Article originally published on Forbes.
We’ve all heard the statistics: 50% of businesses fail in the first year. While it turns out that number might be a little high (recent studies show closer to 30%), it’s still a scary percentage if you’re planning to start your own company. Even when small businesses get momentum, they can be held back by the owner’s unique skill set, need for control and inability to scale. Companies need well-rounded teams to grow. To do that effectively, leadership needs a mindset for training.
But don’t stop reading! I know training is not everyone’s favorite activity. Even when my marketing agency brings in new team members and we share with them our mindset of “everyone teaches everyone,” I get a lot of nervous looks. When networking with and coaching other business owners, I hear a lot of the same objections to formalized training:
• “But, I can do it faster myself.”
• “But, I’m the only one who understands it.”
• “But, the client only wants to work with me!”
Take Time To Teach
We can apply the concept of physical wellness to our business: As wellness educator Joyce Sunada says, “If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.”
If your No. 1 concern with training is you can do it faster yourself, sit down and determine what that means. Did it take you 10 minutes to do something that takes somebody else 20? If you took half an hour to train them in efficiency and thought process, could they do it in 10 minutes too, leaving you free to do other things? How much time are you actually “saving” in the long run?
Consider the time it takes to do a task yourself versus answering a few questions about it. Our instinct, when asked a direct question, is to give a direct answer. This leaves your trainee with no additional knowledge or background to problem-solve, just a one-time directive. When teaching, answer questions with the goal of understanding, process development and mindset. Explain the context of the problem and ask them for solutions. Soon, they will be answering their own questions.
It takes far less of your time to review and edit someone else’s work than it does to do all of the work yourself. Asking a team member to start a project or put together a rough draft and check in with you at a certain progress point allows you to provide fast feedback and is an excellent learning opportunity for them. The more experience they have, the better the work will become in the future, and the fewer edits you will have to provide.
Stop Keeping Secrets
Business owners can feel they are the only ones who can handle the amount or complexity of the information required to do certain tasks. Most of them would also be shocked at how untrue that is. To grow your business, you have to stop keeping important information secret from your team. You don’t need to maintain job security; you’re already running the show.
If a task seems too large or complex, break it into chunks. How did you first learn what you know? Recreate that learning experience in a few sessions. Remember our brains process stories best, so turning the situation into a narrative will often help with retention.
Maintaining strong relationships with your centers of influence (COIs) is important, but a recent study shows that 32% of consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. So it would make sense that the better the relationship between a client and your team members, the more likely the client is to stay. Allow your team to shadow you during phone calls and meetings with clients and networking partners. Just by observing, they will become better relationship managers and deepen your relationships with COIs.
Define Your Standards
We often hear the objection that a client only wants to work with the business owner. If you’re experiencing this challenge, ask yourself why. It’s likely some of the reasons may be that their perception is you’re the only person who can do the task, or you can do it better than everyone else. Or they don’t know/trust your team.
Start demonstrating to clients that you have a capable and talented team. If you aren’t comfortable bragging about your employees, it might be time to find some new ones. Speak highly of your team members’ unique skills to clients, and celebrate their achievements publicly. Make sure that any special efforts they make to go above and beyond are given credit.
Businesses often build onboarding plans for the lowest common denominator of performance. They are then surprised when they get the lowest common denominator of work product. To delegate confidently, take time to train for understanding and outline your personal best practices for high-quality work. Employees want to know what’s expected of them and will retain information and perform best when they understand the “why.”
I cannot say this enough: Start recording your training sessions. It’s 2020. You have access to tons of free resources that will record your training through video, screen tutorials and document sharing. You can ensure the quality of work and save a ton of time by providing access to relatable, evergreen training resources. Check out Loom, Google Drive and Asana to create repeatable templates and systems.
You Can Do This
What we have here is your standard “eating the elephant one bite at a time” situation. The objections above may be accurate, but only for right now. Training someone to do what you do may seem like an elephant-sized problem, but you’ll be able to justify the investment of your time and resources into training with the added revenue, retention and productivity from having a well-rounded team.