Do You Work ON Your Business or FOR Your Business?
Did you read that title and wonder “what is the difference”? It’s only one word, but it speaks volumes about your ability to grow. Why? Because small business owners usually choose a business based on their passion instead of potential. But isn’t that a good thing? Aren’t we told at an early age to find a job doing what we love and we will never work a day in our lives? I think that piece of advice should come with a huge asterisk attached and that footnote would read “not applicable if you own the company”.
Here’s what I mean. Many of us started in the framing industry as employees of frame shops. We learned the skills and grew to love designing and building custom framing. Because of this, we set goals to someday own and operate our own custom framing shop. Doing so, we believed, would ensure we could do what we loved for a career. But nobody showed us the footnote. We were never told that owning the business means our job description changed. We were no longer framers, we became managers- managers of marketing, expenses, operations and hardest of all….other people.
Small business owners, who work FOR their businesses while ignoring the need to work ON them, will soon find that growth is almost impossible.
Just like that, when you thought you had ensured your career as a framer, you actually became something else. Oh sure, most owners still need to participate in certain areas of their operations, due to budget restrictions, but that can no longer be the owner’s focus. The sad truth is that no one ever told us that! Had we known, we might have never purchased the company. Many of us still operate in denial. We refuse to acknowledge the awful truth- we are no longer custom framers, we are small business owners and if we live in denial, the future of our business is bleak. Small business owners, who work FOR their businesses while ignoring the need to work ON them, will soon find that growth is almost impossible, they become frustrated about money problems and eventually burn out doing something they once loved to do.
If you want to find new customers, control expenses, have a positive cash flow and a healthy income, you must delegate many of the basic tasks involved in creating a custom product. So, now that you know the ugly truth, how can you build such a team? Every time you have hired someone they have failed to represent the company like you do. Customers still want to talk to you when they come in. Employees call in sick, they don’t design like you can. They done even answer the phone or greet people like you do. The answer to creating a business which offers consistent service and products through a team of people is an organized and systematic program of written documents which guide the people you bring into your team. Without those documents, your business will never be well represented by others. What are these magic documents?
Here is a short list of what I recommend in a custom design business:
- A Company Policy Manual
This document details your vision of where the company is going and how it will get there. It details the expectations you have for all team members and gives them answers to all the basic questions that every team member needs to be compliant with company expectations. Its purpose is to eliminate the need for ongoing questions, providing a consistent source of answers on how your company conducts business.
- A New Hire Training Program
Here, you outline the exact sequence of teaching new hires everything they need to know to be successful in your business. It is a day-to-day, week-by-week program of how your company does business. This program should provide for regular reviews, testing of knowledge and flexibility for those needing extra investment. A key element in this program is a status level indicator which indicates the new hire’s ability to perform certain tasks until they achieve full accountability for each area of responsibility.
- A Design Philosophy Manual
This is a written explanation of how you believe proper framing designs are created for the art you frame. Documenting this process ensures that everyone on the team is designing correctly and not just using methods learned from past experience. Without this program, you will have designs leaving your shop that you never would have sold. This is a critical part of running your business with a team.
- A Production Manual
This document details your company’s way of creating a professional, preservation-grade project. It ensures that bad procedures do not infiltrate your company through new improperly trained team members.
These four documents are essential tools for growing your company, but there is a little more to being successful as a team leader. Probably the most important element in building a team which represents your business like you do is your attitude about leadership. If you view team members as “employees” who are there to do the things you don’t want to do, or to make things easier on you, all the documentation and training in the world will fail. Your attitude as the leader must be one of service toward the team. You must do everything in your power to help team members be successful. If you have this attitude, your team will also serve the customer well. Everything your team does is a reflection of how they feel they are treated by the leader. If your focus is on serving those who work for you by making it possible to do their jobs well, they will repay you by serving customers well.