072: Keys to Managing Supervisors Pt. 1 - The Owner's Dilemma

Keys to Managing Your Supervisors

This episode kicks off what will be a six-part series on managing supervisors. We start by focusing on what’s called The Owner’s Dilemma, or the fact that you need to surround yourself with a great management team to succeed, but there’s often a big gap between that need and the number of qualified individuals you can attract, especially early on.

“A real qualified manager… was pretty pricy, and I really didn’t have the money to do that,” I told Johnny about my experience running a security company. “So I really had to depend on the lower level, I wanted people within my company to grow.”

Promoting from within can be a great way to build a management team that believes in your values and understands your business. The downside is that these supervisors will have less experience and likely need more help to learn how to manage employees.

Plus, no matter how committed they are, you’re still going to have turnover. A main component of The Owner’s Dilemma is the fact that supervisors can always walk away, while owners can’t. Figuring out how to get a management team invested in your business without either giving up control or paying wages that will bankrupt your company is one of the primary challenges that owners face. 

Why The Management Team Is So Critical

Bottom line, the security industry, like most industries, is still a people business. To succeed, you need to have quality people throughout your organization, from your newest officers all the way up to the top positions. Retaining talent in any industry is so important that famous entrepreneur Richard Branson actually says he puts employees ahead of customers.

If you’re focusing on making your employees happy and effective, nothing will derail that goal more than bad supervisors. A recent survey found that about half of adults have left a job at some point to get away from a bad manager.

When you’re still a very small company, you might be able to manage all of your employees directly, but if you have any growth ambitions it’s absolutely essential to surround yourself with a competent, trustworthy management team. Once you start having hundreds of employees, you need others to take care of day-to-day management and supervision so that you can focus on growth and strategic issues. 

How To Know When Your Supervisors Are A Problem

If your supervisors aren’t either upholding your company culture or simply don’t have the skills and experience to effectively manage employees, that’s going to create some significant problems. When this happens, it’s critical to quickly recognize the issue and take steps to address it.

You can recognize when supervisors are causing problems by looking for key symptoms such as:

  • Officers showing up late or not at all
  • Officers lacking basic training
  • Poorly maintained uniforms
  • No response to client feedback
  • High officer turnover

We heard a horror story of a supervisor scrambling to fill a post and sending over an officer that had no training or no familiarity with the site. The officer just showed up on the location and had to go ask the property manager what he was supposed to be doing. What kind of impression do you think that made on the client?

This goes back to the idea that you need to take care of your employees first so that they can take care of the customer. That supervisor should have been out there to help the officer get accustomed to the site, train him on what needed to be done, and make sure he was equipped to solve problems for the client rather than create more work for the property manager.

Of course, you ideally want to make sure that you’re addressing issues with supervisors before it comes to the customer’s attention, which is one reason we advocate having an open door policy. Gathering feedback from your officers lets you know when you need to make a move to either replace or retrain your supervisors.

What’s Coming Up?

Over the next several episodes, we’re going to explore in a lot more depth the ways in which you can turn your management team and supervisors from something that might be a hindrance into a real asset for your company.

  • Part 2 will focus on getting your team to share your vision for the company
  • Part 3 will cover establishing processes so your supervisors understand their roles and expectations
  • Part 4 will center on measuring tasks and goals
  • Part 5 will help you learn how to manage behavior
  • Part 6 will provide tips for being a leader rather than constantly having to resolve disputes

Stay tuned for all these upcoming parts over the next weeks.

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Chris Anderson

Chris is the founder of Silvertrac Software and has been working in the security industry for more than 25 years. He enjoys working with clients daily to help them grow their businesses and really enjoy what they are doing. Chris currently lives and works in Seal Beach, CA.