Until you learn to delegate, your company’s growth will be limited, says Shri Thanedar.
“A common misconception is I can do it better than someone else can and I can do it quicker than somebody else can,” Thanedar says. “It may be so, but when you do somebody else’s job, there’s nobody there to do your job.”
It’s a lesson that the CEO and chairman of Chemir Analytical Services Inc. learned firsthand. For years, he relied on his own determination and independence. Growing up poor in India, Thanedar arrived in the U.S. to get his doctorate in chemistry with only $20 in his pocket. In 1990, he bought Chemir for $75,000, running it with two employees. Since then, the pharmaceutical company has grown to 400 employees and posted 2008 revenue of $60 million.
He says that to grow your business, you have to share all aspects of your business with employees, show them that their opinions count and allow them to make decisions.
Smart Business spoke with Thanedar about how to empower employees to make decisions that will help your business succeed.
Share the business background. A lot of times, especially private companies don’t have to disclose their sales and their profitability. We make it a point to let all of our employees — not just the top management, not just the key employees — we let every employee know about our profitability and know about our sales so there are no secrets.
They don’t need to come to me and ask questions because I have this special knowledge or information that they don’t have. One of the first things I do is let them know what I know.
We look at our business as a game, and if you don’t know the rules of the game, it’s very difficult to play. Same way, if you don’t know what the score is, then you don’t know if you’re winning or losing.
We make sure that we educate our employees. We make sure that they all understand how the business is doing, what makes the business successful, why our clients come to us, what our current sales are, what our sales are in the last three months, how many price quotes we have given out to potential clients, what percentage of those price quotes get accepted, when they don’t accept a price quote why do they not buy from us.
All the information I have gets communicated.
Let employees know that their opinions count. Recently, we had a meeting of our team leaders of the company. I said, ‘Imagine today is Jan. 25, 2012. Also, imagine I was gone for three years. I was kidnapped, I was gone, and I just got released from my captors, so I don’t know anything about your company. Now tell me, what did you do, what sales were? How did you come here?’
I took them in the future and got them thinking. They said, ‘Oh, we achieved all of our goals. We were at $120 million in sales.’
I said, ‘Tell me how you did it.’
We had a two-hour brain-storming session, and I wrote it down, everything that they said. It became very obvious for everyone this is really what we need to do.
It’s part of delegating; it’s part of letting people know that their opinion counts. The job isn’t just putting them in a pigeonhole and saying, ‘This is all you do.’ Get them to think like an owner; give them responsibilities.
It’s very tempting to jump in and do it yourself. The key thing here is, give those responsibilities away, give the authority away and communicate that you’re going to accept their decision.
It’s a very open culture. It’s a culture where information is shared. It really doesn’t matter where the idea came from.
Teach employees to make their own decisions. It is very, very important that you let people make mistakes. They have to feel that if they fail, if they make a mistake, that I will understand and I will accept.
I tell them that unless two or three times out of 10 times if they try something and they don’t fail, then they’re not trying hard enough.
It’s trusting people and giving them the authority. Not just giving them the responsibility, but giving them the authority to make decisions to think (things) through.
Often, if they come to me and say, ‘What do you want me to do about this?’ business owners love to be in that situation. It makes them feel good that people come to you and then they have all the answers. It is so much better if we don’t really try to do that because then people stop thinking and they just want to rely on you.
If I approve something or say, ‘This is how it should be done,’ then they’re off the hook because then I become responsible for the success of that idea or that approach. Usually when someone comes to me with a problem, I ask them, if they were in my shoes, what would they do? Almost always they come up with really a good solution to the problem. Once they tell me that, I say, ‘Well, I agree with you … go implement it if you’ve got a good idea.’
(If it’s not a good idea), I keep asking them. ‘How else can we solve it? I don’t really know what exactly can be done here; give me some parts.’ So I work with them until they come up with a position.
How to reach: Chemir Analytical Services Inc., (314) 291-6620 or www.chemir.com