I was hoping for some advice. I was recently assigned to manage a medium sized millwork/cabinet shop purchased by the company I work for. I used to work at this shop several years ago so I'm familiar with all the equipment.
1. What advice does anyone have for someone going from employee to manager?
2. What do I do when I don't have all the answers? (Bidding jobs for example)
3. Is it necessary to be the best at all aspects of the operation (cabinetmaking, finishing, etc)?
Be honest about what you do not know, in dealing with both your new employers and the employees you supervise. If you try to fake it, it will not go well.
And no, on being the best at everything. That would not be realistic, and no one should expect that of you. You were chose for the position because of certain strengths you have, keep those strong and appreciate the strengths of others. You probably have workers there with different strengths and talents, learn to utilize and appreciate those things in others. They can then contribute to the work being done there, and then feel appreciated for it.
Have them hire an skilled estimator. Nothing kills a new business faster than bad bidding. Use your ears more than your mouth. Buy pizza, and shake hands for jobs well done. No you don't have to be the best at everything, but it will be of great benefit if you know how to hire the best and keep them.
The fine folks here can tell you what to do. I can only offer what not to do.
My first management job was given to me for my organizational skills and enthusiasm, but I definitely had a bit of a lack in industry specific knowledge. Not enough to handicap me, really, if I had not let it, but not as good as some of the senior staff.
I made the mistake of trying to look like I had it all under control and knew it all. Manager hat, right? Silly, of course. You can't really fake that to someone who knows. Now I know that.
I eventually figured out that it's okay to be human and its fair to ask questions, and that it doesn't take anything away from you if you tackle it like a person. And giving someone a go-ahead on an idea that is better than yours is good management, not a one-up.
Regarding question 3: one of the main duties of the manager is to try to understand the business in a different way from the shop floor people. That means finding data that measures what's happening, so that you can start to improve things. You will need to either understand or implement systems for measuring company finances and productivity. Once you feel that you have a handle on that information, start sharing it with the whole shop. This is the best way to get everyone on board with whatever changes need to happen. And changes always need to happen.
If you aren't doing it already, I would suggest a Monday morning "all hands" meeting to review orders that came in during the previous week, current backlog, expected production during the upcoming week, and any other issues that come up. Do this religiously, at the same time each week. Bring in donuts and fresh fruit.
I would also encourage you to spend time every day walking through the shop. If you don't recognize what's going on, ask. I hope that you have a shop foreman to work with. You should be meeting regularly with that person (every day) and discussing any questions and problems you have with him or her.
A shop is like a big truck driving across Kansas. The road is straight, but without constant steering the truck will go into the ditch. Your job isn't to move the truck - that's for the engine, the people doing the work. Your job is to steer, and watch out for a malfunctioning engine. If warning lights go on, then you need to do something.
You are on the right track by asking this question. I would encourage you to find someone in your town that knows how to run a shop, and to meet with that person regularly. Tell them what's happening and get advice. Also keep asking questions here. Everyone needs help, always. Make sure that you are getting it.
Let the employees know your door is always open. Encourage them to come discuss projects and problems with you. Be honest in your responses; let them know when you don't know. If you didn't have any answers you wouldn't have been made manager so you should be able to lead and even teach to some degree.
Then respect their knowledge. Don't be ashamed to ask their input in a decision. It will show them you are not arrogant and make them feel good about their involvement.
You are running the show but a well run shop is a team effort.
I would say look after the staff, talk with them, get there input and build a system together so they feel ownership and pride in it.
You mentioned that your employer has purchased the company and you used to work at the company. Is your employer a cabinet maker with departments that you can leverage? i.e can you send your quotes over to them and eventually mirror there quoting system?
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