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FLYING DOGS, Part II

Chuck Violand

It’s not uncommon for the first hire a business owner makes to be the trusted office manager/bookkeeper. Or at least it should be. This is one dog only a handful of pilots can do without. Yet many owners resist bringing this person on board, and despite all their pleading to the contrary it’s usually not because they can’t afford them. In fact, most businesses can’t afford not to hire them. While many of us won’t say it out loud, one of the strongest underlying reasons we delay this hiring is because of trust. Or more accurately, a lack of trust. This is an issue that goes deep with business owners and could fill the pages of several Notes.

Some owners dupe themselves into thinking that if they manage the books themselves, they’ll suddenly discover a level of personal organization and detail that has eluded them until now (which is highly unlikely).

My experience has shown that when tracking a company’s financial performance over time, you can almost see the date when the owner finally hired the right person to manage the office and the books. The company’s performance almost always visibly improves. Most important of all is that this person has the skills to manage the owner! This is a dog who knows when and how to bite the owner’s hand when needed.

The whole scenario about making the right hire to manage the office and the books doesn’t end with this one position. It will repeat itself over and over in other positions as the company continues to grow. The need for additional dogs, sometimes with advanced skills, will continue.

Another reason some owners resist bringing talented people on board is because they’re afraid those people will be smarter or better liked than they are. They also fear losing control of the company or having their authority undermined. After all, it’s not often that owners get petted on the head and told what a great job they’re doing.

These justifications seem rational in the mind of the business owner, yet they place a significant constraint on the growth of the company, which is something most owners don’t see.

Oftentimes business owners are unaware of the changes taking place in the markets they serve and within their own industry that can have disastrous effects on their business if they’re not recognized and addressed. A good dog can sense things an owner simply can’t. They have heightened sensitivities and a greater awareness of things within their own areas of expertise. No owner can be expected to have all these insights.

I’ll even make a case that the best business pilots are the ones who’ve surrounded themselves with a pack of dogs. And not all these dogs have the title of manager or have an advanced degree as part of their pedigree.

Having bite marks on their hands or receiving an occasional growl might make an owner think their dogs don’t appreciate them, but the opposite is usually the case. In fact, I believe these are indicators of the best dogs. They may cause pain in the short-term, but they pay huge dividends in the long run. And it’s the best owners who have learned that a rolled-up newspaper isn’t the right response to feedback. It’s better to get the treats out.