One of the most useful things I learned on my entrepreneurial journey is that, the lead domino in all things entrepreneurial is learning to delegate.
Leadership is hard because the jump into being responsible for other people’s work is hard.
Learning to delegate is like learning to play tennis: you can’t learn it only from books. The only way to play better tennis is to go out to an actual court and start hitting the ball. You can read about the game and prepare in advance as much as you will, but my bet is that regardless of your best effort to prepare, the first time you actually try to play will be 100% different. You can’t see what you can’t see.
Similarly, the first experience with delegating anything meaningful will almost surely cause pain, because there are a zillion things where it can go wrong. You think you carefully explained what you need, until it turns out that it’s lost in translation.
That’s not a reason to give up trying.
And you might say that delegating is stupid right now and there’s nothing you need help with, but in my opinion, you have to delegate everything. Just in case you get really busy.
By the way, if you can’t find anyone who can do your job for what you’re getting paid, it’s time to raise prices. I made the mistake of working for too cheap many times before, and this is a great way to find about the mistake early on.
When I started out I hoarded all work. In my first startup, I’ve done all programming, marketing and all client management myself – until the week where I was trying to survive on 30-minute sleep four days in a row, and forgot a business meeting on the fifth.
The client called me from the place we were supposed to meet, and I didn’t pick up the phone because I was asleep at 2pm in the afternoon. They stopped being my client, and it wasn’t even a bad thing as far as my health was concerned.
I hired my first developer next week, to help me write code. That code was terrible compared to my super high standards, but it was all fine, because I quickly learned to give better feedback and they quickly learned to write better code.
This was a dream come true. Suddenly my job was to find out what to focus on and let others do the fiddly bits.
Fast forward a few years, when I’ve attended two universities and ran two companies at the same time. I studied in one school between Monday and Friday, visited the other one on Saturdays, and been in the office or on client meetings between classes. The trick was to have an assistant whose job was to come up with good reasons for my absence in case a client called, and brief me well for a scheduled callback. Scheduled, carefully, for breaks between classes.
So the only question is then, where would you start learning to delegate?
Start with something low risk: get someone to write specs for your app idea. Someone to pick up your phone, or someone to do the research for your homework. Focus only on the one thing you do better than anyone else, and let smarter folks help you whereever they can shine. With so much help available online in 2018, there’s no excuse not to try.