My wife runs a small spa business (3 fulltime, 4 parttime staff and ~ 250K annual sales).  We argue all the time she can step away from the day to day and just do management.  

Her argument is that: the business is too small, and customers are used to hearing the owner on the phone and in the day spa, and that employees can't replace that owner-customer relationship.

I argue that she should implement the management trinity, and manage the spa, and over time the staff will be trained, coached, and guided to run the business for her.  This will allow her to manage the business rather than be in the business; it will also give her more time to spend with our 1 year old daughter.

Is this business too small to 'just do management'?  Does she have to manage it and run day to day customer relationship building work etc.?

mattpalmer's picture

Whether a business can support someone "just doing management" is about how much money there is to support such a person (whether they're the owner or not), rather than the number of people in the business.  Thus without seeing the books, it's hard to say yes or no either way.  I'd hazard a guess that on the numbers you've presented, it'd be tough to support a full-time manager financially.  Perhaps she doesn't want to work at it full-time, in which case the numbers may be workable.

More important than the financials is the question of who's going to do the work your wife is currently doing?  A time study of what your wife is doing throughout her days (as per the "Job Transparency for Development" casts, part 1 and part 2) will help her see what she's actually doing (as opposed to what she thinks she's doing -- everybody deludes themselves about how their days are spent), and she can then look at the people she's got, and decide whether they're willing and able to take on part of her current duties.

Whether or not she's looking to move out of the day-to-day operations of the business, implementing the trinity is a good idea.  Coaching isn't just for getting people ready for more responsibility, it's also for getting better at doing your current job.  She should be having regular O3s with everyone, as long as she's responsible for people in the organisation.

As for the claim that customers are "used to" talking to her, that's likely to be true, but people can change.  If other people start talking to customers, they'll adapt.  In my experience (working for a company of about 50 employees), the only time that a customer really expects to speak to the owner are when things go badly -- some people will wield the "I want to speak to the owner!" stick, and just won't take "no" for an answer.  The solution to that problem is two-fold.  Firstly, if everyone provides outstanding service, it'll be very rare that anyone will get upset (never say never -- some people are just impossible to please).  Secondly, ensure that all staff (or an appropriate subset of staff) know they have the authority to do things "out of the ordinary" to mollify disgruntled customers (or reward particularly wonderful customers).  Again, from experience, I know how great it feels to be able to say to a customer who has been served poorly, "Yes, I agree that wasn't done to standard that we set for ourselves.  What can we do to make this up to you?" -- and then, when the customer says, "I'd like a month's credit on my service!", thinking that you'll push back or um and ah, you smile warmly and say "I think that's entirely reasonable under the circumstances.  I've created ticket XYZ-123456 to track that through billing."

Finally, a bit of marriage counselling: it's your wife's business.  Arguing over how she runs it isn't going to help you, her, or your relationship together.