As many of you know by now, I have been the owner of Kramm Court Reporting since 1985. I began my career as a court reporter in 1981 at the age of 21. I went straight from high school to court reporting school and then out to the work world. In running my business, most of my education has come from the school of hard knocks. I have been blessed with smart, generous mentors who have given me time and advice, and I have read many books, articles, and blogs in an effort to learn from the best how to manage and succeed.
I came across an article this week, “Want to Move Up? Learn to Manage like a CEO.” The author, Steve Tobak, speaks to the value of learning how to run a business by just doing it rather than getting an MBA or a business education and has come up with five steps.
His first step is, “Focus on critical, trouble areas and leave everything else alone.” I know that putting out fires and solving problems is my job. I learned at a very early stage ignoring a situation and hoping it goes away or gets solved on its own very rarely, if ever happens. All problems need to be tackled immediately. A firm owner needs a powerful team behind him/her to come up with smart solutions.
Tobak’s second step follows beautifully, “Hire functional experts who are also solid, upcoming managers.” Every expert, every successful person, everything I have ever read talks about surrounding yourself with people smarter than you are and who are experts in their field. I would take this advice one step further and suggest a business owner has to hire the best vendors/service providers as well. I want everyone that interacts with my company or my clients to be the best and to love their job, from our delivery guy to my banker.
The third point is, “Business comes first.” Any great manager would understand this. When I read the statement, “Business comes first,” I don’t look at it in a pejorative sense that a business should only care about making money. In my opinion, business coming first means happy employees and court reporters; fair compensation for work being done. The moment a company defines “business comes first” as a means to only generate personal income for itself or management is the moment that that company will start their downward spiral. Managers, salespeople, and employees need to understand that business does come first, the business of customers, service, and sales in the aggregate.
Tobak goes on to step number four, “Manage up.” He talks about “a critical function of any manager is to provide his boss with what she needs to succeed.” Communication is key, and it starts at the top. The CEO, owner of any company, must give permission for managers and employees to speak their mind and allow for give-and-take. A business owner has to have the ear and trust of their management and vice versa and be able to admit they need information and even help, and the managers need to be free to speak to a business owner when he/she feels something is not on track. Everyone has the same interest at heart, what is best for the business.
My favorite step of Tobak’s is the last step, “Help to manage the company.” If an employee or manager sees a situation in another department where help is needed and steps in to be supportive, brainstorm, or even physically works alongside to complete a task, that person becomes invaluable to the owner. If a manager sees a lack of direction in any area of a company and can step in and begin a process or even define the problem, that person will undoubtedly “move up” in a company. But if an owner hears, “It is not my job” or “not my department,” you can bet that the owner is going to start looking for someone else to take that person’s place whenever possible.
There are many days I wish I had an MBA, but I don’t. Learning from the school of hard knocks has taught me a lot about myself, and there is one thing I know for sure, I need the people around me to be a part of the team. I believe the five steps above all illustrate a common goal, wanting what is best for the company, the clients. If the management team is helping the owner/CEO work towards that goal in an authentic and focused manner, one can guarantee success.