Stop Managing

Why would anyone advise business owners to stop managing? Management is a proven science. From the time and motion studies of Frederick Winslow Taylor in the late 1800s, to Matthew Kelly and Patrick Lencione’s Dream Manager, we are constantly in search of ways to make employees more effective.

Management trends (some say “fads”) come and go. Wikipedia lists a number of major theories since the 1950s, including Management by Objectives, Matrix Management, Theory Z, One-minute Management, Management by wandering around, Total Quality Management, Business process reengineering, Delayering, Empowerment, 360-degree feedback, Re-engineering and Teamwork.

You could probably throw in a couple of offshoots like ISO 9000, Open Book Management, Six Sigma, Balanced Scorecards and Net Promoter Score. All have metrics (Key Performance Indicators) to measure their effectiveness.

In the 125 years since Taylor, after the introduction of automobiles, telecommunications, manned flight and the Internet, we are still working from the basic framework of time and motion studies. We try to empower people, but that often just means having them track their own production rather than have someone else do it for them. (Delayering)

That leads us to one of the Catch 22s of many business owners’ reality.  Once you have grown an enterprise large enough to require management, you’ve outgrown the skill set that made your business successful.

Small businesses become bigger businesses through their owners’ leadership and creativity. Time isn’t a fungible commodity, you can’t save it or get more of it. In a zero-sum  equation, any increase in one factor means a reduction in others. The more time you spend managing, the less there is left over for leading and creating.

Stop Managing, Start Creating

Last week, I sat in on a panel of three successful business owners who were discussing the value of a second in command. Each mentioned how delegating the management tasks of daily operations had freed them to focus on longer-term objectives, develop new ideas, and improve their personal quality of life. (In case you’ve forgotten, that’s why we own companies.)

A second-in-command to manage the business can’t be undervalued. I recommend Gino Wickman’s Rocket Fuel for a terrific examination about the relationship between a visionary and an implementer. If you haven’t read my own Hunting in a Farmer’s World, subscribe to Awake at 2 o’clock (to the right) for the chapter “I’m a little bit ADD” and see if you recognize yourself. (If you already subscribe, don’t worry. We don’t send duplicate emails.)

There were a number of owners from smaller businesses in the panel’s audience. Their comments were not unexpected. “I can’t afford a hire really top-flight manager.” “What if I get dependent on someone and he leaves?” “How can I find someone who knows as much about the business as I do?”

Those observations are being made by looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. The real question to ask  is “What would happen if I had more time to do what I do best?”

The average business owner estimates that about 20% of his or her time is spent in business development, the long-term creation of new products, services, systems and relationships. If a second in command can take just 30% of your duties, you could increase your business development effort by 150%.

What will happen if you stop managing, and devote 2 1/2 times the effort to growing your business? That’s how much a good manager is worth.

Are you over 50 years old, or do you advise business owners who are?

Sign up for free excerpts of my upcoming book, Your Exit Map: Navigating the Boomer Bust

Categories: Building Value, Entrepreneurship, Exit Planning, Incentives, Leadership, Managing Employees, Strategy and Planning... Bookmark this post.

One Response to Stop Managing

  1. Ed Bierschenk says:

    Great summary of the panel session. I was in the audience for the panel and it was clear that business owners need to be more willing to let go and delegate more to a qualified 2nd in command. Like, John, I would encourage owners to consider upscaling their next hire into a more qualified candidate who can assume a strategic competency as a GM, Operations Manager, or even 2nd in-training. This is a high leverage investment which will allow more time for “working on the business.” TAB Business Coach-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *