Management Across Industries: Is It All The Same?

One of the biggest challenges in entrepreneurship is finding qualified managers. Our first reaction is to think of promoting people from within the organization, but those employees often lack the qualifications or the interest to move into management. So we find ourselves looking to hire in people who have experience in industries other than our own.

Is this effective? Does a successful manager hold all the skills necessary to do well in almost any other industry? It’s a complex question that has been asked by everyone from upper management to stockholders, and even rank-and-file employees.

The answer is that while you can’t guarantee such managers will be successful, you can certainly expect them to carry the potential for an effective tenure in management of your operation. Assessing which workers have the best opportunity to make that move requires looking at a number of different qualifications.

Certifications & Specialized Skills

If you’ve found a strong candidate from retail who would like to step into a management role in your restaurant business, you need to look beyond their ability to work with employees, interact with customers, and provide feedback to supervisors. That person’s list of skills is incomplete until he or she has worked through proper food handling training.

The courses offered through can really flesh out the qualifications of a would-be food service manager who lacks a background in food preparation. Not only will these certifications ensure that he or she will not commit violations in the kitchen or preparation area, they’ll also create a frame of reference for understanding the work that preparation staff are doing.

Workplace Pace

Even managers with ideal traits can struggle if they move into a new industry that operates on a different tempo. A manager who has deftly managed a hectic front of house in a busy restaurant might be frustrated by a workplace with a slower pace, or worse yet, may try to accelerate operations to the point of burnout and poor workmanship by subordinates.

Likewise, a manager from a calmer arena may not be able to keep up when thrust into an environment where decisions and actions need to be taken quickly with less time to deliberate about courses of action.

As you review candidates, don’t just get an idea of their scope of supervision or time in a management role. Make sure you really understand the pace at which they are accustomed to working.

Understanding Cultures

In society, we talk a lot about cultures. We promote inclusion of varying ethnicities, religions, and political beliefs in dialogue about issues. But business culture can be very different. Tolerance isn’t really the watch word. When you hire someone who has a different business culture in his or her background, it can be very difficult for that person to assimilate into your own corporate culture.

Think of this example. Sales is a field with a great deal of range in culture. Some firms encourage cutthroat competition among their reps, while others work to boost cooperation and believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. Bringing a manager out of one of those cultures into the other is a recipe for disaster, so it’s critical that the interview process is used as a time to examine the candidate’s cultural experience at work.

It’s no surprise that we haven’t come to any “always” or “never” conclusions about hiring people from other industries. But what we have done is to outline the characteristics that are essential to make a smooth transition and create the best environment for managers, employees, and the firm as a whole to succeed.


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