There’s a a well-worn saying, of anonymous attribution, that goes “The two most overrated things in life are the joy of natural childbirth and the joy of owning your own business.”
Owning and managing a business, particularly a small business, is one of the toughest things a human can undertake. To be a manager is one thing; to be an owner/manager is quite another. There are those who have managed well in the corporate world for years, but flop dismally when they open their own pop stand.
Good corporate management is a skill which can be learned—good owner management is both a skill and an art which is often learned, and certainly refined, the hard way. A corporate manager can make a mistake and it could go unnoticed, or at worst, cost him the job. An owner/manager’s mistakes stare him right back in the face, and never go unnoticed. In fact, such mistakes can damn the fate of the business.
A recent report in USA Today noted that good entrepreneurial management can add on average about 10% to a business’s top line, while poor management can easily send it over the cliff. In short, quality management is a vital asset to a small business.
But for those who have no prior management experience and find themselves the owner of the business, the task can be daunting. A manager born to greatness is a rare thing, which is why one must look for help wherever one can find it.
Being the Boss by Linda Hill and Lowell Kent Lineback brings many of these issues to light. It serves as a primer on management in general but owner management in particular. Among the many pearls are:
Manage as a Team. Understand how your staff works as almost a single organism by maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Also know that the team is the business’s greatest asset and needs to be looked after. Deal with people, not jobs, and empower them to do good, self-directed work. There’s no point in making every decision yourself unless you don’t trust your staff.
Manage Ideas. Often there’s no shortage of good ideas but there’s usually a limited number of resources. Talk with your team about what the best ideas for implementation are and then make someone own the task of making those ideas come to fruition.
Manage Yourself. This is the biggest dilemma for owner managers, maintaining the discipline and focus within themselves to keep the ship sailing. It’s very easy in a small business to become distracted by the latest brush fire while the house is burning down.