Saturday, May 30, 2009

Management

I, rather notoriously (talk to some of the people at Central Dallas Ministries), don’t do management. I may do a little administration, when I have to, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.

Not doing management is mostly a matter of choice for me. I think I could probably do it if I wanted to, but I want to do things myself; not tell other people what to do. We do have processes for the things we need to have them for—mostly accounting and financial (my good friend and brilliant CPA, Tom Millner, was the first new person we brought on board when we started Central Dallas CDC, and he doesn’t mind doing a little management). We don’t have any rules or regulations that we don’t need to handle money safely or to satisfy the requirements of the law or grants we’re working under.

I understand that refusing to be a manager is limiting in some ways. I can run an organization of five or six (that’s roughly how big we are) without being a manager because I know everybody who works here pretty well. I know what they do and have a pretty good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. I know where I may be able to help them and where I won’t.

It also works because the people working at Central Dallas CDC have lots of strengths, not many weaknesses, and are extremely dedicated. I imagine (because I don’t really know) that the atmosphere working here is similar to places like the early days of Google or some other Silicon Valley start up. Everything may look chaotic, but you feel the energy in air. It almost makes your hair stand on end. I don’t need to look over people’s shoulders to make sure they work. I can’t even imagine working in an environment where that was necessary, and I would probably just go do something else if it ever did.

Our organizational chart is almost flat. Theoretically people report to me, but everyone has their own area of expertise and they know more about it then I do. We don’t have any mediocre people here.

Whether my dread of becoming a manager will ever prove a problem for Central Dallas CDC is hard to say. Most real estate development companies, even for-profits, are small. The business is for entrepreneurs; for people who aren’t afraid of risks. To do it you have to love the art of the deal and thrive on challenges. It is hard to systematize, although a few large companies have found a way to do that successfully. Thankfully, by the time we get big enough to need a manager rather than an entrepreneur in charge, it will probably be my successor’s problem.

In any event, if you ever decide you want to work here, or volunteer a few hours, don’t ask what our process is or our requirements are for volunteers. We don’t have them. Send me your resume and I’ll put it in my file in case I’m ever asked to write a recommendation, but I won’t do more than glance at it before I talk to you.

I want to know who you are and what you can do. Show me your energy and your ideas and your skills and your passion for our work and you’ll be somebody I want to work with and we’ll find a way to make it happen. My idea of the perfect co-worker would be someone I hire the day before I go on a two-week vacation (if I ever get around to taking such a vacation) and when I get back then I find out he or she has put together a deal to house fifty people that are now homeless, found the site, figured out how to finance it, and it only waiting for me to come back to sign the formal documents.

That’s the day I get to retire.

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