Business growth eventually leads to the dilemma of when – or if – to hire senior managers. But knowing when the time is right to do so is no easy thing.
Over the years, My Business has repeatedly heard from successful business leaders that one of the factors behind their accomplishments has been bringing in help before workloads or issues have become insurmountable.
And then relying on the expertise of those individuals, effectively outsourcing everyday management and technical issues to allow them, to use that old cliché, work on the business rather than in it.
For InStitchu co-founder Robin McGowan – who recently told My Business about his strategies for consistently doubling the size of the business each year – appointing a general manager (Ronnie Staub, who had previously been a senior figure at M.J. Bale) in mid-2018 involved balancing market credibility with the cost of acquisition.
“When you’re smaller, you either can’t afford these kind of people (senior managers), or you’ve got to inspire them of the growth plans and get them inspired [and] convince them to take a pay cut or something,” he explained.
“So in the early days, you would kind of just hire anyone who would come and work for you and just take them and be so happy that someone was willing to give you a go. But now, you can actually focus on the people you need.”
Mr McGowan and business partner James Wakefield built their business from concept in 2011 to having 10 showrooms (including two overseas). But recognised that to roll out more showrooms, they would need specialist expertise and management that would not drag their attention from the overarching growth strategy for the business as a whole.
“We were always looking for someone with good, solid retail experience, specifically in what we are doing, which is menswear. We knew that we wanted to hire someone with retail store rollout experience, who had been there before,” he said.
“James and I had no real retail experience. I think that was a good thing [initially], because it allowed us to think differently when it came to our view on [for example] no inventory in the business, retail locations being destinations over expensive shopping centres, etc.
“But we did want to bring some staff in who had solid experience in retail, who knew how to take a brand from 10 stores to 50 stores and manage that, and bring in the systems and processes that come with it. I think that’s really important.”
Asked about the fear of losing control – a common factor for many people who have built a successful business from the ground up – Mr McGowan replied that business owners cannot and should not try to do everything themselves.
Being a good leader involves knowing what to delegate, and who to delegate it to.
“As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be across everything, but at the end of the day, there are certain areas where other people can do it way better than you can; why not bring them on and learn from them,” he said.
“At the end of the day, they work for you… they are just an extension of you.”
Of his personal experience, Mr McGowan offered these words of wisdom: “I’m still very much in charge of where the growth is coming from, both in Australia and overseas. But part of that is to make sure that things are running effectively while you’re looking at new markets or things that might not happen for a few months or a year or something, and knowing that the business is in safe hands while you do that.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.