Realistic: The goal needs to be in the realm of possibility.
Time frame: A timeline or deadline needs to be set.
By setting SMART goals your employees will be more successful.
Face-to-face meetings are critical for your dispersed team. Bring your key employees together on a regular basis. Schedule a “Department Head” meeting where supervisors from various locations come together to discuss challenges, opportunities, etc. Do a lot of listening at these meetings, and always ask the question “What do you need from me?” Make sure the meetings are productive and concise. Don’t have a meeting just for a meeting’s sake, but make it productive. Meetings are expensive so they should produce value for you and the team.
Nothing beats an on-site visit. With several branches, you should schedule regular site visits. It may seem that a surprise visit would be advantageous, but in our experience, this just serves to make everyone nervous and can sometimes create an adversarial relationship. If you visit so often that you are seen as a “fixture,” this may not be a problem.
No matter what your paperwork may say or what people tell you, there is no substitute for seeing, hearing and smelling for yourself. Walk through the facility and take a few minutes to speak with each employee. This can help to smooth the barrier created by off-site management. A consistent schedule for site visits works best. Employees can come to count on leadership to be present. Managers need to put their name on the schedule and show up ready to work. Managers working the front line, helping with clients, taking phone calls or dumping a truck can make a big impression on your employees. Your willingness to participate in the daily activities helps to foster the team atmosphere you are striving to create. Be ready to learn from your employees.You can learn as much from them as from any formal continuing education program. This will have a positive effect on many aspects of the business as well as your professional growth.
Deal with problems quickly
When working with off-site locations, the temptation is to wait if there are problems that need attention. It is easy to put off something until the next time you are there. But when the manager is off-site, a little problem can blow up into a major issue right quickly. Be willing to jump in your pickup and drive to the location if necessary, and address any issues immediately.
Multiple locations, multiple challenges
As we mentioned in the introduction to this column — multiple locations for feed and grain firms have become commonplace. These branches may be dispersed regionally rather than nationally or internationally, but many of the same challenges apply — regardless of the distance separating these locations. As manager, a big part of your job is to build and manage your team — and with multiple locations you still have to have everyone on the same team even if they are not sitting in the same “locker room” on a daily basis. We trust that this column has given you some ideas and techniques which will help you manage your “far-flung empire.”
Dr. Christine Wilson is the assistant dean in the College of Agriculture and associate professor agricultural economics at Kansas State University. Dr. John Foltz is Associate Dean, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID. Jim Miller is an operations manager with Primeland Cooperatives in Lewiston, ID.