small company.
This was one of the more important lessons that I had learnt early on in my entrepreneurial career, that if you are able to complete a task yourself, then your employees who are given the same task will have limited or no grounds to argue whether or not it can or can’t be completed, and within what time period.
As a start-up entrepreneur it’s imperative that you ‘put on the suit’ yourself before handing over or delegating any jobs to others. It will garner more respect from employees, give you more insight into the nuances of the job you are requesting others to complete, and make you a more empathetic leader.