A Word about Business Founders
Michael Gerber in The E-Myth said, “Most small business owners are technicians who’ve suffered an entrepreneurial seizure”. It’s a statement with a lot of factual backing and it fits well with a key question than can be asked of many business founders who begin to struggle as their business scales up. That question is, “What made you think that because you were good at doing something, that you would be good at running a business that does that?”
And then, occasionally, there is the exception to the case, the founder who realises that they really are “good at doing that”, and that they really enjoy “doing that”, but that they are not so good at, or so interested in, running the business that has grown out of that. Those founders often go looking for someone to run the business so that they can be free to continue doing, enjoying and improving “that” upon which the business is founded.
The huge challenge any founder faces is finding a person for that role who has the skill set, attitude, experience and commitment to be able to take over the reins of what is probably – at that point in time – a very personalised business that reflects the idiosyncrasies of its inventive owner and to do that without losing the essence of what has brought the business this far so as to lead it into the next stages of its evolution.
Does every found have to hand over the reins in order to grow? No, not the ones who want to grow from inventor, founder and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer into “leader of a bunch of people who can do it for me”. Henry Ford was an inventive young man who loved engineering and who invested four years of his life into building four motor vehicles.
Ford’s interest and focus, however, from very early on was on how to build those vehicles, on how to build them cheaply and in scale, and how to organise at least some previously-unskilled people to do that for him. Ford needed people with mechanical skills and the closest thing in his marketplace was blacksmithing – and not a lot of people had even those skills. Ford’s vision of his business was vast from the outset and so Ford grew in the knowledge and capability demanded of him by the scale of his vision. By the time he was employing tens of thousands of men and women, Ford was still a consummate engineer but his highest skills were those of visionary leadership, organisation, systems and process.
Do all founders want to become the next Henry Ford? Probably not, but there are lessons in what worked for Ford that may save the next budding entrepreneur some serious pain, money and time.
So what did Henry Ford do right in business?
He invested his time in:
- developing systems;
- selecting and developing people to run those systems;
- encouraging his people to grow in order to better lead others; and
- focusing his people – and himself – on continuously evolving, expanding and improving the systems and processes that sustained the business.
However, and probably most importantly, Ford never ceased to invest time in polishing, conveying and promoting to every employee, the vision, mission and values upon which he had founded his business.
Interestingly, while few components were changed on the T-model Ford during its 19-year model run, every process used to produce it was continuously improved over that period!
In a similar vein, while his vision, mission and values changed very little over time, every process and system that gave expression to those was continuously improved over time. Ford was the consummate innovator, and he had a lifelong practice of consulting experts for the means to achieve the outcomes he brought to mind.
For more on an effective process for articulating your own Vision, Mission and Values see Solving the People Puzzle.
Here we are going to focus on how a business founder might select someone – a General Manager – to take over the day-to-day management of their business in order to free them for the work they like most.
Selecting a General Manager (GM) For Your Business
The broad process for selecting any new team member is simple:
- Single sheet of paper, write out all of the results you want your GM to produce for you
- Rank the results as H (high: must do), M (medium: should do), and L (low: nice if they could do)
- Single sheet of paper, 3 columns headed “Attributes”, “Skills & Qualificationss” and “Experience”
- Start writing in the order ideas occur to you: a). Under Attributes, list the personal characteristics you value and/or see as essential to produce the results you are looking for so as to fulfil their role; b) Under Skills & Qualifications, list the skills, knowledge and formal/informal qualifications required for the role (in some industries a key company officer may require certain trade, industry or professional qualifications to fulfil their role); c). Under Experience, list the types of tasks and roles that you expect would provide the ease of performance you are looking for in your GM.
- Prioritise for each column each of your entries as either: H – high: must have, essential, deal-breaker; M – medium: should have, very important, expected; L – low: nice to have, a bonus over the essentials
- Reduce each column to no more than 10 items
- Make a checklist out of the results and add a weight to each item
- Draft your advertisement or pitch with the primary focus on the results you want produced and the secondary on the attributes, skills and experience you expect they’ll need
- Create a Questionnaire for yourself as a interview guide. Incorporate multi-layered questions (go deeper than the first answers)
- Interview candidates using your Checklist and Questionnaire
- Be patient and ruthless.
Any and all of the time you invest in selecting the right candidate will be tiny compared to the time you will waste working with, trying to fix – then managing out of the business – the wrong candidate.
In fact, get it horribly wrong, and it may cost you your business.
So: Be patient and ruthless.
For some mental reinforcement on this approach, research Brad Smart and Topgrading.
Induction To The Business
OK, so you’ve applied the process for Selecting a General Manager and you’ve found the perfect candidate?
It’s not over yet.
In fact the most critical of all steps is the next one: Taking a skilled and talented stranger who, independently of your business, has their own set of values and experiences and their own systems and processes for getting things done – their way – and bringing them into your enterprise and passing them the steering wheel in what, the hope that it will all go really well?.
Could this all go very wrong?
Are there tried and proven ways for carrying out this very important transition that will pre-handle or avoid the pitfalls that such an exercise is literally strewn with?
Yes. One of those is (you guessed it) “Inducting Your General Manager“.
For more information, or to discuss coaching and support in getting it right, feel very welcome to contact Peter