Delegating in a family business

Growing up in a hands-on family business, I learned responsibility at an early age. Passing on that responsibility was, and still is, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a business leader. But if you don’t delegate, you’re not really leading, you’re doing.

I used to watch my father hand-dip chocolates in our basement as a kid, and would wait for him to say, “Do you want to take a turn?” It always felt so good to be able to help and accomplish what he asked me to do.

As time went on, he let me do more on my own and it was always invigorating to show him what I’d done.

I use this same strategy in delegating to my employees, and I know first-hand the sense of accomplishment gained from satisfying your superior with a job well done.

Loosening control

I like to give my employees the freedom to be creative and accomplish tasks. I only give direction and then relinquish the reins.

My employees, family, daughters and anyone that knows me will tell you that my key phrase is, “If I have to tell you exactly what to do, I’ll just do it myself.” I had to recognize early on that my job covered a much bigger scope that included leading and encouraging the entire organization to learn and experiment in order to meet the demands of our customers.

As dipping chocolates in the basement grew into a full-fledged manufacturing and retail business, we purchased equipment, hired employees and developed different departments to handle various aspects of production, as well as acquiring an office with personnel.

I knew that if I wanted the business to grow, I had to learn to delegate, just as my father did to me, so that my day wasn’t consumed with completing 20 small tasks.

Reaching full potential

If an employee comes to me with an idea or a way that something can be done better, I encourage them to expand on it and tell them to show me. I let them have the liberty to innovate.

I don’t always have the best ideas or all the answers, and that’s why I take the time to hire a good staff. I trust them to bring ideas to the table and perhaps carry out those ideas to fruition.

I’ve also learned how to delegate the right task to the right person. Just because someone is a department head or manager doesn’t mean they’re always the person for the job.

Different employees exhibit different levels of expertise in different areas and I try to match the employee to the task. Often, I bypass my managers and delegate directly to someone under them, thus empowering employees in lower level positions and preventing any miscommunication by eliminating the middleman.

If I delegate effectively, I have time for higher prioritized tasks and my employees get the opportunity to expand their capabilities and confidence, as well as to grow and reach their full potential within the company.


Bill Sarris is the president of Sarris Candies Inc. While focusing on growth in several areas, from fundraising programs to new retail territories and corporate sales, the Sarris family maintains the old-fashioned values and customer service standards set by the company’s founder, Frank Sarris.