That Guy, The Boss - Business Production Dilemma
I had a dream the other night - about the business I had owned for some 25 years. It was a printing company in Nashville, many of you may know, or have heard about. I’m calling this dream the Boss’s Business Production Dilemma.
I awoke from my dream feeling a little puzzled - actually, guilty and sad at the same time.
In my dream, I was standing in the production area talking to a group of employees who were about to leave town for several days on holiday. The odd thing was, I didn’t recognize any of the faces as being our former employees. I asked them if any were returning early, as we needed all the help we could get to ship out all the RUSH work in the shop. Pointing at a large stack of Job Jackets and printing plates that were ready for production, I became anxious. The crew knew we had several large customers with critical printing needs due to the many products they produced.
“How are we going to get all this work out, with so many going on Holiday?” I wondered.
Our company had always prided itself on delivering quality product - on time, every time. The fact is, we had measured our delivery-time over the years and our average was 99.6%. I was proud of that!
Back to the dream! Only a few of the employees admitted they were coming back to town; however, they made it clear, they had NO intention of coming in to work while on holiday. In fact, they showed a complete lack of concern for the customers who needed their jobs printed and delivered. I was sad about that! “How can they not CARE?”
“I’m the ever-resourceful, always-on-time guy,” I told myself, suddenly feeling the full weight of our obligations.
Getting the Job Done – No Matter What!
I wonder, how many times had I faced this dilemma with workers when I owned the company?
Now, here I was dreaming, I was meaning to coerce these “uncaring” employees into doing something they clearly didn’t want to do. But, I couldn’t back down - after all, I was the boss!
“The ox is in the ditch, fellas!” I began. “Let me remind you that in a few months you’ll all be wanting overtime pay, to have extra money for family Christmas gifts. But, if we let these customers down now when they’re depending on us, they may not be there when we need THEM! Now, you know me; I plan to work right alongside you all; in fact, I’m even willing to forego this holiday. So, how ‘bout it?”
Unfortunately, my little speech only moved one to reconsider coming back, and only because he felt guilty. As he walked out the door, I could see he was also very angry at me. That’s when I woke up.
I hated that dream!
"That Guy" – The Boss | Small Business Manufacturing & Service
I lay there thinking about my dream. It had been a couple years since I turned the print company over to my sons, but here I was with an unsettled feeling about a silly dream! I had years of experience, getting people to do what needed to be accomplished in real life. Now, laying there awake, I felt a bit guilty myself, for having asked my (dream) employees to go the extra mile.
Actually, in “real life,” if getting a job done meant using psychology on employees, I would do it. The way I figured it, if I was willing to personally work through a holiday, shouldn’t I be able to ask others to do the same, if necessary? After all, I didn’t choose when customers had RUSH jobs, and I certainly didn’t make anyone choose a career in the printing industry. Moreover, I didn’t force anybody to work for our company. That was their choice!
Nevertheless, in my dream I did feel guilty about influencing an employee to come back to help during THEIR holiday. It actually made me feel sad - after all, they had a right to their day off! Didn’t they?
Relived Not to be "That Guy"?
The dilemma, even in my dream? What should I do to fulfill the obligation to our customers? Should I just call the customer and say we couldn’t do their work, although it was critical to their business?
After being awake for a while, I honestly felt relieved! Yes, relieved - NOT to be the owner, the “BOSS” of that (dream) printing company. The truth is, it felt good NOT to be "that guy," the party pooper; "that guy" who, employees complain, just NEVER seems to “get it.” You know, "that guy" they call a workaholic; that “all he cares about is money.” In addition, the one who persuades, pressures, demands and uses psychology on employees to get the job done.
Wow, I think I’m having a pity party. Wouldn’t it be easier just being an employee?
Tired of Being "That Guy"?
Yes, that dream may have exposed something. Could it be “that guy” was tired of being “that guy,” the LEADER, the BOSS? For that, I was very sad! It’s what I do, I thought!
Did I really feel bad about having been a leader all those years? Was it the weight of it all, because, I’ve been “that guy” since the age of 18. I began as the leader of a garage band that turned professional, and spent 20 years traveling the highways of America. Then I spent 25 years as the head of a printing company, and now the owner/president of a software company.
Handling a business production dilemma for me had always been a challenge I met head on.
It might have been so much easier being an employee. But, do I really think now I made a mistake in choosing to be “that guy”?
In “that guy's" defense, I can say, it never was about money. It WAS always about being a good steward of God-given talents and/or gifts and opportunities. In fact, the main reason “that guy” tried to keep the cleanest and most quality-conscious printing company, and now a software company, was and is for the employees and the customers.
However, “that guy” (yours truly) has lived long enough to know that he doesn’t have all the answers. And there is a thin line between customer service and employee service.
"That Guy’s" Current Dilemma
How far should he go to apply pressure on employees and others to get a job done? Where’s the line?
Would “that guy” make the choice to be “that guy” again, if he could go back and start over?
How about you? Are you "That Guy"? If so, what would you do?
Finally, the one thing I KNOW that GUY did right was, implementing systems to make employees, customers, vendors, families and that guy’s life much easier. Furthermore, business process management systems help manage a business, with less of a need to “coerce” or over-manage people!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.