As many of you may know, I was schooled in microbiology and biochemistry. I wanted to become a college professor and teach. Accordingly, after acquiring my master’s degree, I began work on a Ph.D. To fund my schooling (and support a family of five), I sold and laid carpet most nights and weekends. One night, working in the laboratory injecting hundreds of baby mice, and cleaning Petri dishes and test tubes, I realized that what I really loved was being with people, whether teaching them or helping them make their homes beautiful. I knew that to have the privilege of teaching students, I’d have to do research and publish. These were lonely pursuits. That’s when I decided to quit school and open up my own carpet store.
I’ve never looked back. I love the flooring business. It has
been great to me and my family, affording me a very fulfilling life. I have
rubbed shoulders with remarkable people all over America and in many parts of
the world. Flooring people are the salt of the earth. I am proud to be
considered one of them.
However, I now realize that when I opened my own store, I made
an assumption that some have called fatal. It was, “If I can sell or lay carpet,
I can run a carpet store.” Back then, when it came to running a store I didn’t
know what I didn’t know. I compensated by working harder and working longer. I
thought that’s what all entrepreneurs did.
In addition, I bought the idea that if you wanted a job done
right, you did it yourself. So, I was a doer … doing this and doing that.
Often, some important tasks didn’t get done, like billing customers, cleaning
the bathrooms, and collecting Accounts Receivable. I spent my time doing what I
enjoyed doing, like selling. I did undesirable tasks only when I had to, that
is, when it became more painful to avoid them than to do them.
Later I found that I was not unusual. Most entrepreneurs
prefer to work alone. They don’t much enjoy working with others, including
their own employees! That trait limits their companies’ growth to what one
person (and a few extra pairs of arms) can accomplish. Some 97% of all firms
have fewer than 10 employees-and a large majority of those have fewer than
three. (Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Vern Harnish, Select Books, NY, 2002)
This trait makes entrepreneurs their own worst enemy. Their
egos relish the fact that employees and customers need them. Subconsciously,
they delight in knowing that without the owner, there is no business. However,
they can grow the company only as far as their physical and emotional strength
will take them. They end up growing their operation only to the level of their
incompetence (remember the Peter Principle). Such organizations require owners
to work ever-longer hours. They never reap the fruits of synergistic work with
Is that you? Have you run into such a brick wall? Are you
crashing into a self inflicted barrier that prevents you from growing your
business beyond your personal capacity to produce? Maybe you could use a lesson
in organizational development. The following paragraphs outline what you need
to do, but they will do you no good unless you are willing to set aside your
ego. Simply put: You must re-structure the business so it can function
day-to-day without you.
Are you willing to set aside your ego? If not, good-bye. If
so, let’s proceed.
Begin by drawing an organizational chart. Why? Author Michael
Gerber (The E Myth) says it best: “Organizational development, reflected in the
Organizational Chart, can have a more profound impact on a company than any
other single business development step.”
Before drawing the first box, think back to your original vision of the
company. What did you want it to look like after it grew and developed under
your leadership? Re-envision the future from your current perspective. Some of
the retailers we work with foresee only a certain volume of sales; others
expect continued growth. Their loyal customers will support multiple locations.
The details of your vision matters less than having a specific vision-an ideal
toward which you want to build.
Now, ask yourself: “Which positions do I need in the company?
How many employees do I now need in each position? How many will I need when we
are finished? Which tasks need to be done daily, weekly, monthly and yearly? To
which position should I assign each task?” Double-check to be sure you have
covered every task and procedure.
Next, draw boxes on the organization chart and write a job
title in each. (We provide our clients with sample organization charts for
flooring stores of various sizes. You can also find sample charts on the Web.)
Between the boxes, draw lines that represent the chain of command (who reports
to whom). As you do so, remember you are building your ideal company. So,
ignore the limitations of your current staff. Don’t let their personalities and
skills (or lack thereof) hobble your growth. When you finish, take a close
look. Do your authority lines make sense? Examine work-flow and customer
service. Will hand-offs work well? Any hitches?
Now, describe each job title. Include: 1) A breakdown of the
specific tasks; 2) the skill sets needed to excel; 3) equipment necessary to do
the job properly; 4) the criteria for evaluation (performance standards); and
5) the results (outcomes) you expect. Describe outcomes as specifically as
possible and look for tasks that you can move down the authority-line. However,
when doing so, keep these two fundamentals in mind…
Increasing your employees’ responsibilities empowers them.
They enjoy greater job satisfaction and produce higher quality results.
Don’t over complicate their job. Procedures must be clear and
standards simple. Only rarely will you have a genius performing a job.
As you assign each task to a specific position job, check it
off on your “All Tasks” list. This assures that you assign every task. (Don’t
overlook cleaning the bathrooms.) Keep your eye out for gaps – tasks assigned
to no one. In addition, look for overlaps. Do some employees still do a bit of
everything? If two people are doubling up on a task, eliminate the overlap. And
remember to select a back-up employee for each job; you need someone to step in
to cover for an absent employee.
The final step in your organizational plan is to assign people
to positions. In each box write the corresponding employee’s name. If someone
is performing more than one job, decide if that is still best. Or, is it time
to hire another? Consider the strengths, talents, traits, and knowledge of each
employee. Does each one get to do, every day, the things he or she likes most
and does best? If not, find a way to play to their strengths. You may want to
ask your employees how they would like to divide the tasks.
So how does your organization look? Can it grow beyond your
personal limitations? Will it, every day, move your company closer to your
vision? Are you working your way out of running everything in the business? I
hope so, for it is true that “The primary asset of any business is its
organization,” not its owner. (William Feather)
As with all habits of successful retailers, this is not a
one-time fix. Expect to modify your vision as realities evolve and you
recognize other opportunities. Save this column and pin it on your “To Do”
board. Then, write on your calendar, 24 months from now: “Review the
So, how’s your business’
primary asset? Or is it a liability?