One of the things I like best about my job is getting to visit branches and interact with our team members. As our company grows, that certainly gets more challenging. But over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit about 15 of our 23 branches. There are so many things that are going well: I see great teamwork and many young and eager leaders; great looking facilities, and a fleet that is sharp and projects a great image in our community. One of the biggest challenges I see across the board, however, is the bottleneck of work that builds up in the spring as our jobs are in full swing. In particular, area managers (on the maintenance side) and production managers and assistant production managers (on the construction side) have a lot of responsibilities. These mid-level manager positions are juggling anywhere from 20-80 customers and working hard to keep those customers informed and happy, the job on track, and their teams moving forward.
So, what could we be doing differently to create more time? Mid-level managers should be using every opportunity they can to delegate more and shift more responsibility to field managers, encouraging them to make decisions and empowering them to do more.
Our field managers are more capable than we realize. They deserve more of our trust, responsibility, and coaching. It’s often easier in the short term to do it ourselves rather than delegate it. Over time, however, delegating has a much better return on investment. It prepares our field managers to move up, expands their knowledge and increases their engagement. Whether its horticulture related, production-related, or customer related, teaching and coaching is an underutilized skill and important obligation of a leader and a manager. So when we delegate a task, it’s important to explain not just how to do something, but why it’s important that we do it. In doing so, we will enable our field managers to contribute more, learn more, and earn more. This will then help increase the tenure of our field managers as well as the tenure of our customers (as demonstrated with an improved renewal rate).
Relative to our competition, we have more English speaking, college educated, and experienced field managers. We owe it to them to provide an opportunity to take on more, learn more and make more. Our field managers will be grateful to be contributing at a higher level, our customers will be well served, and Ruppert will be a stronger and more agile company as we move into the future.