Small Business Column

Seamus wrote a series of 12 monthly columns for Citibank’s on the challenges facing small businesses. His piece on delegating led to a guest spot on NPR’s “Small Business Minute.”

The Downside of Do-It-Yourself
For your business to prosper, you may need to learn to let go…

If you’ve got a small business, you’re probably a doer. You’re in business because you think you can do things better. That’s your competitive edge, the drive that keeps you going. You love the thrill of getting things done and that usually means doing it yourself. “Hands-on” is your middle name.

However, your biggest strength can also be a big weakness. You might be suffering from a fatal flaw that often keeps small businesses small. We’ll call it NLG syndrome, or the dreaded “never let go” malaise. You know the symptoms: ”if you want something done properly, you’ve got to do it yourself”; ”It takes so long to explain this to someone else, it’s quicker to do it myself.”

Doing it all can make you feel virtuous, but there are only 24 hours in a day. Try to do absolutely everything yourself and you risk burnout. Just as crucially, you risk losing your focus on what’s important. “Penny wise and dollar foolish” is one of the oldest clichés, but it applies perfectly to running a small business. You might save a little money by doing a lot of things yourself, but to really build a business you must make effective use of the skills of others, so you can focus on the big picture and higher-value activities.