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How to Train a Manager

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

It’s hard enough to get a business off the ground, but it’s even harder to keep the doors open and make a profit. Especially when studies show that 85% of small businesses fail in the first five years. It’s not uncommon for new business owners to work 16-18 hour days to bring their business to life.

Over time, this workload takes its toll on you and your family. As the business grows, so do your daily responsibilities. There will come a time when you have to turn some of the responsibilities of the business over to someone else, so you can have some semblance of a life. It’s better to do that before it’s needed than after. The trick is finding and training the right person.

Who Are You Really Training?

The first lesson to learn during this transition is that your replacement will not be a clone of you — so don’t expect them to be. It’s very important to remember that you are not training another owner; you’re training a manager. So where do you start?

As I said earlier, the manager is not going to be you. A local business owner in Bozeman has a very simple hiring philosophy. “Hire for attitude; train for skill.” This philosophy is great for hiring good employees but it hits home even harder with a manager. A good manager must be able to take direction, set goals, supervise people, deal with complaints, and handle customers, which are all critical to the success of any business.

If they are supervising employees they are going to have different people skills than you do. That’s not a bad thing as long as both you and your trainee are on the same page and working toward the same end result.

How Does The Training Begin?

The first decision to make is the level of responsibility your manager will assume at the beginning and over the long haul. Usually this is a gradual process, evolving over time. It might be as simple as teaching the trainee the opening and closing procedures of the business.

Then, moving on to month end reports, then supervised ordering of inventory. As time goes on you begin to feel more and more comfortable that you made the right choice. If it turns out to be the wrong choice, isn’t it preferable to find out now, when you are close by, rather than getting a call on vacation in the middle of Main Street at Disneyland?

Keep in mind that this is just as much training you to let go, as it is training someone else to take over more of your responsibilities. Set weekly goals and have morning briefings to start. Review the previous day. What happened? Were there emergencies or employee problems? How did the trainee handle those? What could have been done differently? Were procedures followed or did someone drop the ball along the way?

Some Final Thoughts

There is no perfect person for every job. Look at the big picture. You can micromanage, and make everyone in the place crazy, or you can resign yourself to the fact that your manager might not do things exactly as you would. But at the end of the day you need to be profitable with satisfied customers. That’s the end result you’re looking for.

Don’t dwell on the negative. Keep in mind that the manager trainee is under a lot of stress to please you. That sometimes leads to overcompensation. Another great manager friend advised that you give people, “Two warm fuzzies for every cold prickly.” Find more things your manager is doing right than wrong. The world won’t end if mistakes are made. Success is not about assigning blame; it’s about running a successful business.

Every error is a training opportunity and training will never really end. New policies, new products, new procedures and regulations will all lead to changes in the day to day operation of the business. Many others have survived this process; so relax — you will too.

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