Delegation: The key to harvesting big benefits for your businessCharles Willis
Advice Through the Grapevine from Charles Willis, CFE, Pinot’s Palette Co-Founder and President
I understand what it’s like to be a new business owner: When Pinot’s Palette CEO and co-founder Craig Ceccanti and I opened our first franchise in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood in 2009, we had a lot to learn—primarily about letting go of the idea that we had to manage every small task of growing our business. Like parents who couldn’t bear to leave their newborn for even a second, we thought we had to do everything ourselves to be sure it was done perfectly.
Craig and I knew that for every good experience, a customer would tell three people, but for every bad experience, they’d tell ten. That’s why we wanted to create a pipeline of good comments, and we felt at first that the only way to do that would be to personally make sure our customers left with a good impression. Over time, we learned we could do that by training our team well, delegating the responsibility, and let go of certain aspects of our business so that we could get where we are now—a national franchise with more than 130 locations.
I believe the key to success as a business owner lies in learning to put the right people in place so you can train them, gradually trust them with more responsibility, and be secure in the knowledge that you can step away from your studio and get out in the community and grow your franchise.
Looking back, I’d say one of the biggest mistakes Craig and I made as a new business owners was to hire people without much management experience thinking that they’d learn from us. Many of them didn’t, because they simply could not get comfortable with the idea that they were in a position of authority. Now we know that our managers need to have prior experience in that capacity, and once we got managers with those skills in place, things got much easier.
We opened our second Houston store in the Galleria area, then a third in Memorial City, and by 2013, we’d opened our fourth store in Oklahoma City. By that time, we’d learned so much and managing our personnel was easier. We had made a lot of mistakes before we got it right, so we came up with an extremely streamlined process to help others replicate our success. We call it Pinot’s Playbook, and we give it to all our new franchisees so that they can apply it to their own studio.
That’s why we come out to newly opened stores and help train staff ourselves. We can help our franchisees early in the training process to quickly identify the employees with real leadership skills, as well as others who might not do as well. When we started, we invested a lot of time and money recruiting staff only to later realize they were not the right fit for us. We teach our franchisees to ask very specific questions and look for certain answers, so they’ll know early on if they’re on the right—or wrong—track with a potential hire.
Learning to Delegate Effectively in Three Steps
We learned that owners or managers who delegate well and follow up consistently accomplish a lot more than those who can’t let go of the smaller or more mundane tasks. Learning to delegate responsibility can be the toughest, but most critical aspect of your job as a franchisee.
The art of delegating comes from the culture you develop in your business, and it starts the very first day you open your doors. Although every Pinot’s Palette franchisee will experience the journey in a slightly different way, I’ve noticed that there are generally three steps:
Step One: Accept that as you grow, you cannot be there all the time.
When Craig and I started out, we thought we could handle everything ourselves. Pretty soon, we were working seven days and 100 hours a week. It’s not feasible, and neither you nor your business can survive under those circumstances.
Step Two: Train and empower your staff.
You need to be confident that your team will make good decisions on the fly – even when you’re not in the studio. Give your staff tasks that are part of their job and maybe a few that are outside the norm. It’s not a good idea to give them a lot of new tasks at once—add more responsibility gradually so they don’t feel that you’ve thrown everything at them all at once. Let them know there are rewards to be gained, such as raises and promotions, when they’ve shown their competence with the responsibilities they’re given.
Step Three: Step back and just be a shadow in your studio.
Observe what’s going on, but don’t be a crutch—let your staff do what you’ve trained them to do. Go away for just a few hours at first, and let your employees handle things on their own. After a few successful days of doing this, you will be ready to leave the studio for longer periods and watch what’s going on from afar. You’ll have inspired trust in your team, and they will have been exposed to enough situations that you’ll feel they can handle anything.
If your manager and employees behave like the owner while you’re gone, you’ve done your job. It means they’re taking ownership of their role in your studio and they’re treating it like it’s their baby, too.
Keeping an Eye on the Studio – and Elevating Your Profile in the Community
Only you know your comfort level with the length of time you leave your studio. When you feel the need to check in, be sure and do it. Trust your intuition and let your team know you’re still keeping an eye on things, but now is the time for you to focus on networking and making the connections you need to elevate your profile in your community that will bring in more business.
So forget that old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I would say, if you want the job done right, do a good job teaching others the correct way to do things and assume responsibility, so you can focus on the bigger picture for your franchise.