Growing up in northern New Jersey, I was accustomed to a very fast paced and quite noisy lifestyle. From the constant hum of nearby Route 1 & 9 to the freight train that would sound its horn multiple times a night, I seemed to be surrounded by noise. I would always find myself befuddled when my cousins would sleep over and ask me how I could even get any rest with all the noise just a short distance away. To me, it was just the way things were, and we all became quite used to it. In fact, I remember feeling significant unease when I used to spend time in the summer at a farm in upstate New York. The quiet and unfamiliar sounds of nature were at first as discomforting to me as the trains were to my cousins.
In this frenetic environment, I was exposed to all different types of businesspeople and entrepreneurs. Everyone seemed to be in a rush with multiple phones to their ears as well as the obligatory 1980s beepers strapped to their belts adding to the sounds of life in New Jersey at the time. My father was running four different businesses simultaneously, and I would look on in awe as he managed the deluge of beeps, phone calls, and later, cell phone calls. It was quite amazing, living in such a world.
By the time I came of age and started to run the business, I had been groomed by my upbringing to be able to handle the chaos. While I may not have had the dexterity and reflexes to play shortstop for the Yankees, I was quite prepared to handle two landlines, text on my cell phone, all while sending out an email. I was proud of this way of doing business. My friends whom I dined with would surely understand the constant electronic interruptions. I was running a modern business after all.
If You Want Something Done Right . . .
It was quite some time into my career that I realized that this half-human-half-cell-phone-cyborg that I had become was hindering me. It was limiting me in my personal interactions with friends and family. It was negatively affecting my vacations and downtime with constant interruptions. Paradoxically, it was also limiting the fundamental thing I was looking to promote: my growth as an entrepreneur. While this method of managing a business was tenable when the business was smaller, it surely was not scalable as the business grew. The increasing demands of business created stress that sucked the fun out of work and affected my family life.
We have all heard the saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I was a firm believer in that. I wanted to do the ordering, be the head sales rep, and be on site for our on-site Genset work. However, something had to give. After confiding in some fellow entrepreneurs, I received some great advice, and it was suggested I read “The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber. Slowly, I began to understand that there is a different way. I started realizing that if I want something done right, perhaps I should train and empower my team to accomplish success.
Measuring Myself by How little I am Needed
Delegating my responsibilities was the antithesis of all I had seen and been exposed to growing up. I was the center of the company, and if I were not there, everything would surely fall apart, right? Letting go initially was very difficult for me. Slowly but surely, I began letting go of duties and empowering my team to do more on their own. What I found was that given the proper training and being given the latitude to make mistakes, my employees did a much better job than I had done before. They were not nearly as distracted as I had been and could focus on the task at hand. I remember having a conversation with Frank Finger, a pioneer in radiator distribution. I asked what allowed him to grow his business so successfully. Without hesitation, he responded, “Hire people smarter than you.” That was a profound concept to me. I certainly would not want the captain of a plane that I am on to be as preoccupied as I was. I discovered that my distractions were lessened as the proper people and systems were put into place. You do not often see the owner of a McDonald’s franchise running the register, unloading the food delivery, and working the drive-thru. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have seen the owner of a McDonald’s operating the front counter.
Thinking is What We Do Best
When I first became involved in Cooling Systems Caribe nearly four years ago, I was able to take what I had begun to implement in my former business and expand. The foundation built by my father was the perfect canvas to try new methods to manage the company, as he ran it remotely since 1991. It took the pandemic for me to realize that my father was the original “remote worker” as it barely affected his workday.
CSC decided to take the plunge and implement the EOS program designed by Gino Wickman. We designated a management team and made specific people accountable for each department. Regular meetings were scheduled, and our management team felt that they were part of the decision-making process. We have quarterly planning sessions where our team is involved in establishing our goals and the direction of the company. This not only creates a more effective team that takes ownership of company decisions, but also creates a more pleasant working environment. The natural consequence of this is that it frees up my father and I to focus on our unique skills, allowing us to strategize and chart the direction of the company.
There are three types of activities to focus on:
- What you like to do
- What you are good at
- What the company needs
You should only be doing the activities where the three circles intersect. While you may like to handle the company website, it may not be the best use of your time for what the company really needs. Focusing on the unique skills and experience that I bring to the table is the best use of my time. I now try delegating everything else to a team member who can focus on the specific task at hand. And most likely, they can do it better than I can! This concept is the same whether you are a five-person shop or a larger operation.
The cemeteries are indeed filled with indispensable people. Eventually, whether they’re ready or not, those left behind assume the reins and keep things going. The pandemic has shown us that people are adaptable and can adjust to world changing events. Letting go and empowering people may be difficult at first, but the long-term effects are really what being in business is all about. Working together as a team has transformed our organization. The less I’m needed, the more successful we’ve become.
This editorial was originally published in the March/April 2021 issue of The Cooling Journal.