The ABC’s of Successful Delegation and Outsourcing

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Most real estate investors are terrible at delegation. We are slow to delegate for a variety of reasons.

Most likely it is because of one of these reasons:

  • Money; “I can’t afford it”.
  • I can do it better myself; “No one is as smart/as good as I am.
  • I can get it done faster myself; “It will take too long to train someone to do it as well as I can do it.

We can come up with a million reasons. But here is the truth of the matter; the faster you begin to delegate and outsource, the quicker your business will grow and become profitable.

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The Simple Truth about Delegating

It’s a fact that it takes longer initially to delegate and to outsource a task then it does to do it yourself. Who knew that there was so much work involved upfront just to give work away?

But over time, it will change your life! For a whole lot of people, you will ultimately get your life back. Remember that thing called “free time” or “fun”? What about being able to take a stress free vacation because you know your business is running without you?

Now I’m not going to say this happens immediately, but that should be your long term plan. To put people and systems in place so you can get your life back.

In the Beginning…

It’s very likely that most real estate investors were “solopreneurs” when they first started out unless you were one of those folks that joined an existing family business or had a partner right from the beginning. The vast majority of all investors start out as “one man shops”. I can promise you that there will come a time when you begin to feel like you are drowning; you will realize that there is no way you can get it all done by yourself. You must delegate to survive!

Failure to Launch

Do you remember the movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey called “Failure to Launch” where he just couldn’t get his grown-up life off the ground? “Failure to Launch” is what happens when you hold on to the “I am going to do it all myself syndrome” to long. Your business will fail to grow and if you don’t take steps to change that, your business will likely come to a standstill or fail altogether.

When you can finally admit that you can no longer do everything in your business, you have to make a change and make it quickly.

The Choice

  • Some folks get an office and a staff person or two “right out of the box”. That can be a good choice for some people. But for most real estate investors, they will choose a different path toward delegation in the beginning. They will outsource some of the work.
  • One of the easiest things to outsource is your direct mail. There are a number of services folks use that have been written about on BiggerPockets. Don’t overthink this one too much. You can always change if you aren’t happy with your initial choice.
  • If you want to print your letters yourself you can find a stay at home mom or grad student to stuff and hand address those for about $10 a hundred.
  • I have had excellent results with outsourcing some things to virtual assistants on Odesk. You can find qualified folks to do all sorts of work for you there, and you won’t have to worry about payroll taxes.
  • Fiverr.com is another site I love. You can get your videos and audios edited there for $5, have intro’ and outro’s created for them, and get a million other things done for about the price of a cappuccino that will save you hours of work. If you aren’t a wiz at doing these sorts of things, then outsource it. You can get just about anything done on this site for five bucks.

Successful Delegation in 5 Easy Steps

1. Make a list of every repetitive task in your business whether it happens daily, weekly or monthly. Don’t leave anything out. It might help to keep a log for 30 days just to be sure you have everything on your list.

2. Look at the steps involved for each task. Don’t skimp on this part. You need to list each tiny, sequential step involved for each one of your tasks. I know that just about now, you are saying “I don’t have time to do that”. Remember to look at the big picture. You don’t have to get this done today; it might take 6 months from start to finish. In the end, you want more time, more freedom or whatever it is that you are looking to add back into your life. Creating systems for your business will set you free.

3. Ask yourself if there is any way to streamline each one of those tasks. Do you really need all of those steps or can the process be simpler or more concise? Can it be easier for someone new to do the task accurately and efficiently? Let’s face it; you don’t want to have to hire a genus to replace you.

4. Once you have all of the steps figured out for one task, create an overview of the job. Here is an example:

Overview: Create a Postlet flyer for each property we have for rent and for sale.

Steps:

1. Login to the Postlets site at http://Postlets.com

2. Here is the login information …….

3. Select “create new Postlet”.

You get the idea; list each and every step below the job/task overview.

5. Use screenshots and short video tutorials and go through the steps. You don’t have to buy any fancy programs to do this. There are plenty of free resources on the internet like Cam Studio and Screencast-O-Matic. These visual tutorials will be invaluable for folks that learn best by “seeing”.

Congratulations. You Have Just Created a System!

This is the first step to really having a business; creating systems. The beauty of doing this is you only have to do it once. Yes, it’s a lot of work upfront. But if you hire a dozen people in the future you will have a system you can use for years to come. It goes without saying that any system you create will need to be updated and “tweaked” from time to time, but you will never have to start over from scratch.

Final Thoughts …

Outsource quickly, and make a plan to outsource everything you can. Why is it that we all hang on too long?

Use your “core genius or your talents” to do the 20% of the tasks that only you should be doing and outsource the rest.
Let me know how you handle this process in your business. How long did it take you to outsource and what tasks did you outsource first?

Photo: nestor galina

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.

17 Comments

  1. Delegation is the most important step to growing a business. You can’t do everything yourself and many tasks you don’t want to do. I give all the tasks I hate doing to my assistants and fob the things I like doing. It’s funny how it works, but every time I get new staff I am as to fill my day up with more important money making work indigent even know I had.

    Another good idea to live by us never do work below your income level. If you are worth $50 an hour, don’t do work you can hire out for $20 an hour. Hire someone to do the cheaper waged work and concentrate and the higher earning tasks.

    • Mark –

      That’s a great way to look at it; hire someone if the job is below your pay grade. I am in the process of handing off a lot of my work to a VA. I’m sure that will be an upcoming blog post. Thanks for reading.

      Sharon

  2. Chris Clothier

    Sharon –

    Great article! I agree with Mark Ferguson and his very first line. If your goal is to build a business and not simply have a real estate job, then there is no task more important that delegating and duplicating. You want to delegate tasks to become more productive and then duplicate that process over and over until you have built a TEAM!

    Nice post –

    Chris

    • Hey Chris –

      I know you have mastered this whole delegation thing. For those of us that don’t have or don’t want to have a staff to manage (been there and done that), it just takes time as you know to set up those systems for outsourcing. But once they are done you begin to get your life back.

      I am in a different place now than I was before in that I don’t want employees. I am looking for a simpler way of “being”. So far, I have had good luck with outsourcing and VA’s. Like I told Mark, I’m sure there’s a future blog post lurking in these comments. As always, I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

      Sharon

  3. Thanks for listing those resources. I have used Fiverr, Elance, but haven’t tried Odesk yet. I’ll give them a try.

    I’m just completing a project that tapped into the talents of four editors, two graphic artists, and a web designer all of whom I’ve never met and who live on different parts of this planet. Simply an amazing feat that has changed my outlook of what is possible.

    I’m a self-titled futurist and I feel like I’m still way behind the times.

    Sharon, help me leap frog the learning curve… you clearly understand outsourcing. But do you feel you are using it to it’s full potential to generate income for your business. If not, where do you think you could stretch yourself?

  4. No I’m not Al, but I am moving in that direction. I plan to have a whole different answer for you in a few months. So ask me that question again.

    I am in the process of setting up my systems now. I fully intend to outsource as much as I can. Like I said in the article, you have to set up the procedures for doing each job so that takes a while. But once it’s done, it’s done.

    Odesk and Elance are both good. One might be better for some tasks where the reverse is true for others.

    I used a free tool called “ScreenCast-o-matic that will let you shoot a 15 minute screen capture video for the tasks you will be outsourcing. It’s fine to put it down into writing (and you should), but to see it makes it so much easier for them. We can set up a time to talk if you want some time. I haven’t forgotten about that other thing. Let me know when you get the finished project back and I will take another look. We can move forward then.

    Sharon

  5. Great post Sharon,

    You know more places on the internet to get stuff done cheap! 🙂 If only people, me included, would start with systems in mind first instead of the other way around, we would all be more successful faster. BUt it is tough if you have never built a business to understand the concept, but once you do, you can’t forget it!

  6. Glenn –

    Those folks that start out with the systems first in the real estate investing world are definitely in the minority myself included. We just jumped in headfirst and got going. I think that’s what everyone does for the most part. It’s not such a big deal when you buy your first house, then one more etc. But for a big business like yours, it’s a very big deal.

    The end game should always be to put your business or as much of it as possible on autopilot. Things like lead generation are a perfect example. What if you were out of commission for 6 months or a year? Could your business survive? For most people that is a great big NO. But with some serious thought given to outsourcing and in hiring certain key people, that answer could be changed to a great big “yes”.

    I started to put together an outsourcing plan at the first of the year. Getting those instructions in place are just so tedious. Here’s the thing; not having them in place prevents you from actually outsourcing whatever it is that you want to get rid of. You can’t expect your VA to do a good job in a reasonable amount of time unless you have taught that VA well. And, you don’t want to have to teach her the same thing again in the future; that should be her/his responsibility to go back and look over the system for completing the task.

    Maybe what I will do is to put together a post or two on how I have started to do it. Once I get this piece done if I have to add other people (and I do plan to do that), I will have everything in place.

    I think this just requires a whole “mindset adjustment” for us doers.

    Thanks for your comments Glenn.

    Sharon

  7. Oh man Sharon, your article came with perfect timing for me. When I saw the title and started reading I was thinking I was just reading so I could agree with your idea to delegate (I’ve had to learn how to do it myself and it wasn’t easy!), but what I didn’t expect to read was an indirect reminder that there are probably a lot of things I could be outsourcing that I haven’t even thought of. I’m totally going to make that list and see what tasks are possibles to get rid of so I can stay above water. Thanks!

    I personally am a huge fan of oDesk. It took me a couple less-than-desirable contractors on there to really get the hang of how to find the best ones. Trust me, just because someone has 5 stars doesn’t mean jack, as evidenced by a horrible…nevermind…just a horrible guy I hired. Ha. The trick I do is I always post the job I need done and let people apply. Sounds obvious, but I got caught up in searching through contractors that were ranked high, or sounded really good, or whatever and inviting them to check out my project. No more of that. I don’t reach out to anyone. I make everyone come to me. You can tell just from their initial reach-out a lot about them. Proper English is a start (not trying to hate on the non-native speakers, but believe me, it effects the work) and I let them explain to me how they intend to accomplish my project. Just doing that means the person is motivated to work, they have put effort into really looking into your project and putting thought into how they will do it, and you will know now they will be easy to communicate with. Since I started that method, I have found the best contractors! Love them.

  8. Hey Ali –

    You are right about putting up the job listing until you find a couple that you want to work with. I think the hiring process needs to be done in a couple of steps. You nailed step one; post the listing and see who responds and who can meet your timetable. Look at the ratings just in case they have some crappy ratings.

    One important factor I learned is to ask them what they are good at and what they really like to do. You don’t want to give them a job they hate doing, because you won’t like the quality of the work you get back.

    Once you think you have found the perfect person, it’s a good idea to interview them in person via Skype. That’s when you find out the “truth” about their English. If they can’t speak it fluently they aren’t going to be able to write it. You will also get a feel for the type of person they are.

    My VA has small children, and she told me right upfront that she likes to spend time with her family on weekends. I had to respect her for that. If there is something I need on weekends, then I am just going to find someone else to do it. Most of my work can be done throughout the workweek though.

    One thing that really sold me on my particular VA was that she had 2000 hours logged for one person. When I saw that I knew she had to be good.

    I’ve kind of put myself on a “self imposed” outsourcing challenge for the next 12 months. I want to see how much of my business I an automate.

    Anyone want to join me? How about you Ali?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with outsourcing.

    Sharon

  9. Good topic for discussion, Sharon!

    It’s interesting to hear when others talk about outsourcing when it comes to running a business. To be honest, I tried doing that in the beginning. And, let’s just say — it definitely was a trial by error experience!

    What I learned was that there are some things I can outsource that I’m not very good at which fall outside my skillset. But the things, I’m really good at — it’s not that easy to hire out. I think this has a lot to do based on my style and criteria when doing the things I do really well. And, that cannot be easily replicated in my experience!

    Learning how to hire folks who are good at what they do to help me in areas I lack expertise in has definitely been a challenging and trying experience. Finding folks who are good at what they do is the easier part. It’s finding the ones that are good at what they do and honest is what makes hiring challenging. Warren Buffett is right, honesty is a hard trait to find!

    For the most part, I’ve outsourced contractor type work out when it comes to fixing up homes. I definitely am not very good at working with my hands! Though when it comes to marketing, I still do that through networking as my communication skills are my strengths.

    In the beginning, I used to outsource a lot of my marketing (i.e. advertising, flyers, direct mail, etc). However, I found myself spending so much time managing folks and/or fielding calls that made me less productive. In the end, I found networking and being in the field to be the best use of my time when it came to marketing as it worked best with my skillset. Though it takes a lot of time to build up a network and the leads don’t start coming in right away, it’s definitely something I enjoy doing and the results have paid off.

    I think different things work for different people. Everyone has a different style and way of doing things. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs when it comes to hiring. Learning from these experiences is the important thing. And, that is priceless.

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

    p.s. I like that you didn’t say all aspects of a business need outsourcing. I hear this so many times from folks. (I cringe every time I hear someone citing the “80/20 rule”!) In the end, I think it’s important for folks to still oversee their own businesses. Even celebrities like Madonna are still very involved with all aspects of their businesses and finances! 🙂

  10. Hi Rachel-

    I think you have hit upon that 20% rule and used it well in your business. You are really good at “in person marketing”, networking, and building relationships. That is what your “core genius” is, and that is definitely something you should do yourself.

    If you were to put up flyers in local businesses near one of your parks, that would be something you could outsource if you could find the right person. Direct mail can be outsourced. Posting articles to article sites, posting Craig’s list ads and those types of things can also be easily outsourced.

    I believe the key to outsourcing to contractors is managing them so the work gets done correctly and on time.

    One of the toughest parts of outsourcing is getting the folks the proper tools and training. Once you have that piece in place then you have to manage the people. That actually takes very little time if they are good at what they do (at least when you start out).

    You have built a great business, and you are doing what you love. It doesn’t get any better than that. Have a good weekend.

    Sharon

  11. Wow Sharon this is pure gold!
    You have really been hitting them out of the park recently with all your posts.
    I love this advice and step by step laying out of how to do it.

    I want to delegate more things but the hardest part is making a system that can actually be given to someone else to handle!
    We all know what we do and how we do it, getting over that hump of actually writting it all out and being able to train someone someone to do it is a major hump that keeps it from happening for so may people. You have me inspired to go back and get some of those systems set up that I have been “working on” for awhile…

    • Shaun –

      This step was actually holding me back too. I finally put the first “task package” as I called it (for lack of a better name) together, and now I am able to move forward again with my outsourcing. I think rather than to bore everyone to death here, I am going to take “all the pieces to the puzzle” and drill them down a little more over on my blog focusing on one piece every week.

      What I found with my first task package for the VA was that even though I thought it was detailed enough, it needed a few more things added to it. She is really smart, but it was all new for her. Ultimately this process will help all of us.I want to be able to work “on my business” more. As a business owner, I spend way to much time working in it. Thanks so much for your input!

      Sharon

      • I like that term, “task package”. Sounds very official but not that intimidating since it is just a “task” and not some big “system” you are giving someone.

        That situation you described with the VA is the kind of thing that I let worry me since if I mess up that part then they will mess up the tasks I give them.
        Silly fears that everyone needs to get over to move forward. I KNOW that I just need to map it out, make the written and possibly video training on how to do it and just go for it.
        Then monitor the results and be quick to fix things if they aren’t working.

        Great stuff Sharon!

      • Hi Sharon.
        Have you put your task package together; and if so can you possibly email/send me a link?
        I have been doing far too much and now this girl needs assistance.
        Any ideas help from you and anybody is greatly appreciated!!!

        Thanks,
        Marie

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