How to Find and Develop a Right-Hand Man (or Woman)
As a business owner, do you feel like you wear too many hats? Are you struggling to get everything done in one day? If you are, you’re not alone. It’s common for a lot of business owners to have what Marty Grunder describes as a “superman mentality.” Business owners often think — or want — to do it all on their own. says Grunder, president of Ohio-based Grunder Landscaping Co. and green industry consultant. Sometimes owners even go as far as thinking there’s nobody else out there who could “do what they do,” he says.
While the intentions are well placed, with the interest of the business at heart, Grunder says owners simply need to “get over it.” There are not only other people who can do what you do, but you should be preparing them to do so. While it may feel strange to train someone to carry out your role, Grunder says that the idea of trying to be superman (or superwoman) can actually set your business back. Instead, he says that delegating is a key to success. You should have a right-hand man or woman supporting you in your role as business owner.
Grunder offers the following tips on developing a right-hand man or woman and, in turn, growing your business through delegation.
Why you need a right-hand man or woman
You might be asking why you need this kind of person in the first place? For one, it’s an insurance policy.
Grunder says he asked his own team what would happen if he was injured in a car accident and out of work? The team determined they’d probably be OK for about three months and then they would begin to run into trouble without anyone doing the work that he usually does – out having lunch and making business connections. So Grunder took one of the team members and began giving them more business development responsibilities — and he says it’s helping the business.
“Having a right-hand man or woman allows you to focus on what you do best, enables your company to grow and eliminates the dependence on the owner for growth,” Grunder says. “Let’s look at it like a football coach and his team. During practice and training, I can come on the field and demonstrate what I know, but once the game starts, I have to stay on the sidelines. In our business, at some point my team is going to be on their own and I have to give them the tools to succeed at these moments.”
While some owners might be anxious to give up some responsibilities because they don’t think their teams could do things as well as they do, others might come at it from a different perspective: that it’s unfair of them to share the work load. Some business owners believe they’re supposed to do it all.
“Maybe some entrepreneurs feel like developing a right-hand man is selfish as though they need to do everything themselves,” Grunder says. “But it’s time to let that feeling go. People want to be challenged. They want opportunities. You don’t have to do it all yourself because there are people out there who want to help.”
In looking to the future, Grunder also says a company is worth a lot more money if it’s not solely dependent on the current owner. Nobody wants to buy a business that can’t be run when the owner is taken out of the picture. When it comes down to it, developing a right-hand man or woman makes smart business sense.
How to find a No. 2
Grunder says there are two ways to get a right-hand man or woman. The first is to recruit one through your networking efforts. Seek out an individual who you could see as a leader within your company. But Grunder says to be careful not to hire someone and then try to figure out how they’d be a good right-hand man or woman. You should already have a strategy in place if you’re going to be hiring with that kind of role in mind.
In addition, before doing any hiring, Grunder suggests that business owners ask themselves: Would I want to work for myself? He says this is a very telling question that will force business owners to look in the mirror and do some self-reflection.
“When you put yourself in your employees’ shoes, you start being a better leader,” he adds.
The second way to get a right-hand man or woman is to recruit from within, Grunder continues. He suggests a simple way to narrow down the playing field. Pull out your organizational chart and some red, yellow and green markers. Then ask yourself: If given the chance, would I re-hire this person? If the answer is yes, highlight them in green. If it’s maybe, highlight them in yellow. If you wouldn’t, highlight them in red.
“Paste your results on the wall and take a step back, looking at the colors, not the names,” Grunder suggests. “If you see a lot of green, that’s great. If you see a lot of red, you have some problems you need to resolve. But the greens are the candidates to become your right-hand men or women.”
Developing the role
As you aim to develop the role of a right-hand man or woman, Grunder says the best advice he can offer is to “stay out of their way.” He says the surest way to impede the development of your right-hand man or woman is to jump in and take over at the first sign of any trouble. You must let this person handle problems on their own, allowing them to grow in the role.
Grunder admits that doing so can take a lot of trust, but trust is a key to success. By trusting the team member, you are empowering them. And when you empower a team member, great things can start to happen within your business.
“Quality team members are so important,” says Grunder. “I am amazed that whenever you look at the companies that succeed, it always points to their people. The same goes for companies that don’t do well.”
When you have quality team members who you can delegate to, that’s when the business can really grow, Grunder adds. A company grows when it is less reliant on the owner and when there are more people doing important tasks within the business.
“I am most proud when I see people at events and they say, ‘I don’t understand how you do it all – how do you do speaking engagements and also run a landscape company?’” Grunder says. “The answer is because I delegate.”
Of course, Grunder says it’s important that you “delegate the right way.” It doesn’t mean handing everything over and it doesn’t mean just passing the buck. Grunder says one of the big mistakes that business owners make when they delegate is that they don’t provide enough specificity.
“When there’s so much ambiguity, how can we not expect problems?” he asks. “When the job doesn’t get done right, that’s our fault because we didn’t provide enough information. You must clarify what the task is and the associated timeline. Problems are often avoided when we set expectations clearly.”
At the end of the day, delegating with clear expectations will go a long way in setting you up for success, he adds.
“I think one of the biggest myths that business owners tell themselves is that they are the only ones who really care about the business,” Grunder says. “I think that holds them back from delegating. But when you give your quality team members an opportunity to show it, you’ll find that you are not the only one that cares after all.”