B2B with Adam Lieberman
April 22, 2021
Expert Business Insight and Advice
The Voice introduces a four-part “Grow Your Business” series with business coach and consultant Mr. Adam Lieberman.
Week 1 of 4
Adam Leiberman with Dina Steinberg
Kate was a hardworking 34-year-old mother of two when she decided to leave her dead-end job in sales in search of her fortune. For months, she continued to trudge to work. But every night she felt a thrill of excitement as she sat down to research for, plan, and finally create her dream.
Kate’s love of fashion and design pushed her to open a tiny fabric store in the heart of her town. Small and bright, the wood-paneled boutique had a cheerful and inviting atmosphere. The large sectional windows were framed by floral printed curtains which Kate tied back with wide sashes.
The store was a riot of colors, pastels and primaries and neons and prints. A lively medley of fabrics clamored for attention, from thick, soft velvets to the most delicate lace patterns. A gaily decorated sign at the entrance announced the shop’s name: Sew It Seams.
Customers flooded Kate’s new store, each seeking specific materials and hues. Friendly recommendations and word-of-mouth advertising helped to grow the business by leaps and bounds.
Eventually, Kate posted a sign that she was looking to hire a salesgirl. When Aubrey came to be interviewed, Kate appreciated her attention to detail, her delicate fingering of the fabrics, and her uncanny ability to find a match.
Aubrey was hired on the spot.
Kate and Aubrey worked contentedly side by side. Kate, as owner and manager, did the purchasing and paying. She also spent a few hours in the shop each day, enjoying the gentle hum of activity in Sew It Seams. When she was ready to leave, Kate left the shop in Aubrey’s trustworthy and capable hands.
After careful consideration, Kate decided to open a second branch of Sew It Seams. She found a charming little store about a 45-minute drive from the first location. Once the logistics were all ironed out, one question remained: Who would run it? With housework and childcare and the original store to tend to, Kate didn’t have the time or capacity to manage another shop.
But Aubrey did.
Aubrey had experience in the company, she was skilled, and she was trusted.
It was the perfect solution.
Until it wasn’t.
Aubrey was a great salesgirl. She was attentive to customers, sweet-natured and creative, dreamy and artistic. She was not a businesswoman, a manager, or a leader. She lacked the organization, the structure, the focus, and the backbone.
Kate had to deal with the fallout, scrambling to shoulder the responsibility of the new branch, now more a burden than a boon.
Over time, Kate came to bitterly regret the promotion she’d given her assistant. She learned a hard truth: a great salesgirl does not a manager make.
Never promote people beyond their capabilities
There is a concept in business known as the Peter Principle. It states, “People tend to rise until their level of incompetence.” Plainly put, employees are often promoted until they’re doing jobs that are beyond their abilities.
Why is that?
An excellent bookkeeper can fail miserably as department manager.
The greatest of health care billers may make an awful head of billing.
The skill set required for a worker is not the same as that of a manager. An excellent salesman may be friendly, driven, and creative. As sales manager, he can lack the necessary leadership, structural, and organizational skills.
In addition, a great worker has developed the attitude, motivation, persistence, and work ethic that make them successful. However, that does not mean they know how to bring out those qualities in others. In fact, they may become frustrated when their underlings lack the skills or techniques that they have.
When promoting an employee, be sure that their new position requires assets that are similar to those they display now, so your worker is never operating out of their depth.
Consider hiring from outside the company for senior leadership positions
When the Vilna Gaon was asked to be the rav of his hometown, he refused. When asked why, he explained that the community members could remember a time when he played ball in the streets. He felt that the city’s residents would be unable to respect a man with whom they’d grown up. Indeed, “No man is a prophet in his own land.”
When hiring a division leader, you look for someone who will be respected and obeyed by their subordinates.
Many problems can arise when a team player is suddenly boss. The man who was recently joking with the crew, grumbling about the company vacation policy, and snatching coffee breaks with his coworkers has a shared past of comfort and familiarity with his colleagues. To put him in the position of hiring and firing, instructing and motivating, is a foolhardy move, one that’s likely to fail.
Consider delegating more responsibilities to your staff
When a company is in its infancy, its creators are on their own. They often do everything from paying bills and securing new accounts to the nitty-gritty chores involved in keeping a company afloat.
As the business grows, it is critical that the leaders begin to delegate. The owner of a construction company, for example, should not be responsible for deciding how many light bulbs are installed on each floor of a new building. Likewise, it’s unproductive for the light-bulb installer to weigh in on the company’s decision to merge with another.
When Yisro joined Klal Yisrael, he was shocked by the endless lines of Jews awaiting judgment by Moshe. He proposed a system with levels of management. Without that infrastructure, he pointed out, both Moshe and the rest of the nation would suffer.
Every government, every military, every hospital in the world has a hierarchy. Each person has a delineated job. Different managers are responsible for different areas, from the bottom way up to the president or the general or the CEO.
Owners need to give specific jobs to each employee, thus establishing a professional hierarchy in the business. The leader must delegate jobs and then have the self-restraint to stay out of the way. Absent that discipline, the boss is not delegating, they are micromanaging.
By following this system, you are placing your trust wholeheartedly in your workers. When they feel they are capable and reliable, you can rest assured that they will get the job done.