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Delegating vs D-I-Y


Most entrepreneurs are driven personalities, but you can’t overcome challenges and bring new ideas to the market through the sheer force of personality alone. You need to learn to delegate so that you can focus on the big picture.

Q: How do you decide whether to hire someone with a special skill, or to learn how to do it yourself? For example, let’s say that you have a great idea for an app, but no development skills. What would you do? — Markus LockAs an entrepreneur, you need to be self-aware. I’m not talking about self-consciousness — entrepreneurs should be willing to shake off their inhibitions. Rather, anyone who wants to launch a business should have a solid understanding of what he’s good at and what he’s passionate about.

Knowing this will help you to achieve your goals more quickly.A common perception about entrepreneurs is that, like artists, they work alone. Many people think that successful business people have overcome challenges and brought ideas to the marketplace through sheer force of personality.

But that’s a fairy tale! While going it alone is a romantic idea, few entrepreneurs launch a business solo.

And in fact, artists usually have help too.

Markus, it’s vital to the success of your business that you learn to hand off those that you aren’t able to do well. I’m not saying that you should never try your hand at a new skill — entrepreneurs are usually insatiably curious.

So you should give app development a go yourself first. (You should try everything at least once!) You might discover that coding fascinates you. If that’s not the case, no harm done — find someone who has the skills to create your app.

When I try a new task and find it’s not my cup of tea, or I’m simply not cut out to do it, I delegate it to someone who is passionate about the work, knowing that person will do a great job. This is part of our philosophy at Virgin: We aren’t limited by the skills of the people on our team, but also employ hundreds of agencies, contractors and freelancers.

We work with website developers, aircraft manufacturers, call-centre operators, service suppliers and many other wonderful third-party providers. Over the past 40 years, they have helped us to grow our brand to the point where it is now, and we wouldn’t be able to function without them.

I still remember how daunting it felt to hand over work for the first time. When my friends and I started Virgin decades ago, I knew that I lacked vital knowledge in some subjects — particularly in accounting, as I was never very good with numbers.

After trying my hardest to manage the books and finances, I finally hired an accountant, Jack Clayden.

My friends and I wouldn’t have gotten our business off the ground without Jack: He shared our vision, and in some areas he knew better than we did how to make it a reality. From our experience working with him, we learned that if we really wanted to grow our business, we’d have to delegate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should just hand over your work to your team.

As your business grows, seek out people who understand your ideas, want to build on them and can envision ways to make improvements in your business. As your responsibilities increase, delegating those that others can do better will free you to plan for the future and find new ways to develop your company.

But while it’s important to trust your staff and collaborators and allow them some autonomy, it’s important to stay connected to your business, or you may not notice the warning signs when something is about to go wrong.

This all comes down to collaboration, which is vital to any healthy company and an integral part of any entrepreneur’s life. It sparks wonderful innovation, without which a business may never move forward.

If you can delegate and collaborate effectively, you’ll find that you have more time to focus on the big picture and achieve the things you need to do to make your product or service stand out. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, e-mail address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.

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