Having an Endgame for Your Machine Shop Business. Part 2: Delegation

March 14, 2023
Written by: Paul Van Metre

Trusting other people to complete the critical tasks of your machine shop business is a hard step to take if you’re used to doing things yourself. Even if you summon the courage to let some responsibilities go, the temptation to micromanage is all too tempting (and counterproductive). Unfortunately, delegating doesn’t come naturally to most shop owners. For those who started their shops from scratch, you’ve worked very hard and risked much to get here. Turning the reins over to someone else might just seem too risky. I get it. I’ve been there too. 

The truth is, there are good and bad approaches to delegation in a machine shop. If you’re a small shop, perhaps you’d start with hiring someone to handle your admin, bookkeeping, and HR. As you grow, apply the same logic to other tasks. Delegate the lower $/hr work so that you can focus on the tasks that increase revenue and profit. When you delegate without a plan in place, you minimize the chances of a successful outcome. If you delegate with the expectation that nobody will ever do as good of a job as you, you’ll likely prove yourself to be correct. This is why your goal in delegating should be to remove blockers and set your team up for success.

As you work out and define what your successful endgame looks like, you can then reverse engineer the plan for getting there. If you’ve been stuck at a fork in the road for some time, making the decision to venture toward a defined endgame will feel liberating for you and your team. As I said before, when you have a direction and a destination, the fog will slowly lift, and you’ll clearly understand how your business must operate. When you establish a system for how work is completed in your shop, you transform the business from something that controls your life into something that you now have control over. In the process, you increase the value of the business beyond its physical contents. Once you have control over your business, you can finally give yourself some options: You can grow your shop, let someone else run it for you, sell it, or simply just take a vacation without the whole show coming to an abrupt stop.

Cast a vision for success. Now that you’ve defined an endgame, you can reverse engineer the steps for getting there. This will be unique depending on where you want to end up, but establishing a 10-year goal and then breaking it down into smaller short term goals can be a great approach. Align your vision with the key economic priorities that will fuel your growth. Perhaps this would include increasing sales within your current customer base, or gaining a foothold in a new industry. Identify which roles need to be filled along the way in order to increase your bandwidth and sustain growth. 

Share the plan. Once you’ve established the plan, share it with your team. You can’t expect your team to be mind readers, and beyond that, you’ll need to remind them of the plan on a regular basis in order to stay focused. When team members don’t understand the plan, they aren’t focused in the same direction. When team members are moving in different directions, they’re effectively pulling the business apart. Nobody wants that.

Place the right people in the right seats. Building a cohesive team that understands the key objectives of the business is a key element in successfully achieving your end game. As the business grows, it becomes too large to be managed by one person. You need a great team to help share the load. That said, having terrific employees is only one part of the equation. Beyond having a team of highly skilled and motivated people, you need to have those people operating in a role that leverages their strengths for the good of the organization. Jim Collins made this concept very popular in his book, Good to Great. Collins refers to this as having the right people in the right seats. A clear takeaway that manufacturing business owners must understand is this: If you’ve gone to great lengths to find folks who share your core values and are highly skilled in this trade, you want to ensure that they are operating in a role that allows them to put their strengths to the best possible use. This is good for the business and the employee. There’s nothing that a high-performing team member hates more than being under-utilized. When employers allow their employees to operate in the wrong seat, they are doing a disservice to the employee and their business.

Establish an accountability structure. As I’m sure you know,flying by the seat of your pants only works for so long. When your business is small, it’s easy to solve problems on the fly and avoid making clear definitions in regard to roles and responsibilities. As your business grows, you need to provide your team with clarity. One of the best ways to do so is establishing an org chart that everyone can access. When you do, understanding who is accountable for what tasks is no longer a mystery. Doing so also brings clarity to where the bottlenecks are in an organization. If a manager observes that a direct report is working at 120% capacity in order to get the required work completed, something has to give. That person is holding back the growth of the business, and your job as the leader is to delegate that extra 20% somewhere else so that things can continue to grow and flow. Now apply that same logic for you as the business leader. What critical tasks are you not getting done because you are trying to operate past 100% capacity? I’ll say it again: Delegate the lower $/hr work so that you can focus on the tasks that increase revenue and profit and make progress toward your desired endgame.

Deputize your team. Now that everyone is aligned on the goals and primary objectives of your business, it’s time to deputize them to act on your behalf. Remember, shop owners, your business can’t take the next step until you get out of the way. You’ve taken the time to find the right people and place them in the right role. Now, you need to empower them to execute and do their own problem-solving. When you can’t delegate, you limit growth. You hired smart capable people. Use this opportunity to combine intelligence and create better solutions as a collective. This is what delegation is all about! A wise customer of ours told me once that when they design a new process, if his name is listed as part of the process, they need to go back and redesign it to not need him.  If he’s in it, it’s not a scalable process. This is a key concept to understand. When your shop is tiny, that’s less possible, but keep the concept in mind as you grow. It’s a powerful concept to ensure you build the business of your dreams.

Stay on track and provide feedback. Identify the core members of your leadership team and meet regularly. If you’re a small shop, this might include nearly everybody. If you’re a large shop, this would include your department heads or shop managers. The purpose is to ensure that everyone is working on the highest-return opportunities and to make sure that nothing is getting in their way. As the leader, you want to ensure that:  

  • Everyone understands the goals of the business.
  • Individuals understand what their responsibilities are to contribute to those goals.
  • Problems that block progress are being identified and eliminated
  • Each team member gets consistent feedback on how they are doing and where improvements could be made.

As the saying goes: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If this all sounds like lots of work, you aren’t wrong. The good news is, once you’ve established a strong foundation, you can begin to build on it. Building on your own can be a long and lonesome process, but there’s a better way. When you learn to delegate to the right people in the right seats, you’ll be amazed by the progress you can make toward successfully reaching your endgame! 

How ProShop can Help.
ProShop users love leveraging the built-in org chart and training functionality within the system. In defining the company positions, roles, and responsibilities of your team, you can also establish workplace training requirements to ensure that each team member is properly prepared to thrive in their role.  As employees complete training, their percentage toward completion is easily tracked. Each role can also have predefined links, metrics, and queries to further build consistent systems and performance. ProShop’s internal notification system allows for efficient communication between departments and team members to ensure that critical information is relayed clearly and in a timely fashion. Notifications are sent to team members whenever a new task is assigned to them, so there is no confusion about who is responsible for various tasks. Used in conjunction with all the other built in tools in ProShop, truly remarkable results can be achieved.

Inspiration. A good client of ours has mastered this concept with great success.  Prior to getting ProShop, Dave of G-Zero Machine was thinking of selling the shop because it dominated his life and his time. He had bought himself a job. Just 3 years after implementing ProShop, Dave spends about 10 hours a week on the business, checking in with his team and doing some light work that he enjoys doing. The rest of the time, he golfs, hunts, goes on vacation, and spends time with his wife and new granddaughter.  Dave has delegated everything else needed in the business to his team. They do sales, quoting, planning, scheduling, quality, customer service, invoicing, and everything else. Dave has set the vision, provided the resources and systems, and gets out of their way. He even has a 5 year plan to have his General Manager buy the business from him, and they are working on the plan together to make that a reality. He routinely tells us that he couldn’t have done it without ProShop, which provides the scalable system, metrics, and information that ProShop provides him. That makes me smile.

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