Things are finally starting to return to normal, we had a bumper crop of sales over the last week, and got our internal problems solved. What is interesting is that rather than “go be your creative best” the leadership style had to change over to completely authoritative, here is what you are going to, here is when it is due, but I was able to avoid the “here is how you are going to do it” micromanagement routine. One of the biggest lessons learned off this one, is in a world of social media, be darn careful when people start going insane.
While we live in a hyper connected world, what was interesting was the outcome, and how leadership had to change to accommodate sales pressure. While we were able to pull the company back into the black for the month and while we still have our cash flow locked for the next four months because of the “bet the company” deal we made, in the longer run, many lessons off this month long crisis in the company. Here is what I learned in managing.
- Be careful who you hire for doing work, hire for skill, but also hire for culture. If someone needs something that the company culture just will not provide, then there it is, they are lost, and in the end they might bring down the entire company as they flame out because the company cannot give them what they want.
- If you hire an outside company to do data entry, make sure of the work they do, it will most likely be right, but in the odd chance that it is wrong, make sure that there is a way to fix the data that they are entering. No data entry is ever going to be 100% correct, when accuracy matters make sure that someone in the company is verifying the information along the way.
- If the company you hired to do data entry completely screws up and makes hundreds of mistakes let them go immediately, don’t try to fix it, and don’t try to make it better. Just let them go, and do not be surprised if they do something retaliatory either (actually plan on this one). When we had the complaint lodged against it that cost us weeks of momentum, this was an unplanned event and totally screwed us up internally for weeks while we thought about why they did this. It does not matter why, it matters how you manage the issue.
- Manage to the situation, if the company is operating fine on “go be your creative best” and starts failing or having issues, change the management style until it starts going right again. Over time you might be able to go back to “be your creative best”, but when the company needs leadership, concise direct and formal leadership, do not shy away from it, do not mourn the change, simply do it and hope that at some time in the future you can go back to the management style you want to use.
- Fire, fire often and fire liberally when needed or indicated. While this might sound bad and might sound non-humanistic, the reality is that one badly fitting person can kill the momentum of the company. Do not be afraid to rectify the situation, bad hires happen, you need to fix them when they do. While you might have invested a lot of time in the person, and everyone is allowed to have their bad day or even bad month, if it is a pattern it is time to let them go.
- Do not undermine your own success, grow at a rate you can accommodate, and if it means going slower to get to the point of “get big or go home” do not worry about the path you take to get there, realistic growth is in the longer run more affordable than huge growth spurts. Many will argue with this one, but huge changes Month over Month in the records as the company expands (and contracts) can be hard to manage. Where a steady growth cycle is much easier to deal with both from a management process, and an infrastructure process.
- Do not ever rely on one venue only; expand into as many ecommerce venues as possible. If you rely on one venue and it is having a bad weekend, you lose those sales when customers cannot put product into shopping carts. Part of the problem is that while we have a web site for the company with its own shopping cart system, we really didn’t use it to drive sales in favor of the larger ecommerce platforms. This has ended up being a real issue as the larger venues make changes on a near continual basis. When those “upgrades” go wrong, the sales make a hard stop. Integrate with everything from Google Shopping to everything else in between. Use RSS to feed other sites with what you are selling and really open up the markets you sell in.
While most of this might seem like a V8 moment, yes I knew that, duh, the reality is that when you are in the thick of a crisis you fall back not on what you know to be right, but what you have tried in the past (regardless of success of failure, we fall back on things that are in our comfort zones). While this might not be optimal, sometimes you have to do the right thing to keep your business afloat and operating. Making mistakes is part of the deal, how you deal with the mistakes is more telling of not only small company leadership, but in how the company will accommodate the learning opportunity that mistakes present. Failure is the best educational process out there, how you manage and lead from the brink of failure says a lot about the management team and how they approach failure or potential failure.
(Cross-posted @ TechWag)