Small business owners are wise to be jacks of all trades. It's helpful to have a base knowledge of accounting, law, and marketing, even if their true passions lie elsewhere. And until they reach a certain breaking point, a single-person business is a smart way to keep down overhead and reap all the (eventual) profit. But what happens when entrepreneurs are working twenty-hour days and need twelve cups of coffee to stay alert enough to answer the phone? What they need is trustworthy employees and an excellent manager, so that they can focus on the stuff they were born to do.
The scary part is finding the right team. It's kind of like hiring a nanny to watch your young child for the first time. Are good references and a good interview enough to prove that your precious cargo will be in excellent care? A good manager will instill this trust almost immediately. Here are some tips on how to recognize a partner that will be with you for the long haul.
They don't flower you with empty and general phrases.
Job interviews, even though we might like to think so, are not representative of how an employee will behave at all times. Know that potential managerial candidates will be pulling out all of their tricks to get noticed. But it's up to a good employer to be able to parse conversation for disingenuous or negative words as well as body language. They could fulfill a number of generic "good" qualities like a high level of experience and creativity, but what will make them stand out is if they not only talk about their own accomplishments, but talk about how they want to help the company. They need to demonstrate familiarity with the history of your business and professional endeavors, and a specific interest in this sector (and you).
Empty phrases such as, "I was asked to do a number of leadership tasks at which I excelled" are yawn-worthy. A manager will not tell you how they will behave in this position, but will show you.
They also have to have a team-oriented spirit, rather than an individual one. According to Forbes's Jacob Morgan, the model is changing from a hierarchy to a level playing field: "In the past managers said 'jump' and the employees said, 'how high?' Now, the managers are jumping with employees." You will be able to recognize this ability in your potential manager if he or she mentions words like "we" and "team" instead of solely, "I." It's important that your manager is a leader, but also that he or she appreciates the importance of business development: that ultimately, your success is dependent on more than one person.
They share your ambitions and goals.
Your manager doesn't have to, and should not, be your clone. But he or she should share your business ethics and values, and see the same end goal. You want to find someone that will be on your side, though disagreement should not be seen as a negative. In fact, finding someone that will disagree with you on certain points can be a ripe opportunity to explore new avenues and test new strategies you couldn't have thought up on your own. We seek romantic partners that share our values but that are not the same as us. We should look at our business partners with these same criteria in mind.
If you are an employer that avoids confrontation, it will be a good idea to seek a manager that is direct and who efficiently (and peacefully) passes down concerns to employees. Know your weaknesses and seek out a person that will make up for them.
Sharing ambitions and goals for the company will allow you to confide in your manager freely, and perhaps even consider making him or her a business partner or successor to the business in due course.
They can relate to and inspire their team.
A manager is only as good as how much respect he or she has. That means, a manager cannot work in a vacuum. Having "people skills" is not enough for someone that will stick around for long. He or she has to connect to their team so that they feel always encouraged and motivated to perform. By employing concrete deliverables and making informed decisions, a manager can both increase the efficiency of his or her team and make meaningful relationships.
According to Aaron Schwartz of Modify Watches, "empathy" is one of the most important qualities when looking for an exceptional manager. He says, "Strong managers work well with their teams to set priorities, and then encourage their direct reports to go execute them...It's critical that a manager cares about her team—and that the team knows this—to keep everyone positive and working together." And we all know that a happy group of employees is one ingredient to a successful business.
Hiring a manager is a huge job, but the rewards will be fruitful. Knowing that you can trust someone to take care of the daily tasks while you map out the future of the business is an invaluable resource.