Getting past the point of being a one-person, do-it-all, no-rest-for-the-weary business means helping customers to work with your employees or subcontractors, as well as you. But if every client thinks you need to do every thing, how do you keep them from freaking out when you delegate their work?
This problem is common in reputation industries as diverse as design, consulting, hair styling and professional hunting. Clients feel attached to the person whose name is on the firm and insist on personal service. But that only works for so long, until you have more clients than hours in the day.
Can you just not tell clients that you subcontract? I say no. To not be up front about this could feel like dishonest, or at least misleading, behavior to a client.
Why they can’t live without you
First, it helps to understand how this happens. It’s part of how that customer was thinking long before they ever called you. Everything you put out into the world starts the process of relationship building. Each piece of information from you adds a layer to the image they have of you and their decision making process.
When they read your blog, follow your tweets, check your about page, see your business card, meet you at a conference, or talk to other clients, it feels like they are building a relationship with you.
You haven’t necessarily met or talked at this point, but your future client is building a relationship with you in their mind. That’s a required and important part of how people make decisions.
I’m betting that right now, everything you are putting out is leading to them building that mental relationship directly with you.
How you can change it
How can you acclimate clients to your delegating?
1. Let them know you delegate
Starting now, make a conscious effort to mention your helpers, whether they are employees or subcontractors. Talk about team efforts, or how your associate did outstanding work for a client.
Evaluate your About page. If you work with a group of people regularly, should you feature them? Look at your card. Is it just you?
This takes a fundamental shift in thinking for some of us.
2. Let them know you still care and supervise
Reader Bob Sawyer shared his technique for doing this:
As for clients not wanting to work with your subcontractors, I have one of those. I explained it this way to them: “I’m not a god. I can only manage a finite number of tasks, and at this point, I have subcontractors assisting. I will personally oversee the work they perform and ensure that it meets your standards.”
How do you ease clients into the idea of delegation? Any great tips to share?
This article is part of the Small Biz 100, a series of 100 practical hands-on posts for small business people and solo entrepreneurs, whether in a small town, the big city, or in between. If you have questions you’d like us to address in this series, leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a community project!
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