July 27, 2021

Who’s In Charge When You Are Not?

By Paul Bieber

Of course, when you are at work or accessible by phone, you are the leader. Whether you are an owner or a designated foreperson, you have responsibilities and, I am sure, carry these out well. But what happens when you are not available and an emergency or a rapid decision point is reached?

I have spoken with many glass shop leaders who claim they are available 24/7 to manage their positions. My next thought relates to how naïve a leader they are.

You are bound to be on an airplane for two hours, in an area where there is no cell service, or have the battery on your phone run low. C’mon people, no one is totally available 24/7. Let’s just accept that.

Starting now, make sure that you are training someone, at least one person, to take on most of your responsibilities when an unexpected event occurs—someone who can make rapid decisions and has your confidence. If you don’t have that person in your company, you are sorely placing yourself and your company in great danger.

Your emergency replacement has to be fully trained in emergency “business first-aid.” This is the number one responsibility of at least one person in your shop and an additional person for each of your traveling crews. Your emergency leader needs to be available to sign checks or use a company credit card up to a predetermined amount; make decisions on authorizing overtime; speak with key customers on specific points of ongoing jobs; begin a procedure of problem-solving with vendors or employees; make an emergency purchase of materials to solve job-site problems, and so much more.

There is a cost to have this person on your team. He or she is going to make a larger salary than your regular employees and needs to spend an hour or so a week with you going over ongoing jobs, problems relating to these jobs and personnel situations in general throughout your firm. You may even have two separate people in this role, one for the office and paperwork situations and one for job-sites and shop work. If you are a multi-location company, do you have a floating manager who can fill in when an on-site manager is hurt, or is on vacation?

Too many folks in our industry (and the fact is in any industry) think they are the only ones who can really handle anything that comes up. When I hire a company to work at my home, one of the questions I always ask is: “Who is your second-in-command and can I meet this person prior to work beginning?” Or, you are working at a job site and a decision-point is at hand? You look for your customer or their representative and they are not to be found or contacted. What do you do? Do you stop work? Do you decide for your customer? Or do you ask your customer, upfront, do they have a second-in-command you can speak with to clear up situations? Doing this will save you multiple job-site visits and reduce expenses as well.

OK, you get the hint. Bringing up a good second-in-command will allow you to expand your business and to take an occasional day, or even a week, off for some good R&R. Enjoy it.