If you don’t want to do it, who does? 

A downtown retail store owner told me she closes at 5 pm because she hates to stay later. She gets to work at 8 am most days, and so at 5 pm she’s ready to go home. She doesn’t like to delegate at all, she told me, and she wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

It feels like a good principle, that you wouldn’t ask anyone to do something you don’t want to do yourself. But it’s a trap.

If you can’t ever ask anyone to do anything you don’t want to do yourself, you’ll never get any better or any bigger than you are today.

And we’ve arrived at the flaw in this logic. You’re assuming that everyone is exactly like you, likes the same things as you, and wants to work just the same way as you want to work. You’re saying no one could want to work evenings because you don’t want to.

When I put it like that, you probably can see the flaw. You know that people are different. You serve all kinds of people all day long, so you know customers are all different. Your staff are different, too, and some would actually prefer to work evenings because it suits their schedule and life better. Not to mention the terrific potential staff people you’ll never meet and never hire if you don’t start looking for them. They are different from you.

This principle you hold on to, that you have to do everything yourself, personally, every time, is a trap. You can’t grow like that.

L.L. Bean didn’t reach $1.5 billion in sales by Leon Bean handling every single thing himself, personally, every time. Sure, he started like that in his small town, but somewhere down the line he learned to delegate.

I’m not saying give up your principle. I’m saying correct it. Instead of never asking anyone to do anything you don’t WANT to do, the correct principle is never ask anyone to do something you WOULDN’T be WILLING do. There’s a difference between what you want to do and what you are willing to do if necessary for your business.

My store didn’t reach our modest size by me handling every single thing myself, personally, every time. We have a terrific team of people who are on the front lines. I’m grateful that they choose to serve our customers every day. But I’m willing to step in and work the front counter or back room along with them, if required.

And that retail store owner who told me she doesn’t like to delegate at all is already improving. In fact, in the same conversation, she told me she is working with another business to put a mini-version of her store inside of their store in a neighboring town. That’s a big step toward delegating. Now she has to bring that new-found ability to her main store and extend her hours.

If you struggle with this, here is your assignment. Right now, get out a pen and paper. I’m serious. Stop right now and get a pen and paper. Write this down BY HAND:
My organization is stronger because I trust people to help me. Together, we’re better at serving customers. 

Post that where you’ll see it. Put it in your wallet or inside the back door of your store.  Come back in 3 weeks and let us know how it went. 

Keep shaping the future of your community,

PS –  A few news items to help you shape your small town.

1. More entrepreneurs are buying existing businesses rather than starting up a new business. Potentially important for small towns where it can be tough to find a new owner for an existing business.

2. I found another great example of big city folks excited about small town tourism: Washingtonian Magazine did a big feature on small towns

3. Your fellow reader Jerry Johnson has a great idea for putting planters in your downtown. Try livestock watering troughs as planters. Easy to buy, easy to move if needed. Line a sidewalk, divide the center median, or define a new seating area. Cool idea!