Rotate through every position at your company regularly--and you won't overlook a brewing problem, or sharp new idea.
Common sense and business gurus alike teach you that, as an owner, you must be able to delegate in order to successfully grow your business. While that might be true in many senses, I actually believe that it is equally important to never disconnect entirely. Delegating might free up time, but it can also cause you to step too far back from the activities that can make or break your company in both large and small ways. It pays to always revisit every part of your business on a regular basis.
What "works" is not always what's best.
When Metal Mafia first began doing business, the team and I used a customer relationship management software that was great, but after two years, we outgrew its capacity and upgraded. Our current software is excellent in many ways, but because the company was short-staffed this week and I got back on the phones to make outbound sales calls--something I have not done in a while--I realized our newer system was missing some of the tools that had been really helpful in the earlier one. The reps themselves would never have known to ask for these tools, because they joined the company after the change. However, because I had worked in both systems, I knew we needed them back and called the software company right away to see if they could be added. Not only will this make my reps' jobs organizationally easier, it will also allow them to reach their customers more frequently. I never would have figured this out if I hadn't gotten back on the phone.
Sometimes people needlessly reinvent the wheel.
One of my staffers who is particularly bright and capable, but also relatively new, had been complaining for weeks that she was getting buried under data entry. I imagined data entry, which is a part of her job but by no means the central focus, was just something she did not like to do, and she was trying to find a away to pass the duty on to someone else. To put the issue to rest, I asked her to walk me through her process, and in so doing, I realized that she had cleverly created a very detailed but complex spreadsheet to help her manage important customer information she wanted to track. The same information was available via the touch of a button in our accounting software. Unfortunately, she did not know that, because she had never asked me or anyone else on the team, and we let her work the way she wanted, thinking she knew best how to set things up to her liking. Only because I sat with her and literally watched how she was handling each of her tasks did I realize that I could have made her job easier by giving her better training.
Problems get pushed aside.
As is the case with most small companies, everyone who works at Metal Mafia has a lot on his or her plate. As they work to deliver on their duties, small problems sometimes arise that don't immediately affect them being able to complete their usual tasks. My receiving team, for example, creates bin locations for new products and enters the location in our order system so that our fulfillment team can locate them easily. Sometimes, when the receiving team moves too quickly, a bin location gets entered incorrectly, showing an item is located in a neighboring bin. My fulfillment team, intent on getting merchandise to our customers expeditiously, then may see that the bin number is wrong, but not take the time to correct it in our system right away. They reason that it will take time to fix, and if they are busy, their current task is more important. When I spent time working alongside my fulfillment team, and noticed this was the case, I realized that not stopping to fix it immediately would result in the wrong location coming up on multiple orders, wasting the time of multiple employees as they searched for it, and possibly resulting in wrong items winding up in customer orders. By getting involved, I was able to notice the problem, explain why solving it was important, and keep it from snowballing into something larger.
Rotating through the various positions at my company brings me new ideas, and keeps the company centered firmly in the right direction. That can't be delegated.
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Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg