Stop us if this scenario sounds familiar. . .
You’re at the helm of a small to medium sized machine shop. Maybe it’s a family business that was passed down through generations. Maybe you’ve simply worked your way up the ladder over the years.
Either way, you’ve been learning how to run this shop for years. At this point, you know it like the back of your hand. It just makes sense for you to be involved in every project now that you’re in a leadership position. . . right?
Here’s the simple truth: Even if you know your shop better than anybody, you shouldn’t be doing everything and more. In fact, working in your shop at the expense of working on your shop is probably doing more harm than good.
The Problem With Wearing Too Many Hats
“Wearing all the hats” in your shop might feel like the best or only option, but it can seriously hinder the success of your company, your team, and your personal life.
Interfering with your personal life.
As the leader of a successful machine shop, you put everything you can into your business. You may have the idea that time for yourself will come after you’ve met your business goals. But time isn’t always on your side, and waiting to go on vacation, spend more time with family, or take up hobbies can leave you wishing you had done those things sooner.
Being passionate about your work is great, but your work/life balance is important, too. When you delegate some of your work, you allow yourself to recharge by allotting time for more of the other things you enjoy.
Disempowering your team
Delegating is also better for your team. Owners tend to think that they’re the only ones who can accomplish certain tasks the right way, but this misconception is easily debunked.
If you suddenly fell ill and had to take a short leave of absence, the work you’re typically responsible for would still get done. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us just how adaptable shops are in those scenarios.
When you insist on doing everything on your own, you deprive your employees of the chance to reach their full potential. You might have a few incredibly talented workers, but if you don’t allow them to take on new challenges, you may never know what they’re capable of.
Hindering company growth
Finally, owners who wear too many hats can end up stalling the growth of their shop.
Time and again, we see that the most successful NTMA member companies are the ones whose owners have cracked the code on delegation. There comes a point where a real leader relinquishes control because they realize that they’re stronger with the help of others.
Dos and Don’ts for Delegating
Delegation is the clear solution to many of these problems. Modern machine shop owners may struggle to strike the right balance, but these dos and don’ts will help get you started:
- DON’T let size hold you back. All too often, owners assume that their shop is too small for them to justify delegating, but that assumption doesn’t hold water. Even if you can’t commit to hiring additional employees, you can certainly empower the employees you do have to take on more responsibility.
- DON’T force people into positions that aren’t right for them. Delegating can backfire quickly when employees take on roles and responsibilities that aren’t in line with their strengths and passions. Successful shops empower their employees to gravitate toward the positions they love. When employees enjoy what they’re doing, they’ll be more willing to dive in and own their new responsibilities. Start by identifying your go-to people for help in every area of your shop, then begin delegating related tasks from there.
- DO give people the chance to succeed. It’s important to manage your expectations of what success might look like at the beginning of this process. Employees who are taking on new challenges may not be successful immediately—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fit for the job. Ask them how they came to the decisions they made, and assess their reasoning. If it’s clear that they put thought into their process, then it’s likely that they’ll be receptive to mentoring.
- DO hire fractional professionals. When it comes to offloading administrative duties, hiring a full-time employee might not be in the budget. But the good news is that you can hire a part-time CFO or Director of Human Resources to test the waters at a reasonable cost. This approach will allow you to see the value in delegating these tasks without making a huge upfront investment.
At the end of the day, your mindset is key to delegating successfully. Trust the process and give your employees the freedom to stumble or try a different approach. They may do things differently than you—and that’s okay. It might even be the thing your shop needs most.
At NTMA our goal is to help our members facilitate this type of evolution and growth. For more tips on how to run a machine shop, join NTMA today!