unlocking business growth opportunities

You are currently browsing the The WhiteBoard blog archives for May, 2015.

Letting Go: Delegating for Business Growth

May 28th, 2015

Ann started her company from her dining room table fifteen years ago, and gradually grew it into a nationally recognized brand in a specialty market. Like most business owners, she wore many hats in the early years. She wanted to grow the company and knew it was time to stop doing everything herself.  Ann learned how to delegate the hard way – by not getting the results she wanted.

Ann announced to her team that she was only going to focus on the activities that she enjoyed: managing the company’s social media presence and creating new products. She told them to figure out how to deal with “everything else.” Within a few weeks, Ann was inundated with questions from her team on everything from how to deal with distributor relationships and customer fulfillment issues, to partnership opportunities and production adjustments. 

Here’s what Ann learned about delegating for business growth.

Don’t Delegate by Default

Ann defined her own responsibilities without clarifying her team’s responsibilities. Before you delegate, ask yourself what you expect your team to do, as well as what you intend to do.

Let Go of the Right Things

Ann decided to focus only on what she enjoyed doing, but letting go of what she didn’t like doing may not grow her business. It’s a fact of business ownership – doing what you like to do is sometimes different from doing what you need to do. You can explore your own want to/need to activities with these questions:

  • What do I enjoy doing most?
  • What activities do I need to do myself, and why do I need to do them?
  • What activities do I need to be kept informed about, and what information do I need to stay informed?

Delegate to the Right People

Ann didn’t match specific activities with specific team members’ strengths. Assigning additional work to a team won’t compensate for a lack of specific skills or expertise. If you don’t have the right people on your team, delegating for growth requires hiring or outsourcing.

Delegate Authority and Accountability

Because Ann didn’t specify what “everything else” meant, her team brought everything back to her for resolution. Effective delegation requires three elements:

  • Assigning specific activities to specific team members
  • Empowering them to make specific decisions
  • Clarifying what results they are expected to achieve and how to keep you informed

When you’ve built your business from scratch, delegating can feel strange and uncomfortable at first.  You can make it easier by applying Ann’s lessons before you delegate for growth.

The Art of Following Up

May 1st, 2015

How to turn that business card into a business contact

You met a business professional recently at an industry event, professional association meeting or informal gathering. A week or two goes by, and the business card you exchanged is still sitting on your desk. Why haven’t you followed up?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, salesperson, executive or job seeker: following up is an art that you can master. The first step is to move beyond your excuses. Here are some common ones:

Too much time has passed

You got busy and that business card sat on your desk for a month. Now you think it’s too late. Will the other person even remember you?  The best time to follow up is within a week of your first meeting – but even a month later, it’s not too late to reach out with an email. 

The other person would have contacted me if he/she really wanted to connect

Don’t assume lack of interest because you’re the first to reach out. Making the first move may feel a little unfamiliar at first. Remind yourself that it’s a small price to pay for cultivating a meaningful business relationship. 

I don’t know what to say

You start to write an email to your new contact and your mind goes blank: what to say? You don’t have to be profound; just be sincere. Simply thank the person for an enjoyable conversation and let him or her know you’d like to stay in touch.

Reconnecting after an initial meeting

Reconnecting by email is an easy way to follow up. Think about the conversation you had, and draft a message that incorporates the following elements:

  • Tell the person that you enjoyed meeting at the event
  • Thank the person for your conversation
  • Mention a mutually interesting topic from your conversation
  • Suggest meeting for coffee (or a phone call if distance is a factor) in the near future to continue the conversation
  • Tell the person that you look forward to staying in touch

A sample email might look like this:

Subject Line: Nice Meeting You

Karen,

It was nice to meet you at the IOGA meeting recently. I enjoyed comparing notes about financial software with you, and also appreciated our conversation about major league baseball. It’s always a pleasure to meet a like-minded fan!

I’d enjoy continuing our conversation. Are you available for a cup of coffee over the next few weeks? Please let me know some dates and times that can work. I look forward to reconnecting with you.

The next time you attend a networking event, remember that the goal of exchanging business cards is to turn them into business contacts. And if there’s a business card or two on your desk right now, you have a golden opportunity to practice the art of following up.