Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Maintaining Owner Sanity (Tradecraft)

In an ideal world, a small business would have clearly defined roles without overlap. We're going to assume such an ideal world for a moment, as I discuss roles in the business. We're getting towards the end of our big construction project, with electrical work going on right now, so I'm going to talk about insulation.

A game store staff is a bit like an electrical circuit. We'll use the example of a dimmer switch. The job of the line employees is to delight customers through the flow of policies and procedures from higher up. They are the bare wires delivering delight to customers within the confines of the circuit. The role of the manager is insulation. The manager insulates the line employees from the concerns of the owner that don't involve delighting customers, but just as important, the manager insulates the owner from the day to day needs of the line employees. As the owner, I'm the switch and because we're working in the dark most of the time when it comes to management, I'm usually dimmer.  A dimmer switch, if you will. My idealized job is to define the ebb and flow of this system and nothing more.

Defining the ebb and flow means crafting policy and procedures. The role of the manager is to implement those policies and procedures. The role of the staff is to carry out policies and procedures. So the question of "What should we do about X" is a manager query. The question of "How should we handle X going forward" is an owner question. This is in a perfect world, but that's not how most small businesses operate.

Most small businesses have an owner-manager, either by design or by accident. If you're an owner on site without a manager, you've become the owner-manager. This overlap removes the insulating layer from the bare wires, which results in a short circuit of your (dimmer) switch. You will be constantly interrupted by line employees who wish nothing more than to deploy delight to customers. Employees, likewise, often craft policies and procedures out of desperation. Sometimes those policies and procedures are adopted and sometimes not. This chaos can drive everyone a bit bonkers.

The solution is to add back that insulation so the owner, the switch, can focus on power distribution. The manager can implement policy without worrying about existential threats, and the line employees can get back to delighting customers and getting praised for their great work. 

How do you do that? Isolating the circuit is a good start. As an owner, not being on site gets staff thinking about process and who they need to talk with to find an answer. An office works too, but isn't quite as good. A hybrid of this is coming into the store only at times when you can be interrupted. I reconcile my check registry at home, if possible, because I will cut you if you interrupt me. I work from home on Mondays so I can devote time to order placement without interruption. Whatever you can do to make your switch a little less dimmer is a good thing.

If you've got other strategies for isolating that circuit while still maintaining contact, lets hear them.

1 comment:

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