Have You Tried Managing?

It's worth a shot.

By Mark Riffey

If you talk to someone who complains that their company is out of control, the reason is not always obvious. Once you pin them down about the reasons for their problems, you’ll find that they aren’t managing. We rarely think we’re doing enough managing to deal with these issues. If pressed about whether we’re managing the cause of these problems, we’ll own up to it. We often know the problem and the solution. Despite this, we aren’t putting the effort into managing the root of the problem.

Managing is work

Don’t get me wrong. Managing companies, people, projects, et al is not easy. It can consume a ton of time. Yet we all know the repercussions if we don’t manage. We do know those things, right?

So why don’t we do more of it? It’s not that we don’t care.

Even profitable, “well run” small companies doing $10-15MM ARR suffer from a lack of managing. While it’s obvious, we have a way of being terrible at dealing with the obvious.

A few questions to inform whether you’re managing:

Cash flow – Do you have a resource that tells you at a glance your cash needs are under control for the next 30-60-90 days? If not, you’re not managing cash flow.

Projects – To find out the status of all active projects, can you look at a single resource? Doesn’t matter if it’s a whiteboard, software, clipboards, or a spreadsheet. Or do you have to ask each lead for the project? Can you see which aspects of a project are on schedule and which are behind? Or do you have to ask each lead? Are you aware of the risks of each project and how the leads are mitigating them? For that matter, are the leads aware of them?

Hiring – Do you have a hiring process? How many hires do you make that you’re happy about after six months? What percentage don’t work out? How many start their own company after leaving you? What percentage of your non-leaders take leadership roles after leaving you?

Training – What routines are in place for new employee training? Is there a way for you to review every staffer’s training progress? What about the progress of senior staff?

Service – Can you review your customers’ happiness with your service? Without someone complaining, can you identify service opportunities that didn’t go well? Without asking someone, can you review the outcome of a sample of service calls over the last 30 days?

Sales – Which salesperson produces the least (or most) refunds? Why? Whose sales are the most profitable? Which one produces the longest-lasting customers? Who makes the most calls? Who makes the most of their calls? Is it the same person?

Marketing – Which ad medium has the best ROI for you? Which ad source produces the most profitable customers? Does customer lifetime value vary from ad source to ad source? Which ad source produces “bad” customers?

Managing – Without asking, can you tell how your managers’ teams projects are going? How are their people are doing? If you can’t do these things, neither can your managers.

What managing isn’t

Why are we bad at managing? For some of us, it’s because we learned managing from the wrong kind of manager. Some of us learned it by the seat of our pants. There’s nothing wrong with either method, unless you’re learning the wrong way.

One of the wrong ways is thinking that yelling at your team is managing. Do you or your team only think you’re managing when you’re angry? As an old friend used to say, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Micromanagement is a good example. It is not managing. While micromanaging is good for two year olds, it’s ineffective for employees. It’s not good for you or your company.

It’s not uncommon to see micromanagement at companies with management problems. Instead of managing they’re micromanaging.

You might be micromanaging if you’re:

  • Tracking time, not to track progress, but from a “butts in seats” perspective.
  • Not tracking time now and then to find out “how long a process takes so we know what our costs are” perspective.

I bring up micromanaging because it’s a good example of what managing isn’t. The worst part is that we micromanage and think we’ve been managing. Problem is, we still haven’t managed our team or the problem we want to solve.

Mark Riffey is an investor and advisor to small business owners. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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