When hiring key managers for your stone business, stone experience should be the least important of your criteria.
Yes, I know that statement is controversial and may make some heads spin but hear me out.
Stop and think about the problems that simply drive you crazy as a fab shop owner:
- The install crew forgot to get the sink for the job – or they picked up the wrong sink.
- The splashes for the job didn’t get loaded on the A-frame and the install crew left without them.
- Salespeople make changes to a job after it has been templated.
- Salespeople interfere with the fab and install schedule to prioritize their customers.
- Shop personnel continuously don’t wear the proper PPE.
- There continue to be unsafe conditions in the shop – hoses all over the floor, no hearing protection, no steel-toed shoes.
- Slabs and remnants are hard to locate for fabrication because they just never seem to get tagged properly.
This is just a very short list. I’m sure you could easily double or triple it!
Now stop and think about all the ways you have tried to improve these behaviors. You’ve screamed and yelled. You’ve pleaded. You may have offered monetary incentives. You’ve threatened. Maybe you’ve even written out processes for how a task should be done and trained everyone.
But nothing works.
Why is that?
A lot of shop owners want me to help develop processes and procedures thinking that will address the issues above. The problem is you can have the best documentation of the most efficient procedures in the world but, without good management, without strong leadership, those documents are useless. Just because you tell someone or show someone how to perform a task and sternly dictate that it ‘shall be done’, there is no assurance it will happen. Changing and improving process outcome and people performance is impossible without good management and effective leadership.
What is good management?
I see a LOT of production managers, sales managers, install managers, and others who have gained their position because they were the best saw operator or salesperson, or installer.
They were promoted because of their technical skills and not because of their ability to manage people. They typically aren’t good managers.
Good managers set goals – not just daily, weekly, and monthly goals but also hourly goals.
They give feedback on progress towards those goals. They help ensure the conditions are favorable for reaching those goals.
Good managers are clear communicators. They realize each person sometimes needs to be communicated with in a different way to be effective – some people need more visual communication, some need more verbal communication, and some need time to consider what they have learned before they can effectively respond. A good manager can adapt to these challenges.
When responsibilities are delegated, a good manager follows up to check for understanding, helps address challenges, and ensures that whatever has been assigned is being accomplished.
Conflict in any situation is inevitable. A good manager has the necessary soft skills to effectively resolve conflict. Soft skills of communication, conflict resolution, group problem solving, adaptability, and more can be learned. These skills are essential for good management.
A good manager is skilled at time management. They can prioritize their time for the best benefit of the company and can teach their associates the same skills. They know when to keep a task and when to delegate it. They know how to follow up without micromanaging.
A good manager understands how to develop and implement process improvements – that stick. They know how to make sure those changes last. They know how to most effectively utilize the resources they are entrusted with. They understand the strengths of their people and the capabilities of their equipment and deploy them for the best results.
Good managers are also effective leaders.
An effective leader is accountable both to their upper manager as well as to their associates.
They hold themselves and their team members accountable for meeting goals and delivering results. They create a culture of ownership, where individuals feel responsible for their work and understand the impact of their contributions.
Effective leaders understand the value of collaboration and teamwork. They build strong teams by leveraging the skills and abilities of their members.
Effective leaders adapt to the dynamic changes in this industry. They embrace new ideas and adjust their strategies accordingly. They are resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. They inspire their team members to find creative solutions to the challenges they face.
We all struggle with finding good employees. A good leader knows how to grow the capabilities of the employees they already have so that performance of the team improves and the business benefits.
Effective leaders build trust by acting with integrity. Trust is the foundation of good leadership. Leaders build trust by demonstrating honesty, transparency, and consistently ethical behavior. They keep their promises.
Depending on your data source, there are between 8,000 and 12,000 countertop shops in the US and the average annual sales for these shops are in the $3MM to $4MM range. That means there are thousands of shops with less than $6MM to $8MM in sales. If you are an owner of a smaller shop and want to know how these larger shops grew to the size they are, a big key is having people who are good managers and effective leaders.
As you read this article, ask yourself: How many of these management and leadership characteristics are evident in your shop manager, in your operations manager, in your sales manager, in your general manager? If you have one or more managers who don’t exhibit the traits above, that could be a large reason for the challenges you have in your business. If you are struggling to grow, this could be the most significant key that is holding you back.
If this applies to you, consider visiting your local community college or technical school to see if they teach courses in management or leadership. If they don’t, then seek out independent trainers who can come in and teach those skills to your team. An investment that improves these skills for your key managers (and for you) can be more profitable than buying new equipment – it’s that powerful!
Your business is running exactly the way you have designed it to run. If you want to improve how your business is run, if you want to improve the performance of your managers, drop me a line at Ed@FabricatorsCoach.com.
Register here for a FREE WEBINAR to discuss this topic.
This article was published in the July 2023 Issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, find it at: