As an editor, I’ve met a lot of small business owners – talked, chatted, interviewed, had drinks with, questioned, etc. And in the subtext of many conversations is a lingering fear. It’s a fear of giving up control.
Perhaps it’s really a fear of being obsolete or perhaps it is a built-in personality trait of the successful entrepreneur. After all, those who succeed are hardworking and can/should credit their own choices and actions with making the business run when other businesses fail. Their personal dedication and passion are often the driving force of growth. However, as a business enlarges, there comes a point when the owner is doing harm by being the puppeteer with strings in every department.
Foster powerful managers
In his blog, 7 Things You’re Doing to Destroy Your Company, Barry Moltz talks about some insightful obstacles and solutions that affect small business owners. Among them is not creating a management team you can trust and relinquish control to. Nearly everyone has worked for a micro manager before. It is one of the least productive and efficient management styles and certainly never fosters creative and money-saving solutions. Too often it slows decision making to a crawl because there is a bottle-neck at the top. Every decision must go through the owner, who is overwhelmed or without the proper background knowledge. Allowing effective managers to have power is difficult, as they will inevitably have different views and make different decisions than the owner, but it’s important to growing a business. Indeed, as a company expands, it’s really the only option.
Use everything to your advantage
But I think this fear of losing control also makes some small business owners, specifically vending operators, slow to incorporate software and hardware solutions that replace pencil, paper and a person’s “gut” feeling. I can see the problem. How can a machine possibly know better than a living, breathing person who visits the location regularly? The unfortunate answer is that unless the problem requires a great amount of creative, problem solving ability, it statistically does. Massive amounts of data are understood and stored differently in the human brain than a computer. Psychologists have dedicated research dollars to this for years – anomalies are noted, items at the beginning and end of a list are noted, items the observer has strong feelings about are noted and other items are missed or misremembered. There is evidence in the vending industry, in the form of white papers and success stories, where operators admit that launching a vending management system was an eye-opener. It allowed them to more accurately see what was happening at the category, location, machine and item level. Perversely, it gave owners who embraced it a different form of control, and often one leading to more profits.
Running a vending business is no easy feat, therefore operators should use every advantage. One advantage is good people, so give those employees more power (and more money – another tip in Moltz’s blog). The other is not to be afraid to add technology – it’s a game changer that will actually give an owner a greater level of control. It will also allow owners to do what they are really good at – creative idea generation and execution. Maybe a bit of vacation time as well.