The best business advice came from my wise father-in-law was to be hands on.
His advice tore apart the mindset that being an entrepreneur meant being your own boss with everyone at your beck and call. People think if you’re an entrepreneur, you can boss people around. All you need was to give an order and your staff would scramble to finish it.
When I became my own boss, nothing was further from the truth. As an entrepreneur, I was at EVERYONE’s beck and call.
In the beginning, I was the HR, the purchaser, the sales manager, the chief strategist, and the guidance counselor, all rolled into one. I ingressed our kiosk at the mall late at night, instructing my staff how to position the showcases. I stayed up late to finish the payroll so everyone would get paid on time. I stressed about the bills. I canvassed for suppliers to get the best deals. I trained and motivated my people to do their jobs better.
Sure, I hired help.
“Hire the best people and to let them do their jobs,” gurus said. However, newly-hired people don’t always get things immediately. You still have to orient, train and teach them how you want things to be done, and then monitor their output for accuracy, consistency, and style. Only when they can produce reliable, acceptable results do you leave them to do things on their own.
So many businessmen made the mistake of hiring employees at top dollar and then expected them to produce positive results without giving much guidance. I find this a waste of money. If it’s your business, still keep your eyes off the ball.
Monitor operations now and then so you know everyone’s going in the same correct direction. I know a lot of businessmen whose most trusted lieutenants were those who stole most from them. You can’t expect your employees to consistently make money for you if you don’t care enough to regularly report to the office or to check their work. If you leave your business to your people, ensure there are sufficient checks and balances.
Being hands-on is the best advice for any entrepreneur, especially in the beginning. The best place to know about your business is on the battlefield.
When you get your hands dirty, you will start to know every ins and outs of your business. You can spot the gaps and plug the holes. You can fine-tune your system to make it run smoother. You can hire better people to help you do particular tasks.
Since you already know what you’re doing and what needs to be done, you will then know whether the person you hired is competent or not. From there, you can start picking the right people to build up your own organization.
A friend franchised a business, expecting the franchisor to teach him about operations, systems, and running a business. The franchisor designed his store, chose the contractor, and operated the business. My friend loved the fact that income was passive and his involvement was low touch. If the restaurant made money, he’d get a percentage.
His biggest mistake was he didn’t visit the store regularly. He let his people run the business for him. Because the location was far, he’d call the manager and demand performance, then became disappointed when the sales were lacking. Unsurprisingly, the business closed at a loss. My friend blamed the franchisor for not marketing the brand enough, but I think he wasted a good opportunity to train himself to be a better entrepreneur by being hands-on.
In business, your employees are not obligated to make money for you. They’re like soldiers. Their job is to follow orders. If the general won’t even show up to the battle, why would he be surprised when his strategies fail and his troops scatter?
I implore entrepreneurs to get out of their air-conditioned offices and stay on the ground, talking to their suppliers, employees, and customers. There is no better teacher than experience. The process can be exhausting, but the learning is immense.
Managing a business is the best teacher for entrepreneurship. Instead of paying for an MBA, manage your own business and be hands-on.
Learning on the job is the gift that keeps on giving; the more you do, the better you get. Even when your businesses fail, you can still learn the lesson.
So don’t waste an opportunity to be a better entrepreneur by always being hands-on with your businesses.
Tina Khoe Ang is a retail entrepreneur, managing 29 branches in Metro Manila. She is a moderator at the Philippines HR Group on Facebook, and a co-host at The HR Cafe: Usapang Trabaho, Buhay, Atbp webshow every 3pm Sunday. Read her thoughts on HR and business at https://www.tinainmanila. com/.
NOTE: Thank you to Sir Benedict Carandang and the First Circle for making my dream come true to contribute for the Manila Times. 😍