We have just bought company that will increase our size from 15 to 25 staff. I’ve managed the company fine on my own but I don’t like my chances of managing it in the same way in future. I don’t want to add layers of management, we are still small business, but how many people can sole manager like me expect to manage and what sort of individual should I appoint and to what position to handle this new enterprise?

Many businesses face this challenge. It is challenge because you have to transform the organisation. With around 15 employees the leader can generally keep track of what is happening and everyone can work loosely together without too many problems. People generally know what everyone else is doing and how they fit into the picture. They also have close contact with the leader and generally know what the organisational vision is.
But once the business starts to grow and staff numbers increase to meet the growth, the leader can’t keep the same contact with everyone. You have already recognised that you can’t manage the organisation on your own, and that’s good start. Fail to understand this and people start to feel disconnected with the vision and direction because they can’t communicate as effectively as before. And just about every management problem boils down to poor communication. Your question is good example of why this happens.
To meet the challenge of transforming your company you should consider introducing more formal structure. It will tend to increase the layers of management, which I realise concerns you, but you need to find the balance between creating an organisation that communicates freely and is still effectively managed.
Before you doubled in size everyone would have gained sense of direction directly from you. Now they need to gain this independently from you. You simply won’t be able to communicate in depth to everyone as you did before. Depending on the nature of your business you need people in clearly defined management roles and an organisation structure that details accountabilities and relationships.
And if you haven’t already got one, prepare documented business plan as an action guide.
With 25 people you must assess your own strengths and appoint people to management roles who complement you in the other areas. Your business must effectively manage people, sales and marketing, operations, information management and finance. You need people with complementary skills to spread your management load.
You also need to think about successors to ensure the business is sustainable for the long term and not entirely dependent on you. All this will add layer of management but with good leadership from you the management team could work without creating rigid hierarchies. The benefits that come from growth and this approach could be significant.
Your predicament is common but still major challenge. I’m sure some luck and thoughtful leadership will see you succeed.

I want to continue to learn and remain in touch with current developments in the management field but there are so many management books around. How can I make sure I read the ones that will add value and make difference? I can only afford the time to read about five study books year.

I agree, the world sometimes seems awash with books on management. number of them are simply capitalising on current fads and offer little value. Identifying relevant books can be challenge.
One way of testing the quality of popular management book is to check the quality of the research. For example, Jim Collins book From Good to Great, has been immensely popular worldwide and is still very strong seller. But when you read the book it is obvious that it has strong foundation based on long term and extensive research.
Have you considered comparing the ‘top 10’ lists of management books being sold? This is an easy way to identify current management themes popular in the world today. The list can be easily accessed on the internet and I recommend the following sites:
Amazon US (www.amazon.com)
Amazon UK (www.amazon.co.uk)
Barnes Noble (www.barnesnoble.com)
Dymocks NZ (www.dymocks.co.nz)
Management Associations:
American Management Association (www.amanet.org)
Chartered Management Institute (www.managers.org.uk)
Australian Institute of Management (www.aim.com.au)
New Zealand Institute of Management (www.nzim.co.nz)
You could also suss out what the current management study themes are by walking around university bookshop just to see what is on offer.
And this magazine is pretty useful source of key themes and publishes books column called “Bookcase” every issue that reviews some of the better management books. It’s good that you want to keep up to date.

Address your problems to Kevin Gaunt to “my problem” at: [email protected]

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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