This is not to say that a general manager should not be involved in sales. We highly recommend it. In many instances we have the part-time general manager also taking on the part-time role as sales manager and the mostly full-time role of salesperson. You just can’t have circular reporting relationships where the sales manager reports to the general manager and the general manager acting as salesperson reports to the sales manager.
Another popular hiding place for owners is the function of estimator. Most use the “force” method. You know – “Let the force be with you.” Some people ascribe something magical to estimating – like it’s the Holy Grail of printing. It’s not. Estimating is nothing more than applying a price. Granted, some calculations are harder than others because of job complexities (a booklet as opposed to a flat sheet). But it’s still applying a price, which is trainable.
Estimating is a function of production management. Production management is essentially being asked how much it will cost to produce a job (please estimate how much it will cost, etc.). It is the selling function that should put the actual price or market value on the estimate. Since this is not practical to vary this from job to job in most cases, management then devises a price per function – or a price list if you will – based on cost but also taking into consideration market values. Most of what we call estimating is not estimating; rather it’s applying the price to the job.
Now many poor printers get wrapped up in this “estimating” role. They spend hours and hours estimating – ciphering if you will. And always the price they end up with is less than the price list that was previously established. After all, we need to have a lower price in order to get the job. So, we compensate by cutting back on the other end of the equation – the amount of time estimated to complete the job. And, if it actually takes more time than estimated – well, we’re back to the spoiled salesperson position only that this time we are talking estimator. This is particularly difficult when the general manager-estimator knows little about performing the real job being estimated. We usually compensate or augment in these cases by focusing on negotiation training, but again this is another article.
Now, again this doesn’t mean the general manager can’t estimate. Important is you must prevent circular reporting or the estimator (you) reporting to the production manager who reports to the general manager (you). It is permissible for the part time general manager to be production manager (full time) and a part-time estimator, of course.
So, the general manager of the business must be involved with the real work of the business at the highest level and that is either production or sales – you may choose one or the other, but not both. Why not both? Our purpose in “getting organized” is to separate tasks into separate jobs. If we are general manager, finance officer, production manager and sales manager, then we are not organized; we’re just doing everything ourselves.
Now let us add the duties of discipline and oversight to this list of functions of the general manager.
Discipline and Oversight
Discipline – the way I use it – is defined as doing what is most important not what is most fun. This begins with the self-discipline of the general manager. From there the general manager is responsible for the organization’s discipline – assuring everyone else also does what is most important not what’s most fun.
If we had a real corporate job, there would be parts of it that we didn’t like. For some people it’s accounting and the details of understanding where they are. For others it’s selling or dealing with people – one family told us that pop was okay as long as we kept him from three kinds of people: workers; customers; and vendors.
If we are going to drive the car then we are responsible for getting jobs out, getting jobs in and getting paid plus everything that those tasks entail. Sure, we are better at some tasks than others and sure we like to do some but not others. But our business is not simply a refuge for adults who don’t want to do what they don’t want to do. Severe damage is done to our business and family when this attitude is taken.