The problem with Middle Management

The start up rollercoaster has a real habit of making time run away from you. Just looking back through my start up journey blogs and I realised that it has been three months since my last post. So I thought I better put that right.

Well, the start up rollercoaster has been in full swing. A lot of ups and downs, but significantly more ups than downs. PiggyBank has been out in the world, on full steam, for just over three months now. Overall it has been very positive. We have learned a lot, made some significant changes to our processes, which will help PiggyBank grow from strength to strength, and we have had a few new additions to the PiggyBank start up journey.

As a CEO of a small start up, adding new members to the team brings its own unique challenges. The culture and the dynamic of the team has already been formed, and you want to be careful not to disrupt that. However the type of person that wants to risk it all by joining a start up tends to be ballsy, loud, confident and full of opinions. Great for ideas and helping the business reach the highest heights, but can be challenging to manage and integrate with the current team members. But I suppose that is all part of the fun.

My favourite characteristic of the people that have recently joined our start up journey is their passion. They want to make a difference. That is incredibly inspiring for a CEO.

The common theme, which spurns this passion to want to make a difference with all of our new team members, is they have worked at established hierarchal businesses. So although they are the people that are working on the front line, dealing with customers and systems, their opinions are not taken on board because of bloated layers of middle management. These bloated layers of middle management and teams of people chosen to analyse process tend to have no experience of being on the front line of a business, or it’s been so long since they have done it, that their opinion is redundant.

What is the purpose of middle management in businesses that have fewer than 1000 staff anyway? So you are ‘<<insert department here>> Manager in the <<insert buzzword here>> Team. Who cares? What does it mean? In a call centre environment or in retail management differentiation and distinction is important. In a team of 20 odd people working on a particular process, what’s the point? It makes people feel warm and fuzzy that they have a nice title, but does it mean they work any better or come up with better ideas? Doubtful.

Here at PiggyBank, we believe in learning from other people’s mistakes. So we carry out ideas sessions on a weekly basis, where everyone gets round a table and discusses a subject that affects our business. And it really works. I have heard just as many business changing ideas from our more junior team members as our more senior. That isn’t to play down the role of our more senior members. But to get real word incite of how our product is working for our customer base is the most valuable insight our business can have. It keeps us ahead of the competition, as we are constantly evolving to meet our customer’s needs and experiences.
Myself and the would-be called IT Director if we cared about job titles, also spend at least half a day a week working with the systems our team members use and speaking directly with customers. Again this has made our systems and processes evolve at a rate of knots. Myself and Darren see things on a tech and process level that our team members might not see, so it is valuable insight.

So the lesson for today for start up CEOs, understand your business. Not just from management accounts and catch-ups with your middle management, but on the front line, talking to your customers and all the members of your team. Oh, and bin the middle management bloat.