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From his first job flipping burgers at McDonald’s and delivering The Washington Post, Craig Willett counts only one and a half years of his adult life working for someone else. Welcome to The Biz Sherpa podcast with your host, Craig Willett. Founder of several multimillion-dollar businesses and trusted advisor to other business owners, he’s giving back to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve fulfillment, enhance their lives, and create enduring wealth. The Biz Sherpa.
This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa. Thanks for joining me today in the Sherpa’s Cave. I love staying warm by the fire and I hope what I say to you will warm your soul because I hope that some of the things we talk today inspire you to delegate. Stephen Covey once said, “We accomplish all that we do through delegation, whether it be to time or to people.” So think about that. We often work long and longer hours. My wife was telling me this morning, Carol said to me, talking about the career of somebody else that we know, that they can work from six in the morning until 10 o’clock, and in four hours can accomplish what they need to do. And she said, “Craig, you worked from four in the morning until 10 o’clock at night sometimes.” And maybe I did take on too much.
In fact, this is probably something that I share with you because I’m still learning to delegate. I’ve had a year here where I’ve had to learn better how to delegate. And I think sometimes we keep it to ourselves and try to keep that control. But I think it’s important that we learn to delegate. So I hope that you can learn from some of my mistakes and that it motivates you because I think it’s really important. So I always start with, what do I delegate first? Right? So I look at what might be most annoying and what I might have a weakness at. When we take time to delegate those, we need to be careful that we’re not delegating tasks. Someone once said, “If you delegate tasks, you get followers. If you delegate authority, you get leaders. You build leaders.” And I think that’s important.
Think about that. You have an opportunity, as you start or grow your business, to develop future leaders for your business. It doesn’t always have to be you. You may play a prominent role, but you have to surround yourself with others who can make decisions based on authority that you’ve delegated to them within certain parameters. And I think that frees up your time. Of course, it takes resources, so you need to grow your business to a certain size and I get it. In those early days, you can’t hire all the talent you need. You don’t have the budget for it, but you need to be aware when you get there. And I think that might have been one of my mistakes in my career is that it grew so fast and was so successful that I was hiring and I was delegating, but I could have hired even more and delegated even more.
I might have been able to be more available, even though I did manage my time well, and I like to accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but it’s no excuse for building other leaders. I think it’s important. It is one of the regrets I have is not building more leaders. You have a chance to impact society. Think about the families and the lives that you bless as you delegate that authority to others and let them realize their potential and become better and have their dreams come true as well. You might also look at not only what’s most annoying, but what’s most repetitive. And I know that sounds like tasks again, but some people are really good at doing the same thing over and over again and I think it may bring to them a great level of satisfaction. And this, again, isn’t a task, but it may be something that takes up a lot of your time that has to be done on a regular basis and you have a higher purpose or a higher need. I would look to delegate that.
And then one of the great things—and we’ve talked about this with budgeting, we’ve talked about it with cash flow and we’ve talked about it in other aspects of The Biz Sherpa podcast—but one of the great things to delegate is into your area of weakness. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn, and being the owner, you need to know and understand all aspects of your business. But hiring somebody and delegating to somebody—whether inside or outside your organization—areas where you’re weak, such as budgeting or being accountable, is really nice. We do this when we have a lawsuit. We have to hire a lawyer. We’re not lawyers. And so that is delegating certain authority and certain opportunities where we don’t have that expertise. We can still be involved and be consulted for major decisions surrounding it, but we don’t need to pursue a dramatic situation, that dramatic situation being that we have to stay in charge and really run into our weaknesses.
When we spend all of our time working on our weaknesses and being confronted by them, it becomes discouraging. When we overcome our weaknesses, that’s great. And we may do that with the help of someone else. And when you think about it, if we delegate just tasks, guess what happens? People are going to be knocking at your door all the time.
I think of a great example in the Bible. Solomon was one who had great wisdom and people were lined up to see him all the time, and I think he had to learn to delegate. We need to learn to delegate. And as we learn to delegate, we free up bottlenecks. Think about it. If we give them tasks, but not authority to make decisions, they’re going to put people on hold who are calling in to have a problem with a product or service, just to find you and ask you if it’s okay. That’s not great customer service, is it? Think of when you’ve been on the other side of that phone call and you can’t get the answers that you think you want and someone on the other end can’t and doesn’t have the authority to solve it for you and you have to keep going up the chain of command. Think about that—how that feels to your customers. Within limits, you need to give that authority for them to make decisions.
Think how freeing that is when someone has the authority to make a decision, to accept a product return, or to help someone out by doing something extraordinary and above and beyond. When we allow that kind of flexibility, then we build in the opportunity for success. Sure, there’ll be some mistakes, but those mistakes shouldn’t be huge and won’t cost you everything. We learn from them. They’re going to happen in the short run, but you’ll learn and have greater success in the long run. Carol always tells me that I expect people to do it my way and you know what? She’s right. I do expect people to do it my way, because I think my way might be the best and I think that’s not a good attitude. I think the better attitude is give people—within their personality and within their talents and abilities—the opportunity to be successful and have the authority to make decisions so that they can experience personal success.
You’re not trying to create a robot that mimics you. You’re trying to create someone who takes it upon themselves. I know early on in my CPA career, I was associated with a furniture store and there was one person in that furniture store who owned the carpeting department. Not literally, he was just an employee, but he owned it in the sense that he spoke in the first person to them. Not, “We do this—I can do this.” And he was able to do so many jobs. He developed rapport with a lot of people. He didn’t need someone looking over his back.
He knew how to price his product. He knew how to schedule it. And he really owned it. No one dared step in. No one could really replace him. He became the expert. And the business owner totally trusted him and they had over a 35-year relationship and I admired that. It’s a great example to me of being able to delegate and not bottleneck. Sandra Day O’Connor said something that I really like. She said, “The really expert horse riders immediately let the horse know who’s in control, but they give them loose reins and seldom use the spurs because they guide them. They don’t take control of them, but they let them know if something happens, who’s in control.” I’ve found that. You’ve probably seen, and if you haven’t, I’ll put it on my website, www.BizSherpa.co, a video of me winning a World’s Championship with a Saddlebred horse where I’m not riding him, but I’m in a buggy behind him.
And how you control them: you can’t control them with your feet. You control them with the reins. The times that I did really well with that horse weren’t the times where I was afraid or where he was pulling on me and I was pulling on him. I let him know I was in charge and then I gave it to him because he knew what he was doing. I had a great horse and he had a great rhythm and he knew how to step and what to do. I had to give him some small commands and keep him straight in corners and set him up and frame him right and let him know I was there, but he knew what he was doing. And we had developed that trust and confidence over the years. Think about that. Let people know who’s in charge, but then govern with a loose rein and seldom correct using spurs, which would probably hurt them.
I had a whip, which probably substituted for the spur, and you know what? I rarely—if ever—used it on him. And if I did, it was just to let him know I was there by setting down the end of the whip, just on his back flank, to let him know I was there. It was not something that I did in a mean way. I think that from that experience, I learned what Carol was telling me. I wanted people to do it my way. You know what? The horse did it his way. He was great at it. I knew what he needed to do and I knew how to control him and guide him and reassure him and motivate him, and I think that’s the key. Delegation is really about giving authority and motivating others to be able to realize their full potential.
And if you think about that, then you have a better experience. I think about training as part of the delegation process. You give training before you give them the reins and that’s not not trusting them. It’s developing that trust. When I was younger, my dad would always throw me in the pool. And in fact, to learn how to swim, he just tossed me in the pool and there were two things that would’ve happened, right? I would sink to the bottom, in which case he’d have to jump in and bail me out, or I’d have to flop around and learn how to keep my head above water, which I did. I became a very accomplished swimmer in my teenage years and actually won some county records and had some pretty good experiences in swimming. You’ve heard me tell some of those stories on The Biz Sherpa podcast. But it’s not always sink or swim.
We don’t want to throw people in because we may not be around if we’re just throwing them in saying, “Okay, it’s yours. I don’t want to have to deal with it. Let me know how it goes. Call me if you need some help.” They may be drowning and they may not be able to call you. They may be suffocating under the pressure of what you’ve given them. And so it takes follow up. It takes reporting. It takes sitting down and encouraging, having them share with you what their challenges are and their experiences are and then helping them overcome those challenges and experiences by making some suggestions to them, but it’s not expecting them to do it the way you would do it.
One of my first jobs was at McDonald’s as a 16-year-old. I was learning to cook and I cooked, and that was my job, it was in the kitchen. But one Saturday, somebody called in sick that did all the cleaning and I didn’t know what to do. I had to be trained. While I was a great employee at cooking—I could cook the Egg McMuffins and I could cook the burgers and the cheeseburgers and do all of that—I didn’t understand how to mix the chemicals and to mop the floors and when to do it and where to do it and how to go around the parking lot and pick the place up. And as you know, I mean, Disneyland is a good example of it, too, they keep it clean. And one of the things about McDonald’s, in my era, was it was a clean place to go eat. And I had to take on different responsibilities, and think about that.
Don’t just throw somebody to something who’s capable, but doesn’t have the adequate training. We all have potential and we can all rise to the potential. And we don’t need our hand held all the time. Think of yourself. You don’t want it. You don’t want someone watching over you all the time. You have to empower that success, but you have to measure it and you have to review it and you have to train and you have to motivate. I remember a time that I was going on vacation for three weeks for my business and you heard me talk about this. In the summer times, I’d like to get away with my family so I could focus on them because as Carol said, probably a lot of the time, I was working weekdays, four in the morning till 10 o’clock at night. And I’d squeeze in the family here and there and certainly on weekends I did. But that time with family was valuable to me.
We had just announced a new project and we were taking pre-orders or pre-sales on that project, as we were getting it finalized to be able to break ground. While I was gone in the middle of our presale, they announced a hospital a mile away. Most of our target market were healthcare providers. You can imagine what happened. All of a sudden, it sold out. They never called me. They didn’t need to. I had given them the authority to do that. But it’s probably one of the reasons I was a little scared to not have people do it my way. One of the things I didn’t delegate to them, because I didn’t think it would happen during the three week period, is I was in charge of pricing and because I was in control of the financing, it was my personal guarantee on it. I determined the pricing of our buildings.
And one of the things I always did is when we hit certain benchmarks, I raised it. Price is a certain percentage because we are now coming down to having fewer and fewer buildings left in the project. Well, I didn’t delegate that to someone and it would’ve been simple to say after X percentage of sales, raise the price to this. Well, I didn’t do that and my failure to do that meant we sold out, which was great, but we probably could have gotten 25% more at the end of the day, had we been raising prices during that three week period, as we were taking more and more orders for our buildings. It was a great experience and there’s more to that story someday.
But my point is be sure when you delegate that you delegate enough authority and go beyond to where they can exercise some judgment. Now, they could have called me. They didn’t know what I did, because I didn’t share it with them. And so I held back on some of that authority and I paid the price, because it was my profits, not their profits. They got paid and they got paid their commissions. It didn’t really affect their living the way it affected the profitability I could have had. We made profit, made a great profit, but it could have been better. I like to think about how we govern in our lives. I look at our country and it seems like we’re coming up with more and more laws for every little situation. I think that happens when we don’t trust, when we don’t trust people to use their own intuition.
And we’re seeing it during the great pandemic. People are not allowed to use their own judgment. We need to allow that. Otherwise, we start making very, very restrictive rules and we create a bottleneck. “You can’t do this.” “Only in this situation.” “Don’t do that.” And when it’s a lot of don’ts, then you know it’s being restrictive. Think about it. Think about when your parents raised you and they loved you. They gave you some things not to do. “Don’t touch the stove when it’s on.” But think of all the things they gave you to do. “Go out and play with your friends. Join a baseball team. Go to the dance class.” They provided opportunities for you to do and I think it’s in the doing that we experience the greatest freedom. Give freedom to do, and not a list of rules of what not to do. And I think that will be the greatest thing that we can do to help delegate.
And I think it is reflective in the lives of our employees and you can apply this in your personal life with your family and your friends. Don’t give restrictions, give opportunities. And when you do that, you’ll find at the base what delegation really means, it’s about building leadership. It’s one of the key elements of leadership. We don’t want restrictions at every turn. You need to retain key areas, like I said. You don’t want to hand over the reins of all the spending and all of the controls and the signatures at the bank, unless there’s certain parameters put around that, but we want to elevate people. We want to evaluate, reward, encourage, teach, train, focus on things that make a huge difference so that it allows you to spend the time where you need to spend it and then encourage. I would spend more time building the person.
I learned that from Hal Wing too, that when you build the person, you really get great production and you get great satisfaction. Richard Branson said, “If you’re going to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.” I think that’s important. Delegation is not a set of rules and it’s not a task. I’ve learned the hard way. I hope you don’t make the mistakes I made, but that you delegate authority, you empower, you train. Think of the horse. Again, let them know who’s in control, but then give them the loose rein and allow them the freedom to experience that success and then train, evaluate, reward, and encourage. And as we do that, we will find that we’ll have fewer bottlenecks in our business. We’ll experience greater success and think of your customers. I always say this.
What’s their experience like? If you have to go up the chain of command so far and people can’t get answers quickly to their questions and problems or resolutions solved quickly, it’s the source of most of the negative reviews. So let’s find a way to best meet those needs of our customers and that will be to delegate that authority that needs to. Not a task, but that authority. I hope that you’re able to take something from this and have a wonderful experience in your business career. I think as you learn from the mistakes of others, like me, that you can be better, do better and your customers will be happier. Thanks for joining me today in the Sherpa’s Cave. This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa.
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