7 Tips & Rules to Live By
by John Kuzmick — CFO, Timco Rubber Products, Inc.
- Focus on those things closest to the money
Inflows are the lifeblood of any small business, thus you should always be aware of, and focus especially on, activities that are close to the money: a sale, quote request, sales collection, etc. By paying specific attention to these activities as a manager, the rest of your employees will have the freedom to continue conducting business as usual — after all with no revenue and cash flows, there would be no business as usual.
- Empower people to do their jobs, and give them the tools to succeed
Giving employees a sense of empowerment in doing their jobs allows them to realize that their contributions have a positive effect on the overall profitability and prosperity of your small business. This undoubtedly gives employees a sense of self-satisfaction when they are effectively contributing to the business.
Tools to help employees succeed can be anything from up to date computer equipment and productivity software to assembly tools, safety gear, and the proper training programs.
- When an employee raises a problem, have them follow up with a suggestion on how to solve it
A bit of the ole' psychology here — empowering employees by having them suggest solutions to the very problems they are presenting not only gives them an opportunity to rationalize their problem and think about it from a solution-oriented, management point of view, but it also provides a chance to develop their decision making skills and feel like they are contributing solutions that effect the company in a positive way.
Oh and even more important, listen to their suggestions — more likely than not they will be the first step to fixing whatever the problem is.
- Keep focused on the big picture, but never lose sight of the details
Just like when you're driving a car — always have a good "big picture" of the road on which you are traveling and where it is you are going, but be aware of the little things that can impede your progress.
Slight detours happen on the road and in the workplace, (or on the road to the workplace — Cleveland anyone?), but eventually you'll get to where you need to go.
- If you don't understand something, ask or find out why
If you're confused, ask. Whether it's an employee, business associate, or a customer, communication is the key to understanding, and you'll never know exactly where someone is coming from unless you ask them to clarify what they mean.
By asking the right questions, you're not only in a better position to make a decision, but that decision will be based on a mutual understanding that is far better than the guesswork that happens when you don't ask for clarification.
- Don't micromanage anybody — unless they show that they require it
This holds true for employees, suppliers, and customers — if they demonstrate that they are competent on their own, don't get in their way. Micromanaging someone who doesn't need it not only wastes your time, but it impedes on the effectiveness of the person whom you are trying to manage.
By taking a step back and leaving them to do their own work, you will be affirming the faith you have in your employees to do their job effectively — which can be empowering. If a customer or supplier shows that they can complete project tasks without your constantly reminding them, free yourself from the extra worry and focus on other key areas of the business that DO require your attention.
- Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly
Experience shows that, regardless of your business, a thorough and deliberate hiring process maximizes your chances of bringing in competent people. This is especially important in a small business environment where one employee may be 5% of your businesses total human capital — take your time to make sure it's a proper fit when hiring.
Likewise, if an employee is consistently struggling with their job duties or is exhibiting a significant attitude problem on a regular basis (we all have bad days, keep this in mind), it is highly unlikely that they will improve. It's important to be wary of any employee's home or family issues and the possibility that these may be following them to work. In a small business it's important to be sympathetic to these problems, but at the same time remember that you are running a business.
- Bonus Tip: Standardize as many processes as possible — but only if it makes sense
The more you are able to establish good processes and procedures, the better chance you will have at handling an increase in volume. Likewise, the more processes you have in place, the more time you will free up to work towards that increase in volume.
Automation and standardization can never take the place of good judgment. Be aware of unique situations that go beyond your standardized procedures and inject your own judgment to come up with the best course of action.
Rules to Live by in a Family Business
- Timco Rubber is a business first
Our business happens to include family members, and is therefore a "Business family." Some family businesses put the interests of family members ahead of the businesses interests — we think that is a recipe for disaster.
As with all for-profit businesses, our first and foremost interest is being profitable. Sometimes business matters must take precedence over needs of the family, and this should be known and understood by all family members and employees in a "business family."
- As with all employees in any company, family members in the business must show that they have the adequate skill set, experience, and work ethic required to succeed in their job.
This is essential in order to maintain profitability and offer equal opportunities to all employees and potential employees - family members and otherwise.
- Treat all non-family employees the same as you treat family members
Whatever you do, do not show favoritism towards family in the workplace - this can foster a sense of resentment in non-family employees. Remember, all employees are vital to the success of the company, and any discontent felt in non-family employees can result in lowered productivity and an overall negative impact on your company.
Likewise, giving preferential treatment can foster a sense of entitlement in family members, further decreasing productivity and lowering morale among all employees. These conditions do not provide a healthy environment for any kind of business, and can truly impede on your continued success.
- The Principles of Accountability apply to all family members
These principles are:
- There must be a clear understanding of both parties' expectations
- You must establish points of integrity
- Never draw lines in the sand that you do not intend to back up
- Inspect what you expect
About the Author
John Kuzmick is Vice President of Finance and Marketing for Timco Rubber Products. His father, Nick, founded Timco in 1956, and his brother, Bob, is the current President and CEO. John joined Timco in 1999 after spending 14 years managing multiple offices in the financial and accounting staffing business. Prior to that, John worked in both public accounting and in private industry. He is a CPA and graduated from Xavier University in 1978 with a degree in Accounting.