Andrew is in his 2nd week at the advanced management program of the Harvard Business School. I went down this past weekend to see him and it is all pretty amazing: the building itself is incredible, constructed with a $50 million donation from past alumni, Ratan Tata, who attended the program in 1975. In the Tata building, approximately 200 attendees live and study for 8 weeks. Andrew estimates that only a quarter of the students are from North America so it is an international group.

And then there’s the work load! Several cases are taken up in participation-based classes every day so there is little time to spare.   Hearing about one of last week’s cases – Nike – made me think about the fact that even the biggest company started small at one point. The famous swipe trademark of Nike? It only cost the founder $85 to have one of his classmates come up with that, and the name? Well, although we think of Nike as a grand name that must have taken a marketing agency many hours to come up with – nope, it just sounded good at the time. It made my selection of the Prairie Girl Bakery name and the logo design process with Christina seem sophisticated in comparison!

Another aspect that felt familiar was the decision making by the founder as to how to spend his time. In the early years there were apparently some growing pains in that area at Nike and I think this is an issue that every entrepreneur with even one employee grapples with. What should the owner do and what should be delegated? I have written on this topic before and I think it is an important one to revisit from time to time.

With the transition to a new Head Baker, I also changed Carly’s role from finance manager to general manager and it has been a really great change. I’m not sure that what we actually do every day changed all that much, but it feels good to have clarity for all concerned that Carly “runs the place”, leaving me to focus on long term planning and strategy.

In my view, delegation by the owner of a small business should involve:

– finding a way to delegate stuff you are not good at (or that someone else can do as well) asap.  There are always lots of things the owner can do that will improve the bottom line that only he or she can really do, but sometimes it is tempting to stay mired in the minutiae.

– only delegating once you’re really sure about the person’s technical ability to do the work and also their interpersonal skills (i.e in a pinch will they represent you and your business in the same way you would?)

– not micro-managing once you’ve delegated but always being available to support/encourage the person

–  contributing by engaging in what is going on, coming up with ideas, offering suggestions…if that all sounds like micro managing, I think there is a balance that needs to be struck between poking your nose in the other  person’s job and keeping it fresh with the creativity that likely led you to be an entrepreneur in the first place. If the owner is not continuing to work “on” the business and be enthusiastic about it, it is hard for the team to stay that way.

– recognizing and rewarding people who do delegated jobs well – and not beating up on people who slip up. If you believed enough in the person to delegate part of your role to him or her, then see them through the inevitable rough patches.

I’m sure I will write again about Andrew’s time in Harvard…

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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