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October 20, 2014

Working On Your Business, Not In It

You started out small, and with a lot of sweat, hard work and long hours you’ve built your little business into a successful enterprise. Now you have employees who can handle the things you used to have to do, but with that freedom comes the completely different responsibility of being a manager.

This transition can be difficult for many company founders. Most owners secretly believe that nobody can do the job as well as they can. But the hard, cold reality is that your employees can do as well as you. Your job as a manager isn’t to be toiling in the trenches, but to make sure your staff has the direction, tools and motivation to get the work done.

Great store managers are delegators. Such managers are confident in the abilities of their staff and empower employees with the authority to make decisions. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ve given your staff license to give the store away or make major policy changes, but it does mean they can do business and make decisions without consulting you every minute. Indeed, a good manager gives their employees equity in the management process.

Good managers are leaders. It doesn’t hurt for the store owner who’s become the manager to work, from time to time, shoulder to shoulder with the sales staff at the counter, help do inventory or even assist in stocking and even unloading a truck. Such actions send a message that you don’t expect employees to do something you wouldn’t do. However, keep in mind what your job is as an owner and manager and that there is a hierarchy of work levels and responsibilities. You will have to balance such hands-on, staff-level work with your job as a position of authority.

Good managers are driven to set and achieve goals. That means setting reasonable goals and doing everything in your power to help your employees achieve the level of knowledge and training to reach those goals. That may mean assigning a senior employee to mentor those more junior or new to the staff. It may mean closing the store for a half-day of training, so that all your staff can become educated on new products.

Good managers are team builders. Your employees want to feel that their input on customer needs, inventory, store processes and more are wanted and appreciated. Your staff will work better when they feel they are an important cog in a larger wheel. In that, they want to feel that they can both depend on their fellow employees and management and that everyone else can depend on them.

Good managers are organized communicators. Great managers understand that employees need structure and communicate the message of “expect and inspect” — you make sure your employees know what is expected of them and they, in turn, know you’ll be inspecting their performance. If you don’t let employees know what the rules are or what is expected of them, you can’t get upset if they break those rules or fall short of your expectations. Great managers also realize that nobody is perfect and that sometimes employees make some bad decisions or drop the ball. The key is that those failures are learning and growth opportunities for those employees.

Finally, managers who are strong communicators should have a transparent, open-door policy that keeps all employees in the loop of things that are expected of them, changes to store policies and procedures and other issues that affect day-to-day business. That policy should, again, encourage employee input. Remember, they are on the front line of your business, interacting with the customers every day, while you’re doing your job as a manager in the back office; you can’t be in two places at once, nor can you see and hear everything that needs to be seen and heard. Your employee’s input should be a valuable component of your daily operations, so make sure you encourage that.


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