Business Booms at Artists’ Frame When Owner Learns to ‘Let Go’

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Jay Goltz couldn’t take it anymore. Artists’ Frame Service Inc., his Chicago-based custom-framing company, was generating $2 million in sales after nearly 10 years. Yet Goltz had metamorphosed from a hands-on entrepreneur to an overwrought, hands-on-everything owner. Even with 100 employees, Goltz insisted on keeping a finger in everything.Fortunately, a simple errand led to a major revelation, causing Goltz to mend his ways. Goltz approached the counter at an auto-parts store and watched the harried owner bark orders to underlings, yell at suppliers over the phone and attempt to help walk-in customers — all at the same time. "He was running back and forth like a duck in a shooting gallery," recalls Goltz. "I saw him and thought, ‘I can be that guy one day.’ " Goltz worried about his business whenever he wasn’t there. He’d call in frequently and ask his managers for detailed updates on even the most trivial matters. This micromanaging left him in a constant state of high anxiety. Worse, details that he was not paying attention to actually prevented his business from growing. So Goltz adopted a new attitude of "delegating, not regulating." He decided to give his managers greater autonomy, while he devoted more time to the big picture — business expansion. "You can run a $2 million business and never let go of it," he says. "But how can I run a $5 million business with only one Jay?" Goltz mapped out a plan to limit his involvement while aiming for 10% annual growth. He planted accountability more squarely in the laps of his employees, came up with more money to hire stronger managers and forced himself not to meddle. Goltz realized that once he assigned a project, he couldn’t just forget about it. But he didn’t want to check in with his staff constantly. That would defeat the purpose of delegating and send a message to employees that he didn’t trust them. Hands off Without Losing Control He found that the best way to track employees’ progress was to ask them to provide periodic updates. To ensure that operations ran smoothly and goals were met without his constant surveillance, Goltz created "control mechanisms" — systems that enabled employees to track their own work. The systems’ success depended on providing workers with a few key numbers to guide their performance and decision-making, such as hitting specified sales goals while capping expenses. As Goltz reinforced the need to follow this new system, employees began to think more creatively and work more productively. You Get What You Pay For The final step Goltz took was investing in a higher caliber of managers and staff. To give employees greater independence and be comfortable about trusting their judgment, Goltz knew he needed the cream of the crop — which meant offering higher salaries. "I’m not going to say that I won’t pay someone a penny over $50,000 a year," Goltz says. "If a candidate’s worth it, I’ll pay what I need to pay — period. ‘I can’t afford you’ is a ridiculous phrase." By giving up micromanagement, Goltz made major gains for his company. He surpassed his goal of 10% annual growth, achieving 20% growth for the next five years — with just one retail store. Today annual sales top $10 million. Writer: Morey Stettner
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