(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010)
By MARK SO
In my earlier years, I never really thought of myself as a manager of people; truth be told I never really understood how important managing people really was until I became an entrepreneur. And even when I embraced entrepreneurship full time, I made many, many mistakes in this field which taught me huge lessons not just in business but also in life.
You see, back in the day as an inexperienced entrepreneur, I thought that people management was simple: “If you want your business to succeed, you must hire people who have the background to run your business for you.” Little did I know that those thoughts were the most devastating thoughts ever to cross my mind. Why? Because no matter how good the people you hire, or how much money you offer them, the truth is, no one can ever run your business better than you.
I learned the hard way that being a business owner did not mean that you hired people to think for you and run the day to day operations for you; it meant that you needed to first know what you really want your business to become, and to do that, you need to be employee number 1. Because, remember Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it usually will. And if you are not there to steer the business clear of problems, you should never expect employee number 2, 3, or 4 to do it better than you.
The greatest mistake I made with my first business was to hire a general manager and her managers (employees 2, 3, and 4) to run the business. I was still working for a big multinational company back then and subscribed to the excuse, “I’m too busy to handle my own business.” So I relied on the salaries that I was paying my people to make them grow my business, solve problems, and make me rich.
Of course, reality is never that easy. Because people that you pay but do not manage usually result in these people taking their salaries and ending up making excuses for why things didn’t go as planned.
(To read more about my problems with my first business and how I solved them, go to my blog, www.markso.wordpress.com and search for “Business and the start of a beautiful relationship, parts 1 to 3.”)
In hindsight, I realized that my biggest mistake was that I “abdicated” instead of “delegated.” Abdication is what happens when you are not there to guide people and as a result fail to fulfill your responsibility as the founder of the business. Delegation is when you slowly give some responsibility to the people you hire so that they can eventually do the work for you over time. Take note, the operative words here are “slowly” and “over time.”
So in my next business, I tried “delegating.” I was more hands-on in the business, but there were still big glaring problems. The biggest problem of all was my attitude. I was either too nice, or too strict, or too tyrannical, or all of the above. So as you can imagine, some of my people were complaining behind my back. I wasn’t consistent in my approach and my moods got the best of me, because—and this is not an excuse—as an entrepreneur you are faced with an extreme amount of stress on a daily basis.
So how did I learn to manage my people better? Well, three things.
First I had to learn to be better than the normal guy. As an entrepreneur, you will really face a lot of hard and stressful times but even during those times, I had to learn how to become more “presidential,” which meant I needed to stop being dramatic, and to learn to act from my head and not from my heart. It wasn’t easy, but I (with my wife) realized that the solution to achieving this was to slowly and painstakingly build a system to address the needs of our people. This is where my wife Jhoanna really excelled; she built our human resource system almost single-handedly. It did not just address the concerns of our people but also replaced impulsiveness and drama with solid procedures for addressing our people’s problems.
Second, and simultaneously, I had to weed out the bad apples in the bunch. You see I believe that the business owner has to do his/her part in becoming better at managing people, but the people themselves must be willing to be honed to become even better for the sake of the business. Unfortunately there are those who just do not have the right attitude and the only answer is to remove them from the equation.
Once I cleared the ranks, replacing them with better people was the next task, and to do this, we created criteria for hiring people, and these criteria were the most important of all as they helped us hire those who believed in what the business wanted to achieve. This unified belief is what bonded our people together to act as one with the business owners themselves. Without this bond, you can never really build a team with a common purpose.
Third, and finally, I realized that the first two things will not matter at all if I did not show them exactly what it was that the business wanted to achieve. So the last and final ingredient of how I learned how to manage people was to lead by example. I am employee number 1 and as such I must show the rest of the team how to do it the first time, the second time, the third time…until they can do it on their own. Today, I can honestly say that I have come a long way when it comes to managing people. Today I can honestly say that my wife and I are better managers of people.
About the Author: Mark So is a fervent businessman, forex trader, marketer, sales consultant, and educator. He is the chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy, a business, finance and corporate training center. He is also the Chief Forex Trainer of Forex Club Manila. Mr. So is slated to conduct his “7 Point Formula Seminar” on July 31, 2010. If you are interested in attending this seminar, email Mark directly at email@example.com. To read more of Mark’s interesting and life- enriching articles you can go to his blog at http://www.markso.wordpress.com.
(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Mark So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)