Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Finding the right management tool

It’s all about the right style of rake

A customer walks into a garden center and says they need to be shown to the tool department. As the salesperson walks with them toward that part of the store, the customer says this is the weekend they have planned for the big yard clean up project. The customer even quotes that old saying of, “you’ve got to have the right tool for the right job”.

The helpful salesperson begins to ask the customer a series of questions so that the customer can select the right tools that they need. And with a bit of conversation, the business has a customer that is soon on their way home with the necessary tools to help make their lawn and garden into something that is beautiful and enjoyable.

This example is similar to two topics that seem to be the most frequently asked about by business owners - employees, and personal time management.

While these may seem like two different topics, as we usually find that there is a lot of commonality in the cause of each of these two challenges. And oddly enough, it bears a strong resemblance to the situation with the customer asking for help in finding the right tool.

As the challenges with personal time management are explained, the issue of the amount of hours worked in the business each week always comes out. Never is the answer less than 50 hours; it is more likely to be in the 65 to 75 hour range. And even with those answers, the follow up is that not everything gets done.

When we discuss the personnel, we hear the challenge is with their ability to do the tasks assigned as well as their ability to take care of the customers.

This discussion leads us to find that the challenge is with the selection of a management style. We find that the management style chosen closely resembles one of the tools sold by our example business - a leaf rake.

Take a look at the shape and design of the rake as well as how the rake is held. The leaf rake has many tines. In our analogy, the tines represent the various employees as well as the customers, and the tasks to be done within the business each day.

However, they all come together into a common point and join onto the handle. At the other end of the handle, we find the owner of the business. This illustrates and explains the challenge the business owner is having. All of the employees, all of the customers and all of the daily tasks are directly attached to the owner of the business.

What the owner needs to create is a new version of the leaf rake as a management style. Instead of all the tines coming together into the handle, many of the tines would be attached to one of several midlevel handle. With several of these situations, the second level handles would then go into a union with a third level handle that would then go into the handle where we would again find the owner.

What does this create? Other than a strange looking leaf rake, we have created a new format for the management of the business. Instead of every challenge coming to the owner, there is at least one employee that the question must go through first.

The usual concern expressed by the owner with regard to allowing an employee to make more decisions is the potential for making mistakes. While that possibility always exists, we note that the owner trusts certain employees with the keys to the business. If the employee is trusted with access to hundreds of thousands of dollars, shouldn’t that employee be trusted to make decisions that affect much smaller amounts?

When the owner looks back at their long, just completed day, we would anticipate they would see parts of their day spent performing tasks that their employees could have taken care of, and resolving issues that should not be involving the owner’s time.

The second reason for changing the management style is that the owner needs to be spending a part of their day doing tasks that can only be done by the owner. Depending on the size of the business, the owner needs to be making decisions about merchandising, advertising, challenges and opportunities the business faces, reviewing the financials, and planning for the future of the business.

When we place an hourly value on this type of work, we undoubtedly find it is much higher than the hourly value we would place on making decisions that some employee could be doing for us. This would be indicative of the right person doing the right job within the business.

Again, the situation resembles that of the customer walking into the garden center looking for the right tool. The job is much easier when the right tool is used; and everything works more efficiently when all the tools are being utilized.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179