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Giving Management Skills to Employees

Getting Others Involved in Your Business

Having a cellular phone or pager does provide you with many advantages. As a business owner or manager, one of the "so called" advantages is being able to keep in contact with your shop. As one who is frequently speaking to owners and managers at conventions and trade shows such as SEMA, this writer has observed an increasing number of phones being carried, and phone calls being received during these events.

The point of this observation is not to criticize the ringing phones, but ask a question about the management skills of owners and managers reading this column. As an owner or manager there are numerous decisions you are called upon to make each and every day. Few of these occasions to make a decision occur at a time that is convenient for you.

Events such as these often involve a customer who has a special need or complaint, an employee having a problem with fulfilling their job description or assigned work schedule, or perhaps a problem with getting a job completed as the customer is expecting.

As an experienced manager or owner, you gather the necessary information, and then make a decision based upon the short and long term needs of your business. The more experience and knowledge you have, traditionally the better decision you are able to make.

However, for the owner or manager who has decided to invest in themselves and their business by attending a trade show or educational event, you are often doing so at a time while your shop continues to be open. And by leaving the shop, you do so, knowing that there is a strong chance that one of these situations will occur in your absence.

Instead of being able to relax and fully concentrate on the event we are attending, the cell phone or pager number has been given to our staff and instructed them to "call if you need anything." And with that instruction, we have employees who will do just that: call to ask just about anything they need to know.

It is great to be important as the owner or manager, but wouldn't it be great to be able to just let go of the shop; even if it is just for a couple of hours? There are of course, shops where the owner or manager has walked out the door with a simple, "I will see you next week. And, I will give you a call in a day or two just to check in".

And with that, attention is turned to placing orders at a trade show, or sharpening management and sales skills by attending a seminar. With a rare situation, the person doing this has been lucky to find a person that can be trusted with managing the business. However, for the majority of businesses that are fortunate to be in this position, they have worked very hard to be able to enjoy this. Surely, there are numerous ways for an owner or manager to go from having an assistant or assistants that are totally dependent on their manager, to becoming those that are dependable.

From personal experience, here is one that worked well for us. Whether we identified the person when we first hired them, or through months of observing their performance in our business, we had individuals who were responsible for opening and closing the business. After all, as we were open a lot of hours each week, we could not be in the store at all times.

When the time came that we presented that individual with the title of assistant manager, supervisor, or any similar distinction, they were given a job description which was different from the one they previously had. The new description carried the responsibility of supervising staff and making decisions in our absence. Of course, with more one on one education in our business, we were able to develop supervisors who continued to grow into excellent assistants.

There is that first time when we left that person alone to manage the business that we wondered how they are doing while we were at home or away on business. When we returned to the store, we made a point to ask several employees how things went while we were gone. The confidence in our assistant came when we reversed the situation.

We told our staff that when both the assistant and ourselves were in the building, the assistant was to make all of the management decisions. All of the situations we described in the beginning of this article were now the responsibility of the assistant. When the assistant was off, then all of these decisions fell back on our shoulders.

What did this teach us? It allowed us the opportunity to see our assistant in action. And as each situation presented itself, we observed. With most of the initial occurrences we asked the assistant what was the criteria they used in making their decision. We would follow up with questions, asking if certain items had been taken into consideration.

Listening to the responses, the one statement we made sure to never say was, "If it had been me, I would have ..." Telling this to an assistant is like telling them how you want them to become more like you. Hopefully, you did not hire this, or any other employee, to be a duplicate of yourself. Most of the successful managers and owners state they are hiring individuals to take advantage of the talents that employee brings to their business; talents which the owner or manager does not possess, but would increase the profitability of the business.

With regard to allowing other people to make a decision in our business, we reasoned that if we had trusted them with a key to the door of our business - which meant they had the key to a few hundred thousand dollars of inventory - then we thought we could trust them to make a decision which would have a dollar value that would surely be a lot less.

By having that assistant make decisions while we were in the building, we knew we could expect they would perform in a similar manner when we were not in the building. Developing trust in this manner usually causes a really neat turn of events to occur. Knowing that they are trusted, the assistant makes a point to demonstrate that the entrusted responsibilities are well deserved. And with that happening, you can spend more of your time doing things a manager or owner wants to do and should be doing.

I hear a cell phone ringing. Is it for you?

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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