Losing $85,000, Hiring the Right People, and Watching the Robot Vacuum

I’ve recently had three different conversations that all brought up a critical component to business ownership. Bear with me as I recap them for you, I promise it will make sense in the end.

Losing $85,000

The first conversation took place during my open office hours. A client joined and we talked about her busy and successful Q4. She was so successful that she had to help out with orders. A platform that she advertises on also had offered her a dedicated manager to help her maximize her sales around this time. She was very excited, gave some general direction for managing her ad account and jumped in to fill orders.

As she glanced at emails, she noticed a larger credit card bill than usual, but just assumed the ads were working their magic. When Q4 settled and she came up for air, she realized that in the short month, she’d been in the warehouse, there had been over $85,000 spent on ads and the return on ad spend had dropped far below the previous level.

That money had left the business with little return on her investment. Instead, she could have hired a warehouse person for far less to handle this seasonal bump or hired a fractional marketing manager to have actually managed the ads which certainly would have resulted in more sales. She could have spent more time giving more specific directions to her new dedicated ad manager. In short order there are three ways this could have gone better.

A Hiring Seminar

The second conversation happened when I attended a presentation given by a CPA of a larger firm. He was discussing hiring challenges facing the accounting industry. The challenges facing traditional accounting firms are many as technology is changing rapidly. However, hiring is particularly problematic because tax firms have historically overworked their employees every March and April. People can’t live their lives without seeing family and participating in family life for 2 months out of the year.

Still, accounting firms have a growing demand by clients that need their services. There is an opportunity to grow and serve clients that need their help, but accounting firms have to hire the right people. That means the owners must set the right culture and manage the workload of their team. To do this, they have to dedicate time away from the accounting work to actually manage the team and the firm.

The Robot Vacuum

The third conversation came over the weekend. My husband, an engineer with an MBA from Duke, was analyzing the patterns of our robotic vacuum. Don’t ask me why he chose to spend his weekend doing this. He explained to me that the vacuum went through the house and got the most open areas. The second round it went in very illogical patterns to get the areas around the baseboards. He kept trying to understand why it was programmed this way, but ultimately decided it was beyond him. He said, “It makes no sense why it’s programmed like this. It actually pains me to watch it being so inefficient. I just closed the door, I can’t look.”

Where It All Makes Sense

Now here’s where I’m going to bring it all together. What do these three events have in common? The answer is delegation. Effectively delegating could have put $85,000 to work for my client in a much more productive manner than ads that didn’t generate enough return. Realizing that, as an owner, keeping an eye on strategy and a new ad partner was more important than fulfilling orders, especially during the busy holiday sales season, was a lesson my client learned the hard way.

The speaker at the hiring presentation made it clear, “You must delegate in order to grow.” The challenge with this is that we as accountants became accountants because we are good technicians. Delegating typically means that we have to let go of the tasks we really like to do. We have to use skills that may not be as developed, such as managing the team or creating systems. In addition, we have to accept that the person that will be doing the work may not do it as good or in the same way we would do it. That’s difficult for our kind of people to accept, but we have to be ok with that, at least to the point that it meets our criteria for an acceptable work product.

Finally, we may just have to turn our heads and not watch as our team member figures it out and operates inefficiently for weeks when we could have done it right in half the time. Given that you have the right employee, them taking longer in the short run is going to save you time in the long run. Delegation is one of the major things that a business owner must master in order to grow their business and to ensure that they keep their eye on the important strategic work that only they can do.

How to Hand it Over

If you need help figuring out where to start, think of one task that you could hand off to an employee or contractor. Consider how much time it will free up to do higher-level jobs. Find the right person for the job and train them to produce the outcome you expect. If there are certain steps that must be followed, teach them the steps. Then observe, give feedback and encouragement.

Even when they don’t complete the tasks as you would have done them, express your appreciation and find something good to say. When you see that they have it figured out, ask them to document their process and add it to your process documentation library. In this way, you don’t have to think about this activity again, except to spot check, and their process may even end up being better than yours. Now you have one part of your brain that can be used to develop a new product, create a new marketing strategy, or even to go home an hour early and spend a few extra minutes with your family. Afterall, work is supposed to support our life, not the other way around.


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Post Author Cyndi Thomason

Cyndi Thomason

Cyndi Thomason is founder and president of bookskeep, a U.S.-based accounting, bookkeeping, and advisory firm for ecommerce sellers worldwide. She has a passion for data analysis and process development. She uses that passion to educate her clients and help them structure their businesses to maximize profits.

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