In America, the costs of labour have gradually risen to the point where hiring menial labourers is a preserve of the more affluent members of society.
The minor household repairs for which we in Kenya quickly engage plumbers, carpenters and other craftsmen to perform, are done by the adults in the house whatever their standing in society in the US.
I saw university professors mow their own lawns, senior partners in prominent accounting firms repair doors and windows all without a second thought or feeling of the embarrassment I would feel here in Kenya were my friends to see me doing the same things.
So mainstream has this state of affairs become that it has spawned an entire Do-It-Yourself industry dominated by outlets such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Kenya is different. We have plenty of young people looking for work and we are spoiled for choice when we seek to delegate tasks. However, many leaders of family businesses avoid delegation of tasks to subordinates, preferring to do as much as possible themselves.
This may be driven by the need to cut on costs.
The leader believes that it will cost less to do the task him/herself. The logic is, when money is so tight, why hire someone to do a task that only takes an hour or two while I can do it myself? Better still, I could send my wife or children to do it for free.
Reluctance to delegate may also be driven by the need to deliver perfection — the best quality of work possible. According to this type of leader, nobody can do it as well as he could.
So it’s better that he does it the first time than to delegate and have to do it again later. Do it-yourself, for this or any other reason could turn tragic.
On or around September 21, Anthony Ngunjiri, a prominent Nairobi lawyer, was in the Kasarani to serve Mr Joseph Macharia a court order relating to a contested piece of land.
He was acting on behalf of Kairu Enterprises owned by the family of former Kieni MP Munene Kairu. On the surface it seems a mundane routine task that should have been completed fast and efficiently.
It is unlikely that Ngunjiri performed such tasks on a regular basis. Taking into consideration the profile of his past and present clientele (who include President Kibaki among others), it is more probable that this was an unusual errand for him to run.
It is also probable that he foresaw the possibility of confrontation, which would explain the fact that he was armed with a pistol at the time.
However, given the tragic turn of events, it may appear that he completely underestimated the potential of the situation to turn ugly.
At the end of that sad evening, Ngunjiri lay dead outside Macharia’s gate under a cloud of unclear circumstances.
The leaders of family business must deliberately offload non-core tasks to subordinates. One must strictly focus on tasks one else can do.
His input to any task must clear and irreplaceable, more so as the business grows in size and complexity.
Under no circumstances should he take on tasks that put his life at risk (unless that is the nature of his business).
Strategic delegation has the potential to save time, money and in extreme cases, business leaders’ lives. They must learn to make use of this tool.