Managing with common sense

  • 2001-08-09
  • Paul E. Adams
In calm waters, every ship has a good captain" - Swedish proverb

Mismanagement and a lack of leadership are routine causes of business failure. This is not surprising. If you question those who failed, you will discover how little they understand management and leadership.

As a cautionary note, if you cannot manage your personal affairs, managing your business will be even more difficult. If you lack managerial experience and you are uncomfortable with paperwork and financial details, it will be wise to recognize these shortcomings before risking your money in a venture that may cost you your nest egg and your dreams.

Leadership, on the other hand, according to some who preach on the subject, may be more intuition than experience. Whether your leadership skills are a gift or from training is not important. What is important is the fact that you must demonstrate enough leadership to succeed.

Leadership skills coupled with a certain amount of stubbornness and creativity can mean success if you are willing to apply yourself to the best of your ability.

Ask yourself if you have leadership skills. Look at your approach to life. Do you take the initiative? Do you reach out to other people? Are you an organizer?

Do others follow your suggestions at all? Can you make things happen?

Starting a business from scratch requires leadership. It is creating something from an idea. No one told you to do it. No one held your hand and guided you. You motivated yourself. You converted a vision into a business. You convinced others of your idea. You were stubborn to your commitment to your goal. You ignored those who said your were crazy. You demonstrated your talents for leadership and persuasion.

To start a business, regardless of size, you will need a lot of mental and physical energy, sustainable over long periods of time.

As you will find out, the start-up phase is very demanding. You will continually work, think, talk and plan your new venture. One moment will find you are excited and happy over your plans, and the next you will be filled with the terror of possible bankruptcy.

These conflicting emotions can make your life difficult, as you bounce between optimistic visions of success and the nagging doubts of possible failure.

Starting a business is a very new experience for most people. It is fraught with frustration and uncertainty. Even the newness of the situation can be overwhelming. One moment you are confident, the next fearful. It will not be an easy time for you.

As you start your venture, your leadership skills will set the foundation for the future. Your ability to stay focused, negotiate the best deals, hire the right people, make the correct decisions and instill confidence in others will be called upon daily.

At this point, and until things begin to sort themselves out and settle down, you will find yourself doing more leading than managing.

I do not like "micro managing" and view the need to control every little detail of the business as poor management and an obstacle to growth and success. However, when you have mortgaged your home or borrowed from friends and relatives, it is not the time to assume details are unimportant.

Until you are on a solid footing, I advocate paying attention to detail and making sure things happen as planned. Without surplus cash reserves and a substantial customer base you have little margin for error.

Put all the theories of management aside and rely on your common sense. A start-up is no place to experiment with the many various styles and techniques of management.