managing growth

Before they actually own a business, people think that the business will someday run itself. They might start out working 50 or 55 hours a week but, as sales grow and people get hired, they’ll reduce that and maybe just at some point not come in at all because the business will run itself.

You know the rest. A year or two later, instead of 50 hours, they’re putting in 65 or 70. It never seems to change anything. There’s always a fire to put out. Eventually, they accept the idea that there’s no other way to manage a business.

Why do people make this mistake? Because usually the new owner figures he  or she has to do everything. They are short-staffed and, when they do hire people, they can’t totally rely on them, so he or she ends up stepping in to make decisions or execute them. They can’t take vacations, let alone step away, because everything would fall apart in two days.

Start With People

A solid business organization is one that can function whether the owner happens to be on the premises or not. It starts with having the right people in the right positions. Begin by creating job descriptions and performance requirements for each position in your company.

That was something I learned early on. You can’t build a business without the right people in the right positions.

But the right people are only half the equation. You also need the right systems and processes. The two work in tandem. I lost some really good people because I didn’t have those systems and processes.

Good people want to work for a good organization with defined systems and processes. If you’re talented, creative, energetic and have a great work ethic, why would you work for a mediocre organization?

It’s hard to get them, especially in today’s job market, unless you can sell them on the vision of where you see your company going. If you’re a $6 million dollar company, do you have a plan for growing to $10 million?

You also have to show them that they can grow with the company—that there’s a career process in place. It isn’t enough to say: “Hey, want a job here? We do great work.” Everyone says that. You need to create a clear vision of the future for them.

Accountability Is Key

The other thing that matters is accountability. Yes, you need the right people and the right managers, but they also require a clear direction along with specific targets and goals to reach.

If you want to hold them accountable, you have to tell them what they’re required to do. Which is why you need to know your numbers, because it’s hard to hold anyone accountable if their responsibilities are not quantified or made clear in some other way.

Say you hire someone to be the sales manager. You could say: “You’re the sales manager, manage the salespeople.”

What do you think will happen?

What if, instead, you lay out the specific metrics that you wish to see changed and by when? “This is the volume I want to see us reach. This is the conversion of appointments to sales we need to hit this year. Our average sale needs to go from X to Y.”

Here’s your direction, these are the parameters, and I don’t care how you do it.

Same thing with production. Lay out in clear language what a good job looks like and make that the non-negotiable company standard. If you want to hold people accountable, you have to have a standard by which to hold them accountable.

All About Freedom

When energetic, motivated people know where they’re going, you don’t need to stand over them and micromanage. You just need to check in to make sure things are on course, and it’s the course you’ve set.

If you want this to happen, but it somehow never seems to, the biggest obstacle in your way might be your own need to control everything. That springs from the feeling that whatever someone at your company is doing, you could do it better. Maybe you could, but that’s beside the point. You hired them to do it. And if you want to be sure they’re doing it the way it needs to be done, then train them to do it that way. If I have a salesman who’s not closing correctly, but he does every other part of the job well, maybe he just needs some sales training? You learn by practicing. It’s the same thing with managers. Managers aren’t born; they’re trained. When people are trained to do something, you’re in a position to hold them accountable for implementing it.

When the company is well-organized and when people know what they need to know to take it where you’re aiming to get it, you can come in 20 hours, or 10 hours, or not at all. Or you can come in and do something that gives you enjoyment. Like to sell? Do that. Freedom doesn’t always equate to not working. It’s the ability to do what you want to do when you want to do it. QR

Scott Siegal is owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website

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