The hiring of managers may take on a special dimension in a small business based on its history—and the owner’s personal experience. Problems are likely to be few in cases where the business was launched by an experienced executives who had recruited perhaps dozens of managers during an extensive career before heading out to start a business of his or her own. Similarly, the owner may have bought the business with an effective management already in place. In yet other enterprises the owners began it as a partnership and share the management roles from the start; thus adding another manager is not a big deal.
Problems may arise in family businesses where successive generations have been running a business, with top leadership passing from fathers or mothers to sons or daughters—until a time comes when an “outsider” must be hired. The issue of management hiring may also be unusually difficult in those situations where a founder has been the very soul and center of the business, having seen the business grow up, having made all the big decisions for many decades. Then, suddenly, it is time to share command with someone new because business is growing too big to manage alone any longer.
As these cases illustrate, adding management to small business can be or can develop into a problematical situation unless the owner consciously faces the issue long before it arises and prepares for it mentally and in practical ways. In part, the issue belongs in the category of forward planning. An owner seeing the business grow must put some conscious thought into expansion and anticipate the shock of having to share control.
Depending on the person’s experience, confidence, and temperament, different routes are available. An obvious approach is to hire a future manager early and then to coach this person gradually until he or she can assume the role in the course of time. Another is to set a milestone and, on reaching it, simply begin recruiting the right person with the qualifications long since outlined. In part the issue belongs in the category of succession. If the business is stable but not growing unusually fast—and the owner is nearing retirement—he or she is well advised to put in place the person who will run the business later.
In the case of a family business special considerations apply. If two or more members of a family are all working in the business as managers, integration of a new manager not related to the family requires considerable discussion so that the newcomer will feel welcome and a member of the team. This may be relatively easy to achieve if the business can offer the new manager a share in the company some time in the future if everything works out. If not, the family members, as a minimum, should all reach a consensus that the newcomer will require active involvement in decision processes so that no “we” vs. “they” feelings develop.
A consciously-developed, open, and professional human resources policy, especially if it is of long standing and well-understood by all the employees, can eliminate problems of this sort from the start. To institute and to implement such a policy may be something of a burden for the hard-driving, self-starting owner accustomed to making all the decisions. But if management must be hired, organizing or re-organizing the business to fit the new style will be much less burdensome than would be years in the course of which one new manager after the other departs in a huff because he or she is not given room and scope in which to work.
Some of the problems described above are, of course, not unique to small business but also appear in larger organizations in which divisions, departments, and branch offices frequently operate more or less autonomously under long-establishment managements and develop “family” or “tribal” traits. Such traits, paradoxically, can be very good for a business because the participants feel loyalty and commitment—and become problematical only when disturbed by change. For the small business manager, finding the right balance is the chief task when a smoothly running and coherent enterprise needs new talent. Finding the right solution is itself part of the entrepreneurial requirement. It requires management attention, planning, preparation, and careful watching. Aside from this requirement, management recruiting, of course, still leaves the more important part: finding the right person for the job.