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So, What is “It”?

The 'it' an owner should do

In his book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", Dr. Stephen Covey talks about the word "it". He uses "it" in conjunction with his definition of people that are workers, those that are managers, and those that are leaders. Perhaps some readers will immediately begin to categorize these three types of people with regard to who works in their shop. You may even have someone whose title is manager, another person that you recognize as a leader, and perhaps a larger group which you would consider workers.

That is not quite how Covey defines these three titles. As we explain his definitions, and see how they can relate to your shop, perhaps we can provide you with some ideas of how you can maximize your staff and yourself. Covey explains that there is always an "it". There is an activity that goes with "it". We sell it, we do it, we build it, we find it, and we make it work.

As we go about "it", we will always find somebody that does "it". These are the people within our business who have been assigned the task. It may be to wait on customers, or stock the shelves. It could range from checking in merchandise to answering the phone.

And with many businesses, these are the people that stand ready to follow your instructions, and upon completion of the task, stand ready again to perform another task. You may call them a salesperson, cashier, or warehouse person. If the shop is small enough, one person will definitely be performing multiple duties. Regardless of how you title them, these are the people that Covey refers to as workers.

The second person in the trio of "it" is one who is making sure all of the workers are getting "it" done. Of course, we refer to this person as a manager, assistant manager, or supervisor. In some shops, without titles, the position may be referred to as the person who has the responsibility of opening and closing the business and simply having the keys to the front or back door.

Of course, being the taskmaster of the workers can range from a simple job to a very complex and intense job. The variance will come based upon the quality of skills that the manager has been able to share with the workers. With the business relationship of workers and managers, many times the comment is made that a particular manager is lucky to have good workers. Few things could be farther from the truth.

The more skilled and knowledgeable a manager is, the better the quality of workers that are created. Also, the better the manager is, the more frequently a quality worker will apply for the job opening.

The third person in our business dealing with "it", is the leader. Covey says the task of the leader is to define "it". And, this is where the thrust of our definition of "it" will be discussed. From years of working with dealers, the biggest opportunity before a shop owner (leader) each day is to become a leader as compared to being a manager or a worker.

The comment most frequently made is that the day is spent simply managing the business. When an opportunity presents itself, the leader is so busy being a manager that the opportunity passes them by, or the leader does not have the time to examine the opportunity.

Just a few years ago when this writer was a dealer, I remember a visit by the late Jack Rice. Jack was a retail consultant, columnist, and a speaker at many trade shows. As he visited our shop, Jack commented about both the physical and management style changes in our business. As he saw us building new displays and resetting our business, it appeared to him that we had moved away from crisis management.  When we asked him to explain, he said that a person utilizing crisis management was one who had more than 20% of their work day being occupied by activities and concerns that were not on their schedule at the beginning of the day.

Jack's second comment came as we mentioned that we felt we were getting away from the situations where we were always running around putting out fires. He said, "If you are always running around your business putting out fires, the odds are that you are the one carrying the matches."

The sayings may be applicable and even the material for creating one of those posters you see hanging on the wall of some businesses. But what really matters is if you can move your business to the point where you can become more of a leader than a manager.

In your business your manager is paid more than a worker, right? And as the leader, your business pays you more than it pays the manager, doesn't it? This is usually the norm for businesses as a leader is more valuable than a manager, who in turn is more valuable than a worker. If however, as the leader you are doing the tasks of the manager, or worse yet the tasks of the worker, you are both paying too much to get the job done and underutilizing the abilities of the leader.

The first step in redirecting your time, to allow you to lead more than you work, is to step back and allow workers the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge. If you say that these workers do not have the necessary skills and knowledge, then most definitely the first thing you need to be doing is creating a "school" for your workers so they can learn these tasks.

From the first hand experiences of this writer, and the number of dealers I have had the pleasure of working with, the vast majority have been pleased and surprised to find that workers can usually provide results better than initially expected.

The hardest part, and one that you have to expect and accept, is that they are going to have ideas that are different from yours. As the leaders in the business, we have to accept that we are not going to have all of the original and great ideas.

And secondly, if there are two people in your business with the same idea, then one of you is not necessary. It is the exposure to ideas, and your experience as a leader, that can allow you to permit your workers to excel.

The leaders that we first spoke of; the ones that had the best workers and managers, are those leaders who have allowed others to do "it", and see that "it" gets done without having to always be in the middle of "it" all of the time.

Like a ship in the ocean, your business needs you to take the time to be up in that basket (the crow's nest) on the tallest mast, so that you can see "it", understand "it", decide where "it" is, and know what "it" is.

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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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