Is your management thin on top?
by Michael Davidson - Managing Partner on 29 May 2012
It can be a lonely experience running your own business. Trying to manage a company with a very thin top layer of management can generate stress that’s usually out of proportion to the size of the company and ultimately not in its long-term interests – or yours.
If you have ever been called out after hours to re-set an alarm there’s a very good chance that you’re an owner-manager. There’s also a good chance you’ve had your better half commenting: “Is there no-one else who can do that?” Running your own business is not all the glamour your neighbours imagine it to be – or perhaps what you expected when you started out. Now you’re older, but are you any wiser?
It’s a classic situation. A self-reliant person strikes out, gets a business off the ground and takes on more people. They’re extra hands but that’s not a problem at first. Then the business takes off, more people are recruited and the management problems multiply but there’s still only one person to sort things out – YOU.
If the going gets tough, employees can look for another job while you’re lying awake fretting about finding the cash to pay their wages and the VAT.
“I thought you’d be off playing golf today. You’re the boss, aren’t you?”
We have probably all heard that – its most people’s idea of what running your own business must be like. Some owner-managers do have that lifestyle, but the more committed and dynamic an entrepreneur might be, the more isolated they can become.
Running your own business is tough, carrying all the emotional and psychological burdens on your own shoulders with no-one to turn to who really understands. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy and sometimes you have to force yourself to deal with an issue. The best decisions usually come when you stand back from the day-to-day activity and seek help in getting the right advice is crucial.
Successful owner-managers are by definition self-reliant, but there are times when even the most competent person is out of their depth. This invariably shows in financial and legal matters.
If you’re too wrapped up in simply keeping your business running, then sooner or later you could end up running it into the ground. Where’s the inspiration coming from to ensure it stays fresh and relevant to your customers?
It’s no good paying lip service to having a management team if you don’t give them the chance to contribute. We found one company where the directors were so brow-beaten by the guy who owned it – they ended up doing only what they were told. The owner had cut himself off from a lot of valuable experience.
I do understand the reluctance to discuss financial problems with employees. You don’t want to frighten them and you instinctively feel that the last thing you should do is show any weakness or indecision.
It makes sense to get professional advice.
They’ve changed again
The one common feature of all the successful companies that we’ve been advising over the years is they have constantly tweaked what they do. We see this in what some might think of as the most mundane of industries. It can be a new approach, new technology, or new geographical markets, but they never stand still.
We can’t take all of the credit for their success, of course, but we do help by providing access to both our financial and business knowledge.
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