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The 10 Worst Ideas for Small Business Owners

Longtime collision industry veteran Dale Delmege lists common beliefs about running a business that he believes are flat-out wrong.

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  • “People issues are the job of Human Resources.”
    Having the right people and taking care of them is not the job of HR. As an owner, general manager or president, it’s the absolute core responsibility of your job.
  • “We have no job openings right now.”
    Nonsense. There are job openings in your company now currently occupied by people your good employees know don’t belong there. The company is not a social agency. You owe your good employees other good employees to work with.
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  • “We hire for experience and education.”
    Expect disappointment. Hire instead for attitude, energy, desire and curiosity. Education and experience are overrated, and often drawbacks. Most terminations are set in motion back at the moment of hasty hiring. Hire slow. Terminate without delay.
  • “We need a COO!”
    I doubt it. When I read the job description, it usually consists of all the stuff you hate to do, while you still make all the decisions. One way or another, he’ll be gone in a year or two, but you’ll probably be cleaning up the mess you made long afterward.

  • “What’s the point of training? We train them, and they leave.”
    OK, have it your way: don’t train them, and they stay.
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  • “I simply suggest ways of doing things, and weed out the people who don’t do it my way.”
    You’ll never be free until you stop assigning tasks and start setting goals and results.
  • “We reward loyalty and longevity with annual pay increases.”
    The mathematically certain eventual result is overpaid average people supervising underpaid better people. The mere passage of time has no value. There should only be two reasons for a salary increase: more job responsibility (e.g. a promotion), or increased living cost (inflation). 
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  • “When something goes wrong, I demand to know why.”
    Stop wasting your time. It’s not your job to know why it happened. It’s your job to know that it won’t happen again. Instead of asking why something bad happened, ask the accountable employee how he has decided to prevent its recurrence, stop talking and wait for an answer.

  • “When an employee knowingly breaks a rule, I talk it through and find the problem.”
    Unless you’re the company psychologist, you’re just asking for excuses and an argument. People are paid for their behavior, not their intentions. A verbal warning or disciplinary action is not a conversation, and it shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds. Calmly tell him what he did wrong, what the consequences will be if he does it again and end the meeting. An hour later, engage him in friendly small talk so he knows he has been given a real second chance.
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  • “I built this business out of nothing. Therefore, I can make a manager out of anybody.”
    No, you can’t. You can discover management talent, but you can’t make it from scratch. No one, not even you, can insert a managerial temperament into a personality where none existed before. It’s either already there or it’s never going to be.

  • Dale Delmege served as senior VP, sales, marketing and R&D, and
    executive VP, operations, at Mitchell International. Prior to its sale,
    he was also a principal in AutocheX. He was CIC chairman from 2000-2001,
    founder, director and past chairman of CIECA, founder and past director
    of the National Auto Body Council, and an elected member of the Hall of
    Eagles. In 2001, he was appointed Lifetime Member of the Society of
    Collision Repair Specialists.

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