Developing Middle Management

by WOHe

If your business is successful, you will eventually reach a
point where you cannot make all of the decisions and supervise all
of the people working for your company. It is at that point that
you will need to delegate some of the responsibilities.

This month, we will look at determining whether and when to
start this process, some steps to take to prepare your company for
such a shift in management, and the impact that this plan will have
on your recruiting and hiring.

Nearly everyone in the kitchen and bath remodeling business finds
delegation necessary as their business develops, whether this
involves turning over part of the work to subcontractors or letting
someone else handle a portion of your activities, such as the
accounting. In most cases, you, as the business owner, will be very
involved in these activities, providing close supervision and
direction for the business.

Most people who go into business for themselves are referred to
as “control freaks.” By this we mean that we all have the need to
control the activities of our business, down to the smallest
detail, and find it difficult to let things happen without our
input. This phenomenon makes a transition to business with “middle
management” a difficult one for most business founders.

If, however, you want your business to continue to grow once you
reach the point where you are “max’d out,” it will be necessary to
begin the process of delegation. Most of us make it through the
first stage of this process without too much difficulty, turning
over some of the more mundane aspects of our business to others,
while keeping a heavy involvement in supervising their work.

The next stage of delegation is much harder to handle. It
requires that intermediate and less critical decisions be turned
over to others, resulting in more of a “management by exception”

While making this transition will not be easy, it is absolutely
necessary if your business is to push through the limits of your
own ability to handle details. Most businesses reach this point
unexpectedly, and business owners often do not recognize that it
has happened. If your business has seemingly “plateaued,” this is
most likely the result of the management structure that you are
using to run your business. If you desire to push through this
plateau, you must look at a different form of organization.

The middle ground
Assuming that you are comfortable with the process of continuing to
grow your business and the change in management style that will be
undertaken, let’s look at some steps that will help you reach this
type of business organization.

One of the realities that you will deal with as you delegate
some of the responsibilities is that each individual has his or her
own priorities. Most people have enough responsibilities outside of
work, and they do not want significant ones added to their job

An extension of this is that very few employees will view your
business as you do, taking real ownership in the successes and
failures that occur. You’ll need to keep that in mind when setting
your expectations of the people to whom you will be delegating

The first step in this transition to a company with a management
team is to identify those people in your existing organization who
are willing and capable of assuming more responsibility. You need
to look for those individuals who can handle specific areas well,
and who are willing to accept the responsibility for the outcome of
their efforts.

Once you have identified those individuals in your organization
who can step up to a management responsibility, you’ll need to
define those areas that will require the addition of a manager from
outside the organization. Usually your management will be divided
along functional lines: i.e. sales, production and accounting.
Whether you move people up from within or bring in new people for
these positions, you need to be certain that you put individuals in
place who are capable and really want to have the responsibility of
managing their assigned areas.

As you continue with this process, be prepared to see your own
role change from that of managing at the micro, or detail, level to
coordinating and coaching your team of managers, who are now
dealing with their own section of your business. This transition
for you, and for those people who have been with you for a while,
is probably the most difficult part of the whole process. After
years of attempting to control every detail of what your business
does, it is often difficult to step back and let someone else take
over these things. It’s even more difficult to let these
individuals make mistakes and learn from them.

Again, your role needs to evolve into that of a coach. You need
to look ahead and develop strategies for dealing with the things
your business will be encountering due to changes in the business
climate, economy and technology. In addition, you need to direct
your management team so that their efforts are coordinated and mesh
together without unnecessary overlap.

Building a team
Once you begin the process of developing an organization with a
management team, the process of adding to the organization will
need to change. Up until now, you have probably made every hiring
decision in your company’s history. While you will not necessarily
step out of the process, it’s important to let your managers
assemble their own departmental teams.

You will also find it even more important to develop, and
maintain, a written employee policy in order to have a consistent
application of policies and procedures for all employees in all
departments. There are few aspects of a business that will dampen
employee morale and discourage cooperation as quickly as a feeling
that such policies are not being administered in an even-handed

Keeping your entire team, not just your management, on board
with the company’s mission and vision will also be a challenge. As
the owner, team leader and coach, it is your role to provide this
element. Care must be taken to not go overboard in separating
yourself from the people or, for that matter, from your clients.
Make sure you structure your role to include a reasonable level of
contact with both of these critical groups.

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