img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif img_rollover_divider.gif

Better Business:
Are You Managing By Crisis?

By Tom Shay

Does this sound like you and your business? You’re exceedingly busy during work hours. And while you are open 5 1/2 days a week, you frequently find yourself in the business after hours completing tasks that your staff hasn’t finished, as well as doing the tasks that are specific to you. Sunday may also find you in the shop, and you have been known to take work home at night.

A contemporary definition of management by crisis is “making decisions according to the problems at hand, many of which did not exist when you got to work each morning.”

The question is whether you are doing the things that you had planned to do when you arrived, or if you were busy putting out the “fires” that often occur with being a manager or business owner.

As a unit of measure, if you are spending 25 percent of your workday handling today’s problems, then you are performing crisis management. After all, if you are in such a position, then chances are that you are unable to perform your other duties.

Look at today: Did you spend anywhere near two hours working on today’s issues? If so, that is crisis management.

As a manager or owner, it is your responsibility to plan for the short- and long-term future of the business. And here comes the finger pointing: A popular management book says that the person who is constantly putting out fires in the business is probably the one carrying the matches that start those fires. So let’s look at ways we can get out of the firefighting— or fire-starting—business.

Different Roles

For top decision-makers, there are typically three responsibilities that come with the job: worker, manager and leader.

As a worker, you will find yourself performing many of the same duties that even the newest employee performs. And in your shop, this could include such duties as stocking the shelves with parts, or waiting on customers. Most owners and managers would agree that it is very hard for a workday to exclude these types of jobs; it is also important from a morale perspective that the leader be seen performing these duties.

That said, if an owner or manager considers themselves to be the best salesperson—which may be understandable— we see a problem here, as the statement shouldn’t be that they sell more than anyone else. What’s more, if you’re spending a large percentage of the day on the same tasks as your employees, then the second responsibility, management, is surely being neglected. Now, you may own a shop that utilizes a manager. And most owners would agree that if they do have a manager, it is a job that the owner is also well-qualified to perform. Thus, as the owner, you do have to “manage the manager.”

In management, there’s the option of managing in primary style, secondary style, or a combination of the two.

Primary management can be demonstrated by the type of manager that has the employee perform a task, return to the manager for approval of the task, and then wait to be assigned a second task. Sometimes this type of management is referred to as “gopher management,” which is a paraphrasing of the instruction, “Go for this, return to me, and then I will send you to go for something else.” This type of management has a tendency to become very exhausting to the manager.

The secondary style of management requires that education and information be given to the employee. This style is apt to be developed as a result of a manager or owner meeting with the employees and outlining the company’s goals—immediate, mid-range and long term—to the staff.

Goals are created and assigned, as compared to tasks being assigned, because you have confidence in the employee’s ability to determine the detailed tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve your stated goals. Deadlines are established, and intermediate goal posts are provided so that progress can be checked along the way.

As the advantages—and disadvantages— of each of these management styles are evident, you will also see the need to blend the two. After all, because the situations, individuals and skills of those involved will vary, so too will the technique that you’ll utilize.

Resolving Crises

Of your three aforementioned job responsibilities, leadership is the hardest to perform. Perhaps the difficulty comes in attempting to define the need for leadership. Legendary management expert Dr. Stephen Covey provided this explanation: “A worker does ‘it,’ the manager sees that ‘it’ gets done, and the leader defines what ‘it’ is.”

The kicker is that being the leader really should not take up too much of your time. If you’ve been a good leader, you will find that you are able to spend more of your time in a management mode because of the goals you have established.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine for each individual owner/manager exactly how much of your time should be spent on each of these three levels. Depending on the size of your shop, and the number of workers you employ, you will find the majority of your time spent in one of the first two.

But if you find yourself performing many of the tasks we initially described—doing a worker’s jobs and manager’s/owner’s jobs after hours—you are likely spending too much time as a worker and not enough as a leader. Definitely a sign of crisis management.

It is then time to reread this article and examine how duties are divided among you and your employees.

Resolving crisis management in your shop can generally fall into one of three categories: situations in which you are the individual that can resolve them; situations that you can delegate to others; and situations that require you taking the time to perform the duties that only you can perform.

You may need assistance with the third category, and the most likely candidates for outside assistance would be an attorney, banker, accountant, or someone within the retail trade. It is these people with whom you will share information such as personal and business financials, long-term goals, concerns, and any other information that could possibly influence how they might advise you on various matters.

The most important part to remember about this third group, however, is that you can always hire a worker or manager, but you cannot hire another owner.

Better Business: Are You Managing By Crisis?

Tom Shay of Profits Plus, Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a fourth generation small business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management and a college textbook on small business accounting.

Performance Racing Industry