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Culture Vultures: The One Task Founders Will NEVER Delegate

Anything to do with culture, recruitment, and people is off-limits

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 26 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It’s been said time and again that a common trait shared by good leaders is their ability to delegate. Because there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all important tasks yourself, you’re going to need the help of your team to get the job done.

This Inc. article presents a helpful tip on effective delegation: Use the “70 percent rule,” which means “if the person you are considering to perform the task would like to perform it, and can do it at least 70 percent as well as you, delegate it.”

While there are times when tasks aren’t performed up to your standards, another upside to delegation is that it’s a great way to show you trust your team, while upgrading their skills in the process. Plus it leaves you with plenty of time to focus on making your start-up as kickass as only your brand of brilliance can ever accomplish.

Before you delegate away, however, it’s vital that you take stock of your strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on the things you do best. As this Inc. article points out, as a business owner, founder, or CEO, “the tasks that only you can do are why you have the position you have…if you are spending time on activities that aren’t profitable or in your area of genius, you’re wasting money.”

Culture vultures

We’ve asked some Southeast Asian start-up founders on that one task they never delegate, and we were surprised to find their answers have this common thread: Anything to do with people, culture, and recruitment is definitely not up for delegation.

Paul Rivera, the CEO and co-founder of artificial intelligence-powered job recruitment portal Kalibrr, takes recruitment seriously not only as this is Kalibrr’s business model, but also in forming the team that contributes to his start-up’s continued success. “I make sure, particularly at the early to mid-stage of recruitment, that I interview and vet every single person I bring on to the team,” he shares. Rivera spends 30 to 40 percent of his time recruiting, “both proactively engaging with high value talent to make them excited about our opportunities and to also do the final interview for people who my recruitment team have already screened. Getting the best talent possible is critical to success and it’s hard for me to delegate that knowing how important talent is to the lifeblood of any young organization.”

Joel Leong, co-founder of e-commerce start-up Shopback, agrees. “We founders may be super busy with our respective functions, but hiring is the one task that we’ll definitely make time for. People are our greatest asset. People control the company’s culture and solve problems for you. If you hire the wrong guy, you’ll create bad culture and more problems,” he says.

For Kosuke Sogo, CEO and co-founder of ad tech company AdAsia Holdings, communicating with his staff is something he never delegates. “At AdAsia Holdings, we value our staff highly and have built an open and collaborative culture. I believe in the value of transparency within an organization and aligning all staff with the company’s direction and plans. This is especially true when having a cross-border business,” he shares.

Since starting out more than a year ago, AdAsia Holdings is already in eight countries across Asia. Communication can be quite tricky, given his 110-strong team, but Sogo’s keen on letting everyone in on how the company is performing. He hosts monthly business updates through online video with the whole company, as well as quarterly open forums for all staff to communicate with the founders and each other. “No matter what stage an organization is at, it is imperative that the founders or leadership team should never delegate communicating with their most important stakeholders—employees,” he says.

For Derek Tan, co-founder of Viddsee, a Singaporean start-up whose online video platform enables global audiences to discover the creativity of Southeast Asian short filmmakers, “setting culture” is one thing he would never delegate. “It’s important for founders to define the principles that define the company, and at Viddsee, we codify this so that we can scale the communication of culture to whoever is new in the company, and also allow the team to carry that culture forward,” says Tan.

Tan’s mindset is shared by Singapore-based in-home eldercare start-up Homage founder Gillian Tee. “Setting the team culture—how we do things, make decisions, and experience work—is for the founders’ to do alone,” says Tee, adding, “The company is only as good as the people in it, and fostering leadership and ownership starts from leaders at every level, and ultimately originates from the founders.”

Aaron Brooks, co-founder of influencer marketing start-up Visual Amplifiers (VAMP), believes the company’s vision should be close to any CEO’s agenda. “At all times,” he emphasizes. “CEOs need to own and communicate the vision of the company they stand for. Without this reinforcement from the founder, any organization, regardless of how promising its value proposition, will be diluted and eventually lost.”

Because of Brooks’ line of business, key customer relationships and interactions rank high on his priority list. “These insights and relationships are key for any entrepreneur to run a successful business. Do they agree with my brand’s value proposition? Do they really understand the worth of investing in my business and therefore are willing to pay for it? These are insights that are extremely crucial for me as an entrepreneur and fall into my day-to-day agenda,” he shares.

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