Why You Must Delegate Before You Automate

This is a guest post by Owen McGab Enaohwo. He is the co-founder of SweetProcess, an app that enables you to quickly and easily document how you get repetitive tasks done so that your employees know exactly what to do.

In Michael’s post on successful delegation, I left the comment:

“Sometimes in order to automate a task you might have to delegate it first, and then remove all the chinks before automating it…”

As Michael mentioned, delegation takes quite a bit of time and effort to setup, but in the long run it pays off.

In fact, nearly every single successful company is based on systems. Delegation is one aspect of setting up successful systems for your business.

If you’re still struggling with delegating tasks, I’d like to share a five-step system to reducing your workload and getting the right things done in your business!

Step 1: Eliminate

The first step in the system is to get rid of all recurring tasks currently being done in your business, which are not required for the business to function.

It would seem that email is an essential part of business today, but Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, eliminated email communication within the company saying:

“Email is no longer the appropriate tool,” said Breton. “It is time to think differently.”

That’s a bold move, but a necessary one in Breton’s mind. He saw the move as a critical one in order for Atos to focus on what is most important for the business to succeed.

Business founder and investor Brad Feld does something similar and it’s actually improved his health and general well being.

Brad stopped checking email, news and Foursquare during certain periods. Eliminating these items made him more productive in his work and allowed him to enjoy life outside his business.

Mark, of Mark’s Daily Apple, does the same thing with email and electronic communication.

Action Plan: Identify the tasks to eliminate by listing every task that you perform during your workday. Prioritize the tasks by what is essential to running your business successfully. Also keep in mind your business goals and how each task contributes to achieving those goals.

The tasks that find their way to the bottom are the ones that you should eliminate altogether.

Step 2: Systemize

The second step is to document step-by-step how you currently handle tasks required for your business to function.

Tim Ferriss is famous for using virtual assistants. In order to make his relationship with a virtual assistant successful, he created systems.

One of the first tasks he systemized was email. In the previous example we saw how one company eliminated email and how others have eliminated the task during certain periods.

For Ferriss, email continues to be important, but he created an email system so he could delegate, which is the next step in our process.

Action Plan: Document the how, why and when for each of the tasks that are necessary for your business to function. If you are tired of doing all the tasks required for your business to function all by yourself, then use a tool like SweetProcess to document procedures for all those repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time, so you can grow your team and grow your business.

Step 3: Delegate

The third step is to properly hand over each required task to employees and/or virtual assistants and train them on how to execute each one successfully.

Michael has successful delegated certain aspects of his professional life. He documented the experience in the post, My Experience Using A Virtual Assistant.

Michael’s VA does these things and likely now does even more:

  • Screens Email
  • Makes Travel Arrangements
  • Makes Phome Calls
  • Calendar Management
  • Miscellaneous Projects

More recently, Michael has outsourced post-production of his podcast.

The key to delegation is finding people that know the functionality of essential tasks, but that also know how to follow specific procedures.

Action Plan: Delegate tasks which you have already documented procedures on to virtual assistants, freelancers and/or your employees.

Here are some reliable sources for virtual assistants and freelancers to delegate tasks to:

Virtual Assistants

  • BELAY (the virtual assistant company Michael uses.)
  • VirtualAssistantAssistant (A third-party site like Yelp which collects and post real user reviews of virtual assistant companies)


Step 4: Measure

For the fourth step, track the effectiveness of the results your employees deliver so you can spot areas to improve. Trust your team and verify the result!

One entrepreneur, Tristen O’Brien, The eBay Entrepreneur, uses sales to measure the effectiveness of his virtual assistants. Here is a direct quote:

Tristen used virtual assistants to handle resizing, cropping and optimizing for his eBay images. He calculated return on investment by the time he saved by having someone else doing this task. Overall, each task he had virtual assistant handle led to an increase in sales by 25% as mentioned above.

Action Plan: Keep track of your key business metrics and whenever you notice unfavorable results, it’s an opportunity for you to identify areas within your system that need improvements.

Step 5: Automate and/or Scale

Once you know that the tasks can be done flawlessly it is time to automate!

You may be eager to automate recurring tasks, but not every task can be automated.

After you understand an entire process and know it can be automated, you can consider a tool or machine to handle the task. As you search for tools you’ll need to confirm that the tool can perform the task, as you need. Going through these checks will ensure you won’t lose efficiency and accuracy.

A common task businesses are automating today is social media. Services like HootSuite allow companies to automatically send feeds from blogs, videos and other content sources to social media sites. Users can also schedule updates.

In order for this task to remain effective you must first understand the exact procedure for creating updates and ensure the tool can perform as effectively as a person does when doing the procedure manually. That is the important check when automating.

Additionally, once you have fully understood a process you can scale the process by adding more people to your business.

Businesses do this all the time as a way to grow.

A company like HootSuite, mentioned above, likely has salespeople. Those salespeople have exact procedures for contacting potential clients. Once the procedure is proven effective, HootSuite can hire additional sales team members and teach them how to perform the sales procedures allowing the company to grow by adding new customers.

Action Plan: Carefully examine your procedures. If you know a recurring task is operating at peak efficiency, consider adding a tool to automate the task or consider adding an additional resource such as a freelancer or virtual assistant, which will allow the business to scale.


You might be struggling with delegation or finding it hard to figure out how to relieve yourself of tasks; the good news is that when you follow the five steps which I have outlined above you will be able to reduce your daily workload and get the right things done.

For each item above you have a an Action Plan step. The first one is for you to list out every task that you do on a regular basis, prioritize them in order of importance to your business and eliminate the ones which are not required for your business to function. After this first step, you will be ready to tackle each of the other steps in the correct sequence.

Question: What are your experiences with delegation? What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

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