Selling a Business is Easier When The Business Depends Less on You: Quick Tips

Marian Cook

March 27, 2010

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This is the fourth article in a series that is focused on the successful woman entrepreneur that is considering selling their business. The big question is: can the business run without you? It creates an obstacle to selling a business when a business owner has built their business to be too dependent on them. In the rush of the moment you may think it is easier or cheaper to do things yourself than delegate, but potential business buyers will work to discover this issue. They need to be assured that the business can operate without you, and you may have unwittingly created one that can’t.

Developing a strong management team and effectively and systematically make sure you get the right things done through the right people takes proactive planning. Part of it is selecting the right people and training them on the job and through education. Another part of it, and the focus of this article, is learning how to delegate and let go. What is delegation, and what is the right way to do it?

Delegation means to give someone the responsibility and authority to do something that’s normally part of your job.

It comes from the Latin “to send from.” When delegating, you are sending the work “from” you “to” someone else. It is not task assignment, abdication or dumping. You share accountability, controls and checkpoints to monitor your employees’ progress. You set clear goals and expectations for the assignment �" the ‘what’ of the work. The ‘how’ is up to them and is, in fact, part of their professional development. Give them suggestions and perhaps limits, but let them take their own action while you hold them accountable for their performance.

How do you choose what to delegate?

Look over your weekly activity records and task lists. Highlight those that would represent the highest freedom value for you. Think about what your core competencies are, and what your highest level of contribution can be to the company. Those that fall outside your highest contribution areas should be considered for delegation.

It is also best to delegate whole pieces of work as opposed to just tasks. The employee learns more by viewing how it all works together. You can, however, start with a small piece of a larger effort, and move to larger pieces and areas of responsibility over time with demonstrated successes.

Who do you delegate to?

As you start to plan for delegation, many questions should come to mind as you review your team.
  • Do you understand who can handle particular tasks, or is close to being able to?
  • What would it take to bring a person’s level up to where it needs to be to take on a delegated task? An investment in time is never easy to make, but if the benefits are there, make it happen.
  • Do you understand who sees a task as a learning opportunity?
  • Who needs to change their job duties?
Find out what the talents and interests of your people are and you will be able to delegate more intelligently and effectively.

How do you effectively transition a task to another person?

The transition must be thought through and documented. Create a support system for success. What is needed to make this person and transition as easy as possible?

Establish who can help with this new task, what resources, training or tools are available, what is the performance expectation and deadline, and how progress should be reported. Be prepared to trade short term errors for long term results. Give help and coach when required, but don’t hover. Be generous with recognition as successes start to happen.

In the end...

Sell a business that can run without you. As a business owner looking to sell a business, your job for both you and your team is to constantly raise the value being provided to your organization. Delegating effectively increases the value and productivity of you, your team and the business.

When it comes time to sell your company, potential buyers will be looking at business dependency and the strength of your management team. Honestly assessing and implementing how to get more work done through people will make your company more attractive to more buyers.

I invite you to use these ideas during your journey to sell a business.

Business transition expert, author of Selling Your Business For More: Maximizing Returns For You, Your Family and Your Business (Macmillan) and speaker Marian Cook, has helped hundreds of businesses to build value, ready for sale, and transition the business owner to new, productive lives. You can can connect with her at her blog:

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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