Friday 25 May 2018

Problem Solver: My managers are struggling to focus on the key issues

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: Have you any suggestions on how I can get my managers to focus on a number of key issues, which are critical to the business? We are struggling to get consistency with the 22 managers that work in the business.

A: What you are describing is not unusual. If your business has grown fast and there has been lots of change, the problem will have become more exaggerated.

It's not that your managers don't care, it's probably more that they are being hit by a multitude of priorities and finding it difficult to keep them all in focus.

Agree with your senior management team what you want the priorities to be. Also set out the minimum expectations of things that have to be done every day, regardless of what other priorities are in place. Getting the senior management team to buy in will be critical as you don't want conflicting messages going throughout the business.

I would recommend you examine your bonus structure, assuming that you have one. In Superquinn, we found that aligning key priorities to the manager's bonus system delivered an instant result. If your managers know their bonus is dependent on an audit of some key measures, this tends to focus minds.

It might also be an idea to run some sort of a competition which would include the managers and all of the staff in its judging format. This would be a great way to mobilise everyone to focus on the key priorities, as there would be a sense of peer pressure among the branches, with everyone not wanting to be beaten by their neighbouring branch.

Finally, to launch this focus I would recommend a meeting led by yourself which would address your senior management team and branch managers so that everyone is clear on the message you are trying to get across.

Q: I run a small business, which is only two years old but I am getting good growth. My problem is that I am really struggling to get all the tasks in the business done especially in marketing.

A: When you start a new business for the first time, you quickly discover that you end up multi-tasking to try and cover all of the roles that are required. You are the production manager, the marketing manager, the sales manager etc. As you rightly point out, this can sometimes be a very big challenge.

In the ideal world you would go out and recruit another member of staff, however the commercial numbers may not allow this, although you do need to be careful you do not stifle business growth through lack of resources. Sometimes it is wise to invest the money ahead of time to allow you to focus on growing sales by employing additional help.

I see many small businesses working with colleges and third level institutions by taking interns for three or six-month placements. Ideally these interns would have expertise in the areas you would want them. Of course taking interns into the business means you need to be structured yourself and invest time in them so that they can produce results.

There are several government schemes to incentivise businesses to employ staff.Schemes are designed to give your business a subsidy in order to cushion the cost of taking on an employee for the first time. In the case of the Local Enterprise Office, employment grants, if you are eligible, you could qualify as the first employee and get some much needed funds which would then allow you to take on a second person.

You are right to be raising this as an issue, and I would caution you about waiting too long to bring in additional resources. The blockage to growth in most businesses is caused by an over reliance on the owner. There are only a certain amount of hours in a day, and days in a week and no matter what you do, you can't change that fact.

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