When I read about young Nickelodeon star Drake Bell declaring bankruptcy, I thought immediately about how vulnerable we are as artists.
If we want to succeed we have to be able to focus on our work. That focus means that we need to become good delegators, and often it’s the financial parts of our lives that are at least partially handed off to other people.
Why do we hand off something as important as money? That one is easy. Finance can feel cold and calculating, or boring to someone just learning. Certain aspects of our financial lives might require the ability to decipher contracts, understand interest rates and follow obscure metrics. That can be overwhelming…and underwhelming at the same time!
If You’re Going To Delegate
When it comes time to share the keys to your financial future, follow these rules to ensure you don’t get burned and end up surprised with a financial nightmare.
1) Always interview more than one professional. Always.
We want to trust people who make sense. But nearly every bad movie plot features some criminal mind masquerading as a good guy. Films and plays are based on real life! Sure, a particular professional may sound good, especially if you aren’t comfortable with the subject matter…that’s how unscrupulous individuals prey on your fears. Always interview several people to find the right one: you don’t want to have to go through this process again in a few months.
I love the phrase: “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to find the time to redo it?”
2) Credentials matter.
Ask each professional what designations they should have (and which they actually possess). Here’s another reason to interview multiple advisors: each may give you a different answer. You’ll know the truth only after you interview several pros.
Explore online to find out where people file complaints about professionals and see if any of the people you’re interviewing has had problems in the past. I remember helping one family investigate a mortgage professional only to find that he’d been in jail not too long ago!
3) Establish clear guidelines and milestones.
Don’t fall into the trap of “she’s the professional, so I’ll let her do what she does best.” People you hire work for you. It’s up to you to share what you mean by “success” and “failure” when it comes to their assignment. Often when a pro isn’t coming through it’s because they didn’t know exactly what you really wanted.
Set clear directions in writing and schedule a timeline for open and frequent communication. That’ll give them the opportunity to share in your success. If you hand them the tools to work effectively, you’ll be surprised how often they’ll impress you.
4) Ask for all contracts ahead of time.
Don’t let people sign contracts on your behalf and don’t be pressured to sign anything without reading it first. Sure, you’ve hired pros and they’re telling you it’s an important piece of paper, but you’re going to have to suffer the legal consequences of not reading any fine print that goes against what you were told verbally.
When I’m especially nervous about signing something (like mortgage paperwork or a legal contract) I’ll request it the night before. That gives me plenty of time with a highlighter to read everything so that I can ask good questions the following day. I’ve also rarely found problems, but I’ve always found that my professional helpers are always impressed by the fact that I read enough to ask a few questions before I sign any document.
5) Hold surprise audits.
It’s easy to fool the boss when you know they’re coming. It’s far harder when they “drop by” to see what’s going on and ask to see the work that’s important for the goal.
Some people make think this is an unfair approach. It isn’t. There’s no need to be bossy or mean to your help. However, the only way you can make sure that the job is getting done is to make your pros aware that you’re intensely interested in results.
Remember this line that managers preach: That which is inspected is respected by your employees.
6) Never abdicate the throne.
These are your goals and you’re the king (or queen!). Don’t ever set your team adrift without checking in to make sure that everything is happening according to plan. When your professional help is silent you should assume they aren’t working toward your goals. Putting off important conversations never makes them better and avoiding confrontation doesn’t make it disappear. You have to manage the high level vision so that your people can get into the trenches on your behalf and cover all the pieces you don’t want to trudge through.
By following these five guidelines you, too, can hire help and be reasonably sure that you’ll be able to focus on your art. While you should always expect bumps in the road, I always love being able to see them ahead of time so we can set a new course around the problem