The Delegation Dilemma: Tips for Agency Owners to Let Go and Level Up

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Welcome to the latest episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast. Today we are delving into the challenges that agency owners face when it comes to letting go and stepping up in their businesses.

Drawing from his own experience of running an agency, Rob discusses the importance of delegation, the benefits it brings, and the mindset shifts required to make it successful. He shares practical tips and strategies for starting to delegate tasks effectively, including calculating the value of your time, creating standard operating procedures, and challenging your perfectionist tendencies.

Whether you're just starting out or have been running an agency for years, this episode is packed with insights to help you level up and achieve a better work-life balance.

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[0:15] Introduction and my experience of running my agency

[01:40] Black Friday offer to Join The Self-Running Agency Implementation Group

[03:14] Why do agency owners get stuck in the weeds, what is the issue with this?

[04:53] Your notional hourly rate - what is an hour of your time worth?

[06:28] Why is it so hard for agency owners to delegate?

[08:00] The benefits of delegation-level everyone up

[09:29] How do you start delegating tasks?

[12:00] Focus on the things that you can truly only do


“Assess your tasks by your notional hourly rate, if the task is worth less, then you need to get it off your plate” - Rob Da Costa
“50% of running a successful agency is a mindset” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa [00:00:00]:

Hey everyone, it's Rob Da Costa here, your host of the agency Accelerator podcast. And today I want to talk about why it's so difficult for agency owners to let go, to step up and to get out of the weeds. When I ran my agency, I remember sitting at my desk and thinking everyone was piling their wheelbarrows of problems at my desk every day. And I had my fingers in so many pies. And I realised that I needed to start delegating better and I needed to focus on the high-level work that resulted in us growing our agency more substantially. Now, I wanted to record this episode because I just see time and time again agency owners struggling with the same issue. You start an agency because you want flexibility, freedom and control. And yet, in the end, we give up flexibility and freedom because we want to keep control.

Rob Da Costa [00:00:51]:

And it means you're never able to elevate your role and therefore elevate your agency. So that's what we are talking about today, how to get out the weeds, let go and level up your agency. So let's jump into the show.

Rob Da Costa [00:01:04]:

I'm Rob DaCosta, and this is the Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guest's experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business.

Rob Da Costa [00:01:29]:

Now, if you're listening to this episode live, we are right in the middle of Black Friday and I'm doing something I've never done before, which is running a Black Friday sale. So if you're ready to take your agency to the next level in 2024, then for a limited time, you can enrol in my signature group coaching programme, the Self Running Agency, which is a seven-month programme, and you can join for month one for just 47 pounds. Yep, you heard that right, 47 pounds. That's a saving of 200 pounds off our regular price. And so, until 09:00 p.m. On Black Friday, which is November 24th, you can join this exclusive coaching programme for only 47 pounds upfront, which means you can really get 2024 off to a rocking start. And then you'll pay just six payments of 247 pounds. I'll give you all the systems, the strategies and the support you need to reach your revenue goals and build an agency that is less dependent on you.

Rob Da Costa [00:02:25]:

Whether you're just starting out or you've been running your agency for a number of years. This hands-on implementation group will give you everything you need, plus a community to build and support your business that you are super proud of and one that isn't dependent on you for every single decision. So don't miss out on this huge 80% discount for your first month. We've only got ten spots available at this crazy low price of 47 pounds. So grab your spot and invest in your agency's future and have a great 2024. So head over to, that's enrol-now-bf as in Black Friday, and Jumpstart your 2024 by nabbing this fantastic deal. Okay, on with the show.

Rob Da Costa [00:03:12]:

So let's kick today's show off by digging into why it is such a problem that agency owners get stuck in the weeds. In other words, they are involved in every single decision and they've got a hand in all client service work. What's the issue with that? Well, first of all, there's only one of you, there's only one person that's running this agency. And so you're going to very quickly get overwhelmed and be pulled in 20 different directions to try and get your everyday task completed. And of course, that means that you're going to be working long hours, you're going to get burnt out and you're going to one day stop and go, why on earth am I doing this? I'm being a lowly paid employee working much longer hours for a much tougher boss than I used to when I had a job. And one of my favourite expressions is that when you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else. So if you, the agency owner, are saying yes to being involved in every client account, sitting in every meeting, being involved in every decision, then you are saying no to other things. And those other things are truly tasks that only you can do.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:13]:

So that means that you are not focused on the future of your agency. You're not focused on plotting a roadmap to ensure that you are steering a course in the direction you want to go. And you are avoiding those icebergs. And ultimately that means that your agency is at the mercy of external factors because you're not taking control of the direction. And of course, we all know when the economy is tough, that can be a pretty disastrous effect. So you need to have time to say yes to the tasks that are going to move your agency forward. And the only way you're going to do that is by saying no to some of these other tasks. And one of the ways to do this is by calculating the value of your time.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:51]:

I call this your notional hourly rate, because, you know, I don't think you should be selling time to clients, but it is really useful to have a sense of your notional hourly rate. In other words, what is an hour of your time worth? And then be able to assess every task you do against that hourly rate and decide if the task that you're doing is worth that hour or more, in which case you should do it. But if it's a task that's worth less than that hour, then you really need to look at a way of getting it off your plate. So I just want to give you a really simple exercise to do now to help you figure this out. And I totally get that this is a down-and-dirty approach, but take your ideal annual owner's salary, and I want you to divide that by the total working hours. So, for example, if we said that we wanted to earn 150,000 pounds a year, then I want you to divide that by 1410. Well, 1410 looks at all the hours that are available in the year, assuming that you work nine to five, which you probably work longer than that. And it also assumes you take four weeks' holiday, which I really hope you do.

Rob Da Costa [00:05:53]:

So if you take your ideal target salary, so we're going to say 150,000. In this case, divide it by 1410, and it gives you an hourly rate of 106 pounds an hour. Now, as I said, the goal isn't to bill your clients at this rate, although of course, you could. But it's really to use it as a benchmark for decision-making. Because, as I said, for any tasks that are worth less than 106 pounds an hour, you need to look for a way of getting them off your plate. Delegating them, stopping them, or automating them. Okay, that's great in theory, but I certainly know that 50% of running a successful agency is having the right mindset. So the agency owner has to be willing to let go.

Rob Da Costa [00:06:34]:

So why is it so hard for agency owners to actually let go and delegate? Well, of course, understandably, they have a fear of losing control. They have a fear of not having good enough quality going out and that hurts their brand. They run this mindset of thinking people won't do it as well as me or as fast as me, which, of course, is asking the wrong question. Sometimes they lack the trust in employees. Sometimes there's a big skills gap between the employees and the agency owner. Agency owners also are kind of control freaks and are alpha-type characters, so they have a perfectionist tendency. They have difficulty in letting go, and there's a tendency for them to micromanage their staff. So these are all kinds of amber warning lights for you.

Rob Da Costa [00:07:18]:

And remember, you're not asking the question, will someone do it as fast or as well as me? You're asking the question, will they do it well enough so that the client is happy and we can deliver the work on time and to a reasonable quality? So I want you to challenge your mindset, because, as I said, 50% of running a successful agency is getting the right mindset. So challenge your mindset if you're running any of these thoughts, and obviously, make sure that you are a fantastic delegator and you are communicating really effectively, so your team member completely understands what's expected, what good looks like, what the deliverable is, and what the time scale is. Now, obviously, the benefits of delegation kind of go without saying, but if you can get work off your plate, you can focus on those tasks that are worth more than 106 pounds an hour, and you can spend more time in the strategic space. And that looks like plotting the future of your agency. It looks like being the figurehead doing business development, doing sales and marketing and having that plan and communicating and controlling and managing your team to move them on the journey to the destination with you. It gives you the ability to scale your agency because everybody can level up. And you are obviously leveraging your team to create more capacity to deliver more client work by challenging your team if you have one. And when I say team, I mean it could be a VA, it could be a remote worker, it could be a part-timer, it could be a full-timer, it could be in-house and so on.

Rob Da Costa [00:08:43]:

So by team, we mean a lot of different things. In case you're listening to this thinking, it doesn't apply to you, but even if you're using a VA, like I have a team of VAS I use, all of this is super important for me to apply as well. So it gives you the ability to create greater capacity, but it also helps you retain talent for longer because you are challenging your employees and you're engaging with them, you're showing trust, and you're developing them. And personally, for you, it means you get to focus on things that you probably enjoy doing more. That leads to less burnout and ultimately a better work-life balance. Okay. So hopefully, you get all of this. You go right.

Rob Da Costa [00:09:22]:

That's great. Rob. I'm determined to do this in 2024. How do I start delegating tasks? So I first of all, say, take an inventory of all the tasks and all the projects that you currently work on and then categorise them based on importance. You can just literally put are they worth more than your notional alley rate or less than your notional alley rate? And then the ones that are worth less you can identify as ones that you either need to eliminate, automate or delegate to other people. And then when you need to delegate them. I'm a really big fan of creating standard operating procedures, so create some documentation that other people can follow. This is definitely a slowdown to speed up the moment because I totally understand I'm adding more workload to your already full plate.

Rob Da Costa [00:10:07]:

But it's a slowdown to speed up because if you take the time to delegate effectively and document what people need to do, then you're going to be much more confident that they will get up to speed quickly, that you won't have to launch into rescue a situation because they're going to deliver it in the same way that you did. Once you've done that, you can start by delegating small tasks. Be really clear about the expectations you have. Now I'm going to include a link to my free guide on the nine steps to excellent delegation because I think a lot of people are really poor at delegating and they kind of assume through telepathy or osmosis that people will understand what you want them to do because you understand it in your head. So we need to be great delegators. So do make sure you go and grab a copy of the free Guide on nine steps to excellent delegation. Then print off those nine steps and use them as your kind of best practice guide. When you're delegating, make sure you're focusing on the outcomes that people need to deliver, not just the process.

Rob Da Costa [00:11:04]:

So you want to be clear about what good looks like, what the outcome is, what the deadline is, and so on. And then you obviously want to make sure you're investing time mentoring and checking in with your employees who you're asking to delegate. And again, in the short term, you're switching your time from doing a task to actually mentoring other team members so you won't save any time in the short term. But remember, your future self will thank your present self for doing this because it means you can get more work off your plate. Now, to make all of this work, you absolutely need to be willing to let go of being a perfectionist because being a perfectionist is not going to work in tandem with what we're talking about today. And then when your team members are delivering what you've asked them to do, then celebrate and reward that successful delegation. Feel good about yourself and recognise your team members as well. So they're just some tips on how to start delegating.

Rob Da Costa [00:12:00]:

And I really want to challenge your mindset with any of this. And if you're listening to this and you're thinking I don't have someone to delegate to, then go and get yourself a virtual assistant and start getting all those admin tasks off your plate. A really good example of this is that I recorded this podcast, but my VA team edited it. They create the social media posts, they upload it to the platform, they create all of the promotion around the podcast. So I do the thing that only I can do because they can't record this for me. So this is a task that's worth more than my notional hourly rate. But the other things associated with this podcast can be done by other people. So make sure you're finding those other people, even if it's an offshore VA that can start to take some of those tasks off your plate.

Rob Da Costa [00:12:45]:

Okay, just to wrap up this short episode, I want you to think about why it's so important that you get out of the weeds. You have a good look at the roadmap ahead and you focus on those strengths, those things that truly only you can do, those things that are worth more than your notional hourly rate. It's good for you. It's good for your own well being, your own work-life balance. And it's also good if you want to grow your agency in one form or another, use that simple exercise I gave you to work out what an hour of your time is by taking the ideal salary and dividing it by 1410. To give you an idea of what your notional hourly rate is, start documenting your tasks, assess them against that hourly rate, and then make sure you start to delegate. And as I say, grab a copy of the nine steps to delegation guide that will be in the show notes. And of course, if you want more help with this, if you want to be surrounded by a group of other agency owners, then make sure you jump on that Black Friday offer that I talked about joining my self-running agency implementation Group, which teaches everything we've covered today in a tonne more detail, and of course gives you all the tools and tips to run an agency, from planning to marketing to sales to retention, to recruitment and to scaling your agency.

Rob Da Costa [00:14:03]:

But other than that, I hope you found this episode practical and useful, giving you some good food for thought as we head towards the end of 2023 and head into 2024. Get some of this right. I hope you found this useful. And if you did, please, please do consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. I've even created a quick video on how to do that in the show notes. It really helps me reach more people because it means the algorithm shows this podcast to more people. But other than that, have a great rest of your week, and I'll see you next Thursday for the next episode of the Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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