Having an effective management team is critical to the success of any business whether large or small. Surrounding yourself with others whose interests and goals are aligned with yours can separate a winning company from one that won’t be in business for long. Being emotionally in sync with your managers is also important, and can add to the success of your company just as much as having shared business objectives.
So how do you, as a small business owner, go about building a cadre of support around you? What should you look for when expanding your leadership staff? We spoke to several entrepreneurs to get their take on best practices for building an effective management team.
Seek a common mission
A business moves ahead when everyone on the team is working toward the same goal. That doesn't mean you should look for managers who are clones, but rather those who share a similar vision. If you hire someone with dazzling credentials but who lacks the strategic mindset you need to move your company to its next level, then you will have squandered your time and resources.
Joe Anand knows this all too well. As the CEO of MecSoft Corp., a provider of computer-aided manufacturing software for small businesses, he once hired a manager who did not share similar goals. What ensued taught Anand a key lesson.
“We hired an international sales vice president a few years ago whose background was sales in Eastern Europe,” recalls Anand. “It was his comfort zone and he stuck with it. After about two years of promises and false starts, we finally had to refocus our efforts to our better performing markets and had to let the VP go. His views did not align with the long-term vision of where we wanted to go as a company.”
Hire from within
Perhaps the best way to ensure a good management fit is to promote from within your company. In a small business, internal candidates are often ideal for leadership roles because they are already familiar with your company's corporate culture and protocol. Plus, you've already been able to evaluate their job performance and understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Marc Anderson, co-founder of TalktoCanada.com, a firm that teaches the English language to individuals and corporate clients, prefers to hire his managers from within his company. For the most part, he says it has been an effective management building strategy, even though there have been some instances where he had doubts.
Anderson recalls a time when he promoted a reserved, introverted staffer to a temporary management role. At first, he had misgivings about her personality being a natural fit for the position, which he felt required assertiveness and the ability to handle complaints. However, because he was not available at the time and the staffer was experienced, Anderson felt he had few options.
Much to his surprise, she ended up doing an exemplary job.
“The teachers [whom she managed] ended up loving her and she got along very well with them,” he continues. “She was able to deal with issues and problems in a different way than I would normally handle them.”
Small business owners are used to wearing multiple hats. Consequently, it can be difficult for some to relinquish responsibilities to others as the company begins to grow and expand. But in order to build a sound foundation and management team, it is important to do so.
Rich Kahn, founder and CEO of Delaware-based eZanga, an 11-year-old search and online advertising agency, understands this. “You have to find managers that you can trust to get the job done, that you know will focus, and have the ability to grow the project,” he explains, adding that it’s vital new managers are trained in carrying out the job responsibilities on their own minus the interference of the owner.
Kahn recalls the time his firm hired its first information technology manager. He had reservations about filling the position given that he initially wrote the code for the company. Yet, as the business grew and Kahn realized he needed to focus on other tasks, he had no choice but to surrender the IT reins to someone else.
“I didn’t want to let go of the coding,” he admits. “It was so difficult.”
Kahn admits it took six months before he finally felt confident about letting the IT manager do the job on his own. But in hindsight, he’s glad he was able to overcome his apprehensions.
“He now completely manages our IT department,” he says.
Whether your small business is a startup or more established, finding an effective management team is key for growth and stability. As methodical as you were when you launched your company, you should utilize the same approach when building your leadership staff. Think carefully about the strengths of each manager and how they can be leveraged to meet your bottom line and achieve business goals. If you are serious about turning your business into a success, then you will need to assemble managers on your roster that can help you get there.