The question is, “What’s the job of the person running the business?” In our last installment, we focused on the primary duty – to make and meet all budgets. In addition, we said they also are responsible for reporting on their progress of meeting the budgets to the stakeholders. Okay, you may ask, but how does that relate to print shop tasks such as writing up jobs, waiting on customers and ordering supplies? Well, it doesn’t because that’s not the job of the general manager. Huh?
We must organize around functions – not people. In our size shops, the job of the general manager is not a full time job – even after you read all the things I am going to list. Rather, the job is a part-time effort even at the two and three million dollar level. So, the general manager also accepts other additional duties and that is where the details of writing up jobs and waiting on customers are considered.
The General Manager’s Other Job
Each and every day we need to get jobs out (production), get jobs in (sales) and get paid (finance). Each of these is a separate and distinct function. The general manager’s job is not to specifically do these tasks, but assure that they are done. Now, the general manager also MUST fill an additional role of their choosing at the next level of organization – but it can’t be finance.
Why must the general manager fulfill an additional role? There isn’t enough real work for a person to do all day as general manager.
Why can’t the additional duty be finance? The tasks of finance in our businesses are the tasks of a bookkeeper. Bookkeeping is vital, but it is not a line function. There is a reason that the chief of staff at the hospital is a doctor – not an administrator. There is a reason that the commander of a flying unit is a flyer – not a supply officer. There is a reason that the person running the business needs to be involved with the real business of the business. The reason is leadership. The reason is morale. The reason is you can’t drive a car by sitting in the passenger seat reading a map.
Someone is saying, “Yes, but the CEO of General Motors doesn’t know how to build cars!” Pish-posh. The CEO of General Motors knows a LOT about building cars. Anyway, we’re not General Motors. They have the financial strength but we don’t. If you have put yourself in the position of being Ray of Ray’s Plumbing then you’d better know about plumbing otherwise you will be forever hostage to skilled workers. But, again, that’s another article. So, the general manager should oversee and know about finance, but not run the business from the position of bookkeeper.
The general manager’s other role must be at the next level of organization – production manager or sales manager. The general manager can’t report to someone who is reporting to them.
I have seen general managers try to operate their business from the position of salesperson. The general manager (and owner) told us that he was continually peeved at his old boss for not providing him the time and price that he needed to be competitive – so he started his own shop. Now he just promises whatever time and whatever price the customer wants and demands his print shop meet the commitment.
Organizationally, he was general manager and he had a production manager. He even had a sales manager to manage him! So, in his job as salesperson, he reported to the sales manager who reported back to him as general manager. Sound like a circle? It was. It’s also a way for this person to avoid the real responsibilities of running a business. Instead, this owner sold without impediments – promised whatever time and a whenever delivery. Did it work? Nope. He wasn’t making any money this way and couldn’t figure out why.