Be Patient with the Process. People learn at different speeds. The onboarding process for delegation may look one way to you — the one that has been doing the work for many years — but try seeing it through the eyes of someone who has never done it before. A person with a higher skill level may have a shorter onboarding period, but in most cases, the person we’re delegating to may need you to continually guide them through the process until they build enough confidence and positive results to own the work.
Because this process doesn’t happen overnight, it’s critical to know how much time and money you devote to the transition. Plan accordingly.
As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Connie Vanderzanden. She is on a mission to help entrepreneurs live the lifestyles they desire by learning the simple steps, structure, and discipline to create and save money.
With 34 years of accounting and bookkeeping experience, a variety of industry knowledge, and her own real-life business growth journey since 2001, Connie developed the Going Beyond Revenue Cash Handling System, focusing on cash flow planning that creates profitable and sustainable businesses.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
If you had told my younger self that the career choice I made at 19 would bring me to where I am today, I would not have believed you. I chose the accounting field because numbers had always been easy for me, but it was only going to be temporary. Newly married, my original plan was to be a stay-at-home mom. Those plans changed, and I ended up staying in the field.
I felt a sense of calm working with numbers. I rotated out of jobs every couple of years, and when I was on the verge of leaving another company, I wondered what it would look like to have my own operation instead of feeling like a worker bee. It took another two years to build up enough courage, but I started my own bookkeeping business, and life has never been the same. My greatest fear was, “Would anyone actually pay me to do this?” Before long, I was paying other people to do it, too.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Five years in, I found myself running a home-based bookkeeping business with a part-time team member and the world’s worst boss: Me. I continued to behave like an employee instead of an owner. During the day, I hustled to serve way too many clients for one person, which only left the wee hours of the morning to manage the business. I started considering if it would be easier to go back to work for someone else.
I picked up a local magazine and found an advertisement for a life coach. I had been making decisions and running my business all on my own for five years, and it was the first time I had ever thought of asking anyone for help. The life coach ended up being a recovering CPA, and the work I did with her transformed everything. It shifted my employee mindset to that of an actual business owner. I envisioned a bigger dream and purpose for myself and the business. The journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but it definitely has been an exciting adventure.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
A coach I had been following was hosting a very intimate training/mastermind in Texas. I had never traveled by myself, and I was going to a new place where I didn’t know anyone else. I was excited and scared all at the same time. While the coach told me what airport to fly into and an approximation of where we would be meeting, I had to make all the other decisions myself. Looking back, I fretted way too much about the decisions I had to make and really could have used some help. The hotel I chose was nowhere close to where I needed to be, I packed way too much stuff, and I almost missed the flight. To top it all off, I was a nervous wreck.
It ended up being very empowering, and there were several years after that, I made sure to plan some type of coaching solo travel adventure. Yes, I learned a lot from the coaches and met some great people. But the biggest lesson learned was that every time I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, my business grew. I still overpack, though.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I approach working with the numbers differently. I talk about the numbers differently than other people in my field, and I openly share my struggles and lessons learned to connect with business owners at a level that they feel seen and heard.
For a long time, clients have said working with me is often like a mini therapy session. Sure, I want to know how the money was spent and love a beautiful reconciled bank account — that’s what business should expect from a bookkeeper. But what I really want to know is what the owner’s big vision is for the business and their lifestyle. How do they want to contribute to their community? What are they working for? Then I show them how money supports that, and I remind them throughout the process of that why. Sometimes, during our businesses’ growth, we can get stuck in the doing, but having someone shine a light to remind us of where we are going helps re-energize us.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The key to avoiding burnout is to recognize your bandwidth. You can do that annually by planning ahead. Take a yearly calendar and first block out all the holidays and vacations that you will enjoy with your friends and family. Everyone needs to take at least five, if not ten or more days off per year. Now, go back in and plan out significant due dates, product launches, conferences, training, etc. This will give you an accurate picture of how many days you truly have to get work done. Now use that data to understand what your capacity is. How many clients can you work with? At what point will you need to hire new team members? How does that factor into your pricing? Your business requires that you take care of yourself. If you don’t, there may not be a business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
At every pivot of my business, there has been someone there to open my eyes to see a new possibility, to believe in me, and to encourage me to dream bigger. If I had never met that life coach — the recovering CPA — I would not be here today. I am very grateful to Carol McKeag for teaching me about values and how to prioritize joy in my life and my business. She was vital in mentoring me during those early stages of growing my business and continued to be one of my biggest fans years after our coaching relationship ended.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Delegation is critical because many tasks in our day take time from our most important responsibility of moving our organization’s mission and vision forward. We can’t focus on what’s most critical when trying to wear all of the hats. On top of that, we can end up with significant work/life issues and potential burnout when trying to get it all done ourselves.
Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
One of the major reasons we struggle with delegation is perfectionism. We often focus more on the way the task gets done instead of the results. Our inner three-year-old comes out and demands that we get want we want, when we want it, how we want it. But we soon get the wake-up call that when other people are involved, that doesn’t always happen.
Another reason we struggle to delegate is that our tender egos can keep us from hiring people who are smarter than us. If we did, we would be able to trust delegating responsibilities to them easily.
In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
We have to make that mindset shift away from perfectionism by recognizing that done is better than perfect. Most mistakes won’t sink your business and can be corrected.
But we also need to make time to develop the people we’re delegating to. Instead of dropping tasks in someone’s lap between meetings or in rushed emails, we need to create specific time blocks to devote to the process. Over time, you’ll be able to move faster together.
Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
You are not born knowing how to delegate. It is something you learn on the fly, sometimes while your business is burning down around you. Today, I mentor businesses on hiring and delegating bookkeeping successfully because it took me many years to learn that same skillset — to let go and learn how to trust.
I started with a drop-and-run management style, then micro-managing the work, and if I wasn’t satisfied, stepped in and did it myself. But the business had a dream to be bigger than me, so it was a requirement to learn how to delegate.
My team concept has shifted in the last year, and I now work with all outsourced consultants in a virtual environment. Delegation is more than learning how to trust your team members. It also includes being aware of your team’s learning style, communication preferences, and creating a standardized system of doing the delegated work.
1. Communicate Effectively
By the time I had hired my first team members, I was already underwater with too much work that I had hustled up to cover the expense of the extra help. I had very little time for onboarding. It was an open office plan, and I told the team to simply ask if they had questions. But I failed to tell them the time to ask was not when I was in the middle of crunching numbers for a client. Not only did I get frustrated, I was rude — which often sent the team member scurrying back to their desk, afraid to ask any further questions.
I didn’t know enough to tell them how and when to communicate best with me, which frustrated everyone at the end of the day. Now I have those conversations at the beginning of the working relationship.
2. Be Patient with the Process
People learn at different speeds. The onboarding process for delegation may look one way to you — the one that has been doing the work for many years — but try seeing it through the eyes of someone who has never done it before. A person with a higher skill level may have a shorter onboarding period, but in most cases, the person we’re delegating to may need you to continually guide them through the process until they build enough confidence and positive results to own the work.
Because this process doesn’t happen overnight, it’s critical to know how much time and money you devote to the transition. Plan accordingly.
3. Create Clear, Written Expectations
Keep in mind that people have different learning styles. Some team members follow directions best verbally, while some need video or hands-on learning. One way to help bridge the gap between learning styles is to create a written process that outlines the project, timeline, communication requirements, and directions on finding additional training material and information.
After many years of working through piles on my desk, a team member helped me implement a project management tool. At the start, using a new tool can feel a little overwhelming to the person who has all the knowledge stuck in their head. Once we set up one project, we could copy the steps into the next, making each additional project easier to set up.
We required everyone on the team to use the project management tool, updating their progress at the end of each day. Now I could see what projects were moving forward, if they had stalled, and which ones may need to have their timelines pushed. No more micromanaging!
As an added benefit, many of my team members loved the sense of accomplishment from checking action items off the list within the tool.
Don’t waste a lot of time comparing tools — pick one and test it out.
4. Develop Measurements of Success
The first time I delegated a project, I didn’t set up any progress checks before the due date. When that day rolled around, I learned the project was only 50% complete. I was mortified! Of course, it made me think, “I should have just done it myself.” I also had to face the embarrassment of telling a client I had missed their tax deadline, and on top of that, I had to pick up the tab for the associated penalties. It was a harsh lesson that forced me out of my drop-and-run management style.
Once you have done the work of documenting the project, you can choose incremental milestones and meaningful measurements of success. For example, if the deadline is in four weeks, you can focus on progress to completion, such as at least 25–30% complete after seven days and so on. If there are high-stakes tasks on the list, build reviews into the timeline so you can make sure you’re content with the quality of the work.
Providing incremental measurements of success can also help your team member to build confidence faster. You can even engage them in setting their own success measurements, allowing them the space to take a leadership role in the process. Just make sure you agree on what success is. If not, they could go down a rabbit hole, spending hours on things that aren’t critical to the goals of the project.
5. Start Small
If this is your first time delegating or the person is new to the team, start with a small project. That way, you get a better sense of your communication and workstyles before diving in on something critical. In the beginning stages of a working relationship, getting wins for both parties is vital — it builds their confidence while building your trust in them. If you’re hiring a new team member, you may even want to pay them to do a test project to see how they perform before investing in the full onboarding process.
One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
We often get a tunneled view of how things need to be done based on our style or experiences. Bringing fresh eyes to a project can allow you to see that your way isn’t the only acceptable way. It’s important to realize that if you continue to focus on task-oriented, lower priority work, you’re playing smaller than what your business requires of you. If that continues, your business will never reach its full potential.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to see a movement around teaching young people about money. We need more personal finance education and conversations to make money less taboo. Money isn’t a bad thing; it all comes down to what people decide to do with it.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!