The One Thing You Must Do to Grow Your Advocacy Practice (and Take a Vacation, too)

workingbythepoolThe answer to this notion of “the one thing you must do” boils down to trust, although maybe not in the way you’ll expect…

I say this to you, with the keen awareness of the fact that trusting isn’t something I do well. Having spent the first half of my life as Pollyanna reincarnated, then having been burned by too many people I DID trust along the way, including an ex-husband, an ex-business partner, and the notorious reason for all this empowerment and advocacy work of mine – the doctors who I trusted to help me whether my mysterious odyssey in 2004 – I hope you’ll understand that trusting isn’t exactly my long suit. Pollyanna, as represented by Trisha Torrey, long ago left the building.

So, whereas in the first half of my life, when anyone I met was trusted by default, that’s far from true in these past few decades. It is a huge struggle for me to trust anyone enough to relinquish any sort of control I have over important, personal situations. I can count the people I do trust with those situations on one hand.

That means this post, about the one thing you need to do to grow your practice (and take a vacation) is a bit like the pot (me) calling many of you kettles, black. Yes, I know this advice will be a tough pill for some to swallow, and I truly do understand that many of us need (what amounts to) a 12-step program to make it happen.

So what is that one thing?

It’s learning to delegate. It’s learning to turn over our business responsibilities, or at least some of the work we do, to someone else. It’s learning to trust that that someone else will take care of our babies – our businesses – as well as we do.

For some of you, those who already have practices comprised of more than 1-2 people, this is a hurdle you have already surmounted. Class dismissed for you!

But for the rest of us, you can see how, for someone who doesn’t trust easily, delegating some business responsibilities could be a problem! So with an idea that many of you, the readers of this blog, may also struggle with one-person businesses and the concept of delegation, making it difficult to grow and impossible to take a vacation, let’s take a look at this idea of delegating responsibilities for health reasons – our own health, and the health of our practices.

Here are some thoughts on delegation:

1. What does delegating mean? It means we turn over parts of our work to someone else – an employee, or an independent contractor – and pay them to do that part of the work for us.

2. Why is delegation a good idea? For one thing, delegating work is a growth strategy. Included is that the more billable hours you work, the more money you will make. Even if the person you delegate to is doing non-billable work, it frees up the person performing the advocacy services (you!) to bill more hours. Remember, too, that you can’t bill more hours than you, one person, can work. Growth will require more hours working directly with clients, and time is the one thing we can’t make more of. Thus, we need to delegate.

There are other important reasons to delegate, too. For example, it’s a form of insurance (loosely translated.) If you are the only person who works in your business and something happens to you, what happens to your clients? And then, what happens to your business? You could be hit by a truck tomorrow. If someone else is involved in your business, then they can, at least, help with notifications, and at most, take over your work while you are unable to participate. Having someone on board who understands your business may just save your business.

And then there is vacation. We all need a break, but it’s no break if all you do is tote along your phone and computer and camp on them while you are “vacationing.”

3. What kind of work can be delegated? In my business, I delegate only a few things: much of the web development work for both the Alliance and the AdvoConnection Directory, many membership tasks (notices, renewals, applications, etc), and some bookkeeping / tax related things. As an advocate in business, you might consider delegating similar tasks, but also, your marketing or social media, legal questions, services outside your own skill level, or whatever suits your practice.

4. When should you consider delegating work? There are two times to consider delegating: First, when your workweek runs consistently beyond your comfort level. For some people that will be more than 20-25 hours a week, and for others it will be a 50-60 hour week. It’s an individual decision, of course. But I have learned that even if I like to work a 60 hour week, my productivity wanes and many of those hours are wasted because I’m moving at half speed. I would do better to refresh and renew! (But ohhh yes! It’s difficult to justify it, isn’t it? This is the place where I’m the blackest pot.)

The second time you should consider delegating is when you are not the best or most efficient person to do the work. We mostly discuss this reason when we look at subcontracting. But this is also true for business needs, like tax preparation or marketing or web development.

I suspect that for most of you, like it is for me, the hard part is deciding that it’s worth spending the money to have someone else do the work. As if we need to justify writing a check to someone else for helping us grow our businesses. Yes, there may be a time when you just get started that this doesn’t make much sense, or isn’t in the budget. But there comes a time (defined by each of us individually) when penny wise becomes pound foolish (sorry to overdo the cliche’s, but they work here!) – when we are actually creating bigger problems for ourselves by not relinquishing that control, and inviting someone else to help.

Which takes us back to that trust thing.

Done right, and planned well, you can start early and build trust. Bring in someone else you already trust in other ways (my solution? my daughter!) Or find an advocate buddy who doesn’t compete with you, or who can be your co-opetition, to share ideas and resources with. Hire a vetted professional to do those things that are better handled by a professional (legal, marketing, bookkeeping or taxes).

It probably won’t even require all those 12-steps, but it will most definitely provide peace of mind that you are doing the right thing for your business, your clients, and yourself.

I even have a recommendation this week for a book that will help you. This is a book shared with me a decade ago by a friend who I have admired greatly as she has built a thriving (multi-million dollar) service business. It’s called The EMyth Revisited (where E stands for Entrepreneur.) It’s a quick and easy – and motivating – read.

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Agree? Disagree?

Share your experience or join the conversation!


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