Crafting the right management team

Company owners can't always do it all on their own, but who can they trust to get the work done?

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October 22, 2018

When companies start small, Bill Silverman, owner of Springboard Business Coaching, said managers are like 80s TV hero MacGyver.

“He had this skill to solve problems with his creativity and ingenuity,” Silverman said. “I think MacGyver is a model of what a small business is. You have to be able to do everything from accounting to finance to the actual landscaping.”

Once a business grows though, the complexity also grows. There are too many moving parts for owners to keep tabs on at once, Silverman said. Building a successful management team is essential to help run operations, but finding the right chemistry with new managers is tricky.

“A lot of the reason that you’re stressed out and frustrated is that you didn’t build your team right to begin with,” Silverman said at GIE+EXPO. “Your business is supposed to serve your life, not the other way around.”

Silverman said he often sees owners not trust their management teams enough, resulting in a responsibilities bottleneck that inhibits company growth. If, for instance, sales, marketing, and human resources all go through the owner, getting anything done is nearly impossible, other than daily operations just to stay afloat.

Silverman recommended that owners create an organizational chart displaying who’s in charge of each operation, including marketing, sales, operations and even clerical work. The chart should reveal areas where owners are spreading themselves too thin, or where they may need to hire somebody to handle those tasks.

He also highlighted two ways to identify when it’s time to hire new people: If your gut feeling says it’s time, or if after forecasting potential growth over the next five years, you recognize you need more manpower in the office.

“Once you know what you need, you can plan your moves like a chess player,” Silverman said.

A common question he gets from people is who should be hired first. He said if an owner loves to sell but hates marketing, hire a manager elsewhere first. Likewise, if a particular task is sucking up a lot of an owner’s time, Silverman will often tell them to hire a manager to handle that task.

“Hire to compensate for the things you’re less good at, or hire for the things you don’t want to do,” Silverman said. “When you’re the owner, you can make the job as fun as you want it to be.”

If companies have a bit of an offseason in the winter, Silverman said they should hire new managers in the fall so they can get accustomed to the business before it gets busy again in the spring. He also recommended finding ways to groom potentially talented employees internally before hiring externally for every manager since it motivates a team to know you’ll promote from within.  

Even for owners who have a management team in place, getting the most out of them can be difficult. Silverman compares the process of building up that management team to teaching a kid how to ride a bike. In the end, an owner needs to let go and watch the managers get work done.

“It takes time. This is a process,” Silverman said. “It’s not a once-and-done thing.”