Growing pains: Why you should add a middle manager to your team

March 26, 2018

Small business owners are often involved in many–and sometimes all–aspects of running their businesses day-to-day.

They roll up their sleeves as clerks, shift managers, bookkeepers, servers, cashiers, and payroll managers, to name just a few roles. But managing everything often leaves them exhausted and without the time to devote to certain areas of their business that are in need.

As a business grows—whether in foot traffic or scaling to an additional location—adding staff becomes essential. A middle manager can provide essential support, freeing owners up to focus less on the day-to-day minutiae and more on big-picture goals.

The addition of tiers to a management structure is a good problem to have, but middle management can introduce some complicated issues. Navigate past them successfully and the new manager—and the business—will flourish.

Recognizing the need

How do you know if it’s really time to hire a middle manager?

That’s a difficult question for many small business owners to answer. It’s routine for entrepreneurs to put in long hours, working across all areas of the business. And society has never really emphasized the importance of middle managers. At large corporations, the role is has traditionally been thankless and invisible, with the Boston Consulting Group referring to it as a “neglected but critical group.” Pop culture has largely depicted workers in these positions as being micro-managers who have little to no power.

In reality, however, middle managers are to small business owners as Alexander Hamilton was to George Washington—they’re the necessary right-hand person.

If you’re already using various Clover apps to make your work life easier but still feel overwhelmed, you probably need to delegate more. Jot down a list of your daily tasks and see which ones you could pass off to someone else. A middle manager should take enough responsibilities off your plate to free up time in your schedule for strategic thinking and high-priority to-dos.

It’s also wise to consider hiring a manager if you have multiple locations, or if you’re thinking of expanding your business. It’s impossible to be in two places at the same time or work 24/7. When a manager is on location, employees feel more confident and perform at a higher level. And you’ll gain peace of mind knowing someone is in charge and on hand in case something goes wrong.

Making valuable contributions

Middle managers can help you turn your strategic plans into action by making decisions about resource allocations, store design, and customer service. For instance, delegate employee scheduling to a trusted middle manager at your pizzeria. She can use the Time Clock app to create a more efficient schedule—one that reduces the number of servers working at a time but still allows them to provide high-quality customer service—and to divvy up tips at the end of a shift.

Beyond scheduling, middle managers can be a valued mediator between you and your employees. Say your baristas are having problems with a new drink offering. A middle manager will likely have first-hand knowledge of the issue since they also spend time behind the counter. But she’ll also know your strategic reasons for putting the new item on the menu. In this position, managers can internalize feedback from both sides, then offer possible solutions that are pleasing to both you and your employees.

Middle managers are also essential in building employee engagement. In a recent survey by software company TINYpulse, 70 percent of employees report that their direct managers have implemented an employee engagement strategy. The same survey reveals that of the remaining 30 percent of employees, the majority are more comfortable with a middle manager handling employee engagement over an executive or someone in human resources.

They’re also essential in reducing employee attrition. Middle managers take pride in their work and are loyal to their colleagues. These behaviors have a positive impact on employees, making it less likely they’ll bolt for another job—even a position that pays more than their current one.

Hiring managers can also be a great way to make up for your own shortcomings. Perhaps you don’t have a good sense of aesthetics. Window displays, menu design, store layout, or even product placement may not be your strong suit. Add a manager that excels at these tasks. Then make it part of his job responsibilities to teach you (and your entire staff), so that everyone gains from his unique skill set.

Taking the next step

Do you need a middle manager to work in your business so you can work on your business? If so, place a “Help Wanted” ad today.

Want to learn more? Read the second article in this series here.

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