You own a business because you like being the boss. You have the drive and desire to succeed. You are a person of action and like getting things done. You own the business because, as Frank Sinatra once sang, you like doing things your way. And the very characteristics that make you a successful entrepreneur may be what make you a bad manager.

You own a business because you like being the boss. You have the drive and desire to succeed. You are a person of action and like getting things done. You own the business because, as Frank Sinatra once sang, you like doing things your way. And the very characteristics that make you a successful entrepreneur may be what make you a bad manager.

“I have to do everything myself because no one else will do it like it should be done.”

Read: “No one ever does it like I do it.” (Whatever “it” is.)

You will never have another technician, installer, salesperson, dispatcher who does things exactly like you do. And closely tied to this is the picture in your head of how things should be done that is never completely articulated. That is a big part of the problem. Employees are often expected to be mind-readers.

By listening to your employees, something a good manager does often, you may hear alternate, perhaps better, more inventive, time-saving, effective ways of getting things done. And amazing things might happen in your business.

“Delegate! Who has time to delegate?”

Closely tied to the previous characteristic. Yes, setting standards and teaching others how to adhere to the standards is time consuming. But if you ever want more than a half day vacation, learn to trust your employees. Then, set standards. And finally teach your employees how to do their jobs according to the standards.

And when you begin to delegate, override the urge to micromanage. By setting the standards and holding employees accountable, you learn who can be trusted and who is good at what tasks. Yes, mistakes will be made. A good manager watches how an employee learns from the mistake and fixes it. A good manager determines which employees are best suited for which tasks. A good manager doesn’t stop delegating.

“I don’t even know where I want the company to go! Why do my employees need to know?”

Part of human nature is a desire to be a part of something, to know how we contribute. If employees don’t understand where you want the business to go and their part in it, they will fill in the details. And probably not in step with your thinking.

Goals help each of us understand our part in the bigger picture. No, you don’t have to share how much money you make, but you should share sales goals, installation goals, maintenance agreement goals, average service ticket goals with incentives for meeting the goals tied to them and frequent progress reports.

“We never say ‘No’ regardless of the type of job or our expertise. We will figure it out.”

“No” may be the most important word an entrepreneur must learn. Your company has a certain expertise, a good skill set, and talent that matches the expertise and skill set. Don’t take on something totally outside that area of expertise simply because an opportunity presents itself. 

Continually explore new services, new markets, and new products to include in your company’s repertoire. But these new offerings need to be carefully considered, matched to your vision of where you want the company to go and planned for with employee training and marketing.

“Yes, I know Bob, Sue, Hank (you fill in the name) needs to be fired, but we are just too busy right now.”

On the hottest day of summer that might be a true statement, but it is an exaggeration of any one employee’s importance. Many times entrepreneurial managers allow one bitter, disgruntled employee to hold the whole company hostage. What does that create? A company full of disgruntled, dissatisfied employees (“Bob gets away with it so why should I try?”). It's a downward spiral.

Great entrepreneurs seem to be born. Great managers create themselves with conscious thought, study, and daily practice.

Vicki LaPlant has worked with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer/consultant. She helps people work better together for greater success. Vicki is a longtime Contracting Business.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by e-mail at vicki@vleishvac.com, or by phone at 903/786-6262.