Operations

Let Go And Delegate To Grow Your Business

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 5, 2011
If you don’t have the time to do something or you don’t like to do it, then delegate it, says Chicago operator George Jacobs (R).

If you don’t have the time to do something or you don’t like to do it, then delegate it, says Chicago operator George Jacobs (R).

If you don’t have the time to do something or you don’t like to do it, then delegate it, says Chicago operator George Jacobs (R).
If you don’t have the time to do something or you don’t like to do it, then delegate it, says Chicago operator George Jacobs (R).

LAS VEGAS — Veteran operator George Jacobs learned at a young age a rule about delegating that has helped him throughout his career.

“I used to cut my own hair and saved $2,” said Jacobs, the owner and CEO of Windy City Limousine in Chicago. “And I looked like I cut my own hair. That’s not such a good thing.”

Don’t cut the haircuts
Lesson learned: “Figure out what you are good at and like and do it. Admit what you’re not good at and delegate it. If you’re not good at something, give it away or you’ll do poorly and lose ­money.”

Decades later, Jacobs runs one of the largest, most successful chauffeured transportation fleets in Chicago, while someone else keeps his gray hair neat and trim. The NLA board director operates a company with 140 vehicles, 180 employees and independent contractors, a payroll of $4.5 million, and annual revenues of $14.2 million. To get there, he told ILCT Show attendees that they must organize their company work flows based on prudent delegation, or else they cannot grow and succeed.

“There is no Delegate 101,” Jacobs said. “Delegation is an ongoing process. You can’t grow without delegation. . . you must let go. You must give things up to people.”

The biggest fear that prevents companies from growing is the fear of delegating, Jacobs said. That applies to operators’ strengths as well. “What if I was good at something and had to delegate it? It would make me uncomfortable. But until I learn how to do that, I will never grow. I don’t have to be the big shot.”

Connecting duties and skills
The key to delegating is to match employees with the skills they are good at, such as sales and marketing, scheduling, dispatch, billing and collections, purchasing, hiring chauffeurs, information technology, training, reservations, etc.

A common bad practice among novice operators is to be chauffeur, biller, dispatcher, mechanic, and reservationist all in one, Jacobs said. That causes more stress and steals sleep, leading an operator to hate work.

“Not one person can live without delegation. Everything we do in life is delegation.” Most people don’t design their own clothes, grow their own food, or repair their own cars, Jacobs said. “It’s easy to like the ego of doing many things, but you can’t thrive unless you let go.”

Don’t overdelegate
Managing delegation is not just a matter of turning tasks over to others; there needs to be adequate training that avoids the extremes of over-delegating and micro-management. “If you don’t give enough information to someone, you fail,” Jacobs said. “You must give some direction or you seem like you don’t care.” His company has manuals for all positions, describing duties and lines of authority and supervision.

Pick the right person, educate them, and then make them feel competent, he said. “Our job is to help employees do the best job they can possibly do. If you delegate properly, it will work.” Service suppliers and contractors are viable, feasible options for operators who cannot afford to hire additional employees. “You need to communicate and be in there talking all day long,” he said.

Good results
All successful people get where they are by delegating, Jacobs said. For 20 years, Jacobs’ companies have handled transportation for Chicago-based Harpo Productions, the company that owns and produces the Oprah Winfrey Show. “She’s never called me about an order,” he said.

Delegation also pays off because it creates time for others to bring in more revenues, thereby covering the costs of added labor and contracts. “The more you delegate, the more you increase your sales,” Jacobs said, either by freeing up time for operators themselves to market or assigning those tasks to someone more capable.

Finally, don’t look for perfection, Jacobs said. “I’m pretty close to perfect. And I need a lot of work.”

Sidebar: Ways To Delegate

Jacobs refuted the myth that a company needs to be big and rich to delegate:

  • Sales: For those operators strapped by sales duties, Jacobs suggested those tasks can be delegated to capable employees who have sales aptitudes and could make cold calls. Affordable incentives for them could include extra gas money, 2% commissions, and free lunches. “You don’t have to pay someone $50,000 per year. All of you can afford a sales person,” said Jacobs, who admits he doesn’t like cold-calling and marketing.
  • Phones: Jacobs also advised operators to “bite the bullet” and hire someone to answer phones live 24/7, whether it’s an employee or a contracted call service. “I’ve seen chauffeurs acting as dispatchers and schedulers, and while that may be efficient, it looks low rent. . . When you have someone answering the phone all the time, you have graduated to the next level,” Jacobs said.
  • Technology: Another form of delegation, and substantially cheaper than labor overhead, is technology, Jacobs said. “Soup to nuts” software, credit card swipers/readers, communication devices, and toll-way readers are all critical devices that can perform delegated tasks.
  • Maintenance: At Windy City Limousine, for example, certain employees are assigned to do minor repair work on vehicles, but never engine replacements or overhauls, which are outsourced to vendors.

Related Topics: business management, George Jacobs, ILCT 2011, leadership

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