Delegate or Die: Systems + Controls = Maximum Delegation

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA

To help VARs and ISVs delegate effectively, the RSPA is creating a series of blog posts that will dissect delegation into tangible, digestible actions. Access Part 1 of our series here (The 5 Steps to Effective Delegation) and read Part 2 below. In addition:


If you want to step back from an area of your business, you need to leave effective systems and controls in your wake. Let’s define those terms in detail before we move ahead.

System: An organized or established written procedure, often with pre-designed forms or checklists, that causes the task to be performed in a consistent best-practice manner every time. Examples of systems include policies, procedures, forms, and checklists for:

  • Signing a contract with a new customer
  • Confirming quality before product is delivered to a customer
  • Authorizing an invoice to be paid
  • Interviewing prospective job applicants
  • Onboarding a new employee
  • Conducting employee reviews

Control: A bulwark that won’t allow a task to be performed incorrectly. Or, if the task falls short of the desired outcome, management is automatically notified. A control is typically a check-in, test, evidence, or verification as to the effectiveness of the performance. The best controls:

  1. have a consistent format
  2. are produced independently from the people whose performance is being measured
  3. identify the problem before it can produce a negative effect
  4. occur prior to the customer being affected; or as quickly as possible after the period being measured

Examples of effective controls:

  • Quoting software that won’t allow a salesperson to create a proposal if the price is lower than permitted
  • Accounts payable software that won’t allow an accountant to pay the same invoice more than once
  • A satisfaction survey auto-generated by CRM software and emailed to a customer when a technician closes their ticket
  • Conducting an annual Customer Health Checkup survey to uncover product and customer service blind spots
  • Performing an annual cost comparison (e.g. receiving bids against existing suppliers) to ensure fair rates for goods and services
  • Reviewing income statements monthly to determine if profit goals were achieved
  • Conducting an annual procedures audit to gain insight if employees are following important procedures

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I recall talking customer service best practices with a retail IT VAR who successfully grew his family’s company to a near 100-person operation. When an installation fell short of expectations, he never raised his voice, pointed fingers, or pulled out his hair. Instead, he embraced systems and controls: “We’d have a meeting with everyone involved, review our installation checklist, and figure out what the hell went wrong.” When necessary, the checklist was updated and staff was notified of the changes.

I also recall asking a leader in our channel how his organization grew from $1 million in annual revenue to over $20 million. He said, “On Monday, we figured out what we could do better, and we wrote that down. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we’d execute what we learned. The next Monday, we’d figure out how we could do even better and then write that down before executing it Tuesday through Friday. You do that for enough years, and you get where you want to go.”

Business advisor Jon Slabaugh also provides excellent advice on this topic: “Lack of systems and controls is what keeps small businesses small. Without systems and controls, top managers can only grow the business as large as it can get with them personally acting as department head over every function. Systems and controls allow you to delegate but keep work quality high.”

Maximum Delegation Formula
The following formula will enable you to achieve maximum delegation yet remain in control of your business:

  1. Make a list of the fulcrum activities that need to be controlled in your business.
  2. Develop reports to measure if your employees are performing each fulcrum activity successfully.
  3. For activities that didn’t achieve the standard during the recent reporting period, address with the appropriate department head/employee and ask, “What is your plan to improve?” This will likely lead to creating or updating systems.

If you give away every other job you have except this, you will be at maximum delegation. More delegation than this is abandoning your business. Less delegation than this is you spending too much time in your business (vs. working on your business).

The Maximum Delegation Formula will allow you to be in control of about 70% of what’s important to your business. The other 30% – human factors such as employee attitudes, low morale, unfair managers – won’t show up on standard reports and will need to be managed through other means such as regular meetings with your leadership team and supervisors.

Embrace the Maximum Delegation Formula today so you can focus on more important responsibilities tomorrow.

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Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing and a Business Advisor for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by 420MSP, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact