When Chris Zane of Zane's Cycles, a bicycle shop based in Branford, Conn., decided to expand his then retail-oriented business into the more lucrative premiums and incentives market, he knew that bigger growth and profits were possible. But the move also provoked intense anxiety. It became painfully obvious to Zane that although the new market offered tremendous potential for growth, it also required money, patience, and professional guidance. Accustomed to running his business on his own, Zane was a pathological micromanager, and he didn't relish giving up control. "I hemmed and hawed," he recalls.

The move into a new market, premiums, ultimately forced him to rethink his own strengths and weaknesses as a company builder. In other words, forced him to think and act like a CEO, rather than merely like the owner of a cycle shop.

As his company grew more complex, it became clear to Zane that he could no longer afford to micromanage -- a trait of his that, in fact, his staff viewed as increasingly irritating. His older brother Ken, the manager of the company's premiums fulfillment system, notes that "as the organization grew, there was more on Chris's plate, and things would occasionally slip through the cracks." Zane agrees, acknowledging that he sometimes let orders for parts sit on his desk for days.

Tom Girard, the company's retail manager who has been with Zane for eight years, says that "for quite some time, he had his fingers in the pie too much. Once in a while, he'd come out and throw a wrench in the gears for no reason, just because he had to get his hands in it. Then we'd have to fix the bike all over again." Girard says that Zane is now forced to concentrate on marketing, leaving Girard alone to do what he does best -- manage the store and the employees.

"For 16 years I had my hands in every single aspect of the business," says Zane. "But I'm a better manager now. I have to let the system be handled by my staff so that I can stay focused on opportunities that come up."

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Published on: Nov 1, 2000