If you have been reading my blog post, and I know many of you have (thanks Google Analytics) you know that as much as my journey has been around growing and expanding my firm, I am on another journey.  And if I am going to be honest, this other journey is more challenging in many ways.

This other journey is growing as a manager.  I have managed in the past, but it was different.  While at Starbuck I was managing up more often than not.  Much of what I had to do was assess how my actions would be perceived to those above me.  That thought then influenced how I would manage staff and team.

Fast forward eight years and managing up is not an issue.  I am “up”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having my own firm and the freedom it gives me.  It does not, however, give me a road map.  Regardless how I felt in my previous role at least I had a road map, others to ask questions of, and an overall corporate directive to use as guidepost.

Not anymore.

In The E Myth Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber, writes that the owner cannot be the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician (the employee) at the same time.  Michael writes that each of these roles take a person’s full focus and effort to be done correctly.  If one works as the employee, they lose sight of the big entrepreneurial vision, the entrepreneur is to focused on growth and planning that the day-to-day suffers.  And so on…

At its core, I agree with this 100%.  This is why I have hired excellent recruiters, outsourced key company functions like accounting and legal, and I keep my eye on the next three years.  But I must also be a manager.  I will always be a manager in my own firm.  So how do I balance between the two?  How do I keep an eye on the future and be fully engaged and available to my staff?  There are many ways I do this, the one tool I want to share in this post is what I call “Trench Time”.

Trench Time, simply put, is planning time to be an employee.  I make time in my day to cold call.  I keep an active job on my desk, keeping close to the skills each of my employees uses each day.  I still screen candidates.  I still share and negotiate offers.  I make cold Business Development calls and meet with clients.  I record calls, set goals, share learnings, and headaches as I go.  I am in the trenches with everyone else.

Why do this?  I feel there are three reasons that trench time needs to be a part of every manager’s desk.

  1. It is a great way to train staff in real time
  2. It keeps me close the to the challenges my recruiters face day to day
  3. It reinforces one of DBI’s main pillars, Trusted Partner. By being in the trenches the team develops trust in each other.  Everyone is willing to dive in and move the firm forward, whatever it takes.

Now don’t become an employee.  The firm needs the entrepreneur.  I need to keep looking out at the future.  To avoid the rabbit hole, planning is critical.  Plan a time to start, and a time to stop your trench time.  And while you are doing your trench time, do it to the best of your ability and with all the passion you have.

James Nations  has told me many times, “Firms that grow have an engaged leader”. I believe this 100%.     I hope you will incorporate trench time into your day.  Stay close to the work your team does, it will make you a better manager, and entrepreneur.