Last week I talked about Step #1 of successfully delegating: deciding what to delegate. The next two steps are to find qualified, reliable professionals and to delegate the work to them. But…how?

Step #2: Choose Qualified, Reliable Professionals

When you delegate to professionals, you have to choose the right ones- people who you can trust to do high quality work on time at a reasonable price. You’ll want to look for people who you can work with personally, who you like and find pleasant to work with. You’ll want people who meet your needs professionally. It’s important that they are able to meet your standards, time constraints, and price requirements.

I have a database of pros I’ve been working with for the last fifteen years, people I know I can trust to do great work on time and within set budgetary requirements. I’ve been sharing these folks with my clients exclusively for years, but what if you’re not one my clients yet? In 2012, I’ll be providing you with an option to access my database of amazing pros, but for now let me say that there are few guarantees when you work with someone for the first time, so protect yourself by getting excellent referrals and references, preferably from sources you know and trust.

Step #3: Delegate to Your Team

Now let’s talk about Step #3, the how of delegating. When you delegate a task to someone, you must remember that you know how to do it- they don’t. Of course there will be some things you’ll offload that are tasks your assistant or web developer handle regularly, but much of the time, your tasks will be unique to you and your business, at least in some way.

As you move forward with delegating, focus on the following:
a) Breaking down your tasks into easy-to-follow steps.
Every task can be broken down into steps. And even if you aren’t quite ready to delegate something, it’s never too soon to start creating a “manual” for each task- you never know when you might need or want to have someone step in and manage something for you.

In the book, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber talks about creating a manual for each part of your business. For every job that you do, create a manual that would allow someone to take over that job at any time. And when someone takes on the job, it becomes their responsibility to keep the manual updated with any changes or new procedures. This makes it easy to promote people or replace people, when necessary.

b) Writing clear and concise instructions for each step.
When you write instructions for someone, start by assuming the person reading your instructions has no idea what the job is or how to do it. Write down every single step, even if it’s something that seems obvious to you. Remember, what seems obvious to you may not be so apparent to someone else.

c) Answering questions before you get them.
Sometimes, including an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section in your instructions can be useful. That way you can head off spending a lot of time answering things you might already have answered previously. Check through your sent e-mails for answers to questions you’ve had in the past and re-use the answers in the FAQ. And again, this is a great place where the person you’ve delegated to can take over- let them manage and update the FAQ section as needed.

d) Being available as any questions you haven’t anticipated come up.
As you delegate to others, you’ll find that you want to be sure you have a little time set aside to reply to e-mails and phone calls as your new assistant has questions about his/her new tasks. there are always questions that need to be answered and fine-tuning that needs to be done, so plan ahead and make sure you have the time to manage the transition.

I’ve been thrilled with delegating various tasks and the time (and headaches) I’ve saved myself. There’s always a transition, but it is relatively painless and the reward is almost always worth the effort. A year ago, I delegated the management of one of my online stores to my assistant. There was a substantial learning curve- it took about two weeks before he felt comfortable managing the stores on his own, and during that time, we were e-mailing back and forth several times a day and talking on the phone at least once every couple of days. But once that transition was complete, I was free to spend my valuable time working on other, more profitable tasks, while he managed the day-to-day updates and operations of my store. I saved both time and money and was able to start a whole new business as a result (which he now also manages for me).

Don’t be afraid to delegate. It may be one of the best decisions you can make for your business!