Developing Middle Management

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" technique.

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 description.'

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 responsibilities.

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 manner.

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.