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D. Michael Monk Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Seeking new growth opportunities while keeping a finger on the pulse of your company requires a delicate balance, says D. Michael Monk. As Amerisource Funding Inc. began to grow, Monk says he and his partner, Jason Floyd, started to lose touch with what was happening at the office. Their ability to refocus internally, however, helped the commercial finance and receivable management company grow from $151 million in 2004 to $225 million in 2006 with more than 50 employees. Smart Business spoke with Monk, managing director and CEO of Amerisource Funding, about managing internal pressures and relying on your gut.

Be decisive about change. We had some challenges back in 2000 and 2001 that required both me and my partner to get much more involved in the business.

We had to create a system that could function with checks and balances and not just a couple of key people that knew the business well that we would count on to always make the right decision.

It was tough for employees that had a lot of authority and now were being somewhat stripped of that authority. It’s tough to be given something and then have it taken away.

You can’t beat around the bush. You’ve got to say what it is. We’re all grown-ups. Deal with personal issues separately from business issues.

I would compare it to rebuilding highways. There’s two lanes going each way, and they tear it down and make it three lanes each way. Five years later, they’re tearing it down and making it four lanes.

Why don’t they just tear it down once and make it seven lanes each way and don’t hassle with it again? The changes we made were more like tearing the highway down and making it seven lanes.

It was a structure that we didn’t need at the time and was very much underutilized at the time in terms of capacity. But it’s allowed us to grow into it, and we still have plenty of room to grow.

Spread out authority. You can have a great product. But if you don’t have a good management team, good salespeople and good service to back it up, you’re not going to have the same success as someone with not as great a product that has the human capital, the relationships and the management skills to execute your plan.

Placing too much authority in any single individual, you really have to watch for that, including yourself. I jokingly tell our people, ‘If something comes up that you’re not supposed to do, just don’t do it.’

The flip side of that is placing too little trust or authority in your team members. Empower these individuals to make decisions. Give them the ability to make mistakes and to grow and to learn from those mistakes and really develop your human resource assets. The trick is finding that balance.

How do you empower your people to grow, make good decisions, collaborate, participate and contribute ideas? How do you set up the guidepost where they don’t get too far off track or have too much authority where they have the ability to cause damage to your business. In the long run, balancing the duties and skills and maximizing the employee abilities is how you build a good organization.

Train them to succeed. When they come to you for advice or a decision or an issue, ask them their opinion. As long as their opinion is not too far off base, encourage them that this is a decision they should be able to make and to go with it.

If they are comfortable with that, then you’re comfortable with it. Of course, if their suggestion is way out in left field and you think there might be a problem there, it’s your job as coach to give them feedback and let them know it might not be a good idea for these reasons.

Make sure the culture fits. A culture has got to be based on something that the leader feels from a personal standpoint. You can’t create a corporate culture in a company that is honest, fair and empathetic if you have a cutthroat leader or someone that is not honest with themselves or is deceitful.

To be consistent and really take hold and take shape and grow, it’s got to be consistent with that leader’s personal beliefs and personal actions.

Your business does have a personality, much like a family has a personality. The way that family interacts, it takes on a life of its own. A business does that too, maybe even more so because there are so many more moving parts to a business than there are to a family.

It bleeds into customer relationships, employee relationships and vendor relationships. It puts a face or a personality with your company. It allows your customers, vendors and employees to be a part of something and to feel a connection.

We don’t want anyone to conduct business with us or have a relationship with us who isn’t thrilled to be in the relationship and who doesn’t choose to be in the relationship.

Learn to read your gut. In the interview or recruiting process in the past, I’ve sometimes ignored my gut. It’s usually turned out not in my favor.

A lot of times you see something on paper, or you’ll be recruiting someone, or you’ll be in the interview process, and on paper, things look great. But something just feels off. Maybe it’s a character flaw or something that you detect that might clash with your culture.

Everything on paper says this individual is a producer or a performer or would be an asset to the organization. You go with the facts, and you make the decision and you hire that person, and lo and behold, your gut instinct was right and there is a problem.

It may not be a problem with the skill set. It could just be a personality issue or a character issue.

I’ve made some hires of people that are still with us today that really had nothing to show on paper, but you just had a sense about this person. That’s turned out to be good.

It depends on how good your gut instincts are. I’m finding that relying on my gut from a recruiting standpoint is producing as good or better results than some evaluation.

HOW TO REACH: Amerisource Funding Inc., (800) 876-6639 or www.amerisourcefunding.com