Breitt, Rachel Starr, and Justin Diamond started an advertising agency to serve
the needs of small businesses selling in and around their metropolitan area.
Breitt contributed clever ideas and a talent for writing scripts and wooing
clients. Starr brought a wealth of media contacts, and Diamond handled the
artwork. Their quirky ad campaigns soon attracted a stream of projects from car
dealers, community banks, and a carpet store. Since the agency’s first year,
these clients have kept the bills paid while the three win contracts from other
companies. Breitt, Starr & Diamond (BS&D) prospered by helping clients
keep up with the times, and the agency grew to meet the demand, adding a
bookkeeper, a graphic artist, a web designer, two salespeople, a social media
expert, and a retired human resource manager, who works 10 hours per week. As
the firm grew, the three partners felt they were constantly being pulled away
from their areas of expertise to answer questions and solve problems about how
to coordinate work, define jobs, and set priorities. They realized that none of
them had any management training—and none of them had ever wanted to be a
manager. They decided to hire a manager for a position they would call general
manager of operations. That person would be responsible for supervising the
employees, making sure expenses didn’t go over budget, and planning the
resources (including people) needed for further growth. The partners
interviewed several candidates and hired Brad Howser, a longtime administrator
for a four-physician medical office. Howser spent the first few weeks quietly
studying BS&D’s financial data and observing employees at work. Then he
became more outspoken and assertive. Although the partners had never cared to
monitor what time employees came or left, Howser began requiring all employees
to start by 9:00 each morning. The graphic artist and one of the salespeople
complained that flexible hours were necessary for their child care
arrangements, but Howser was unyielding. He also questioned whether the
employees had been shopping carefully for supplies, indicating that from then
on, he would be making all purchases, and only after the employees submitted their
requests on a form of his design. Finally, to promote what he called team
spirit, Howser began scheduling weekly Monday-morning page 369staff meetings.
He would offer motivational thoughts based on his experience at his previous
job and invite the employees to share any work-related concerns or ideas they
might have. Generally, the employees chose not to share. Initially, the
partners were impressed with Howser’s vigorous approach to his job. They felt
more productive than they had been in years because Howser was handling
employee concerns himself. Then the top salesperson quit, followed by the
social media expert. The bookkeeper asked if she might meet with the partners.
“Is it something you should be discussing with Brad?” Rachel asked her. The
bookkeeper replied that, no, it was about Brad. All the employees were unhappy
with him, and more were likely to leave.

Discussion Questions:

Assume that hiring a General Manager of
Operations was a good idea. What leadership style would be most effective in
this position (General Manager of Operations)? Why?

What leader behaviors did Brad Howser exhibit?
How well did they fit the needs of the ad agency?

Consider your own leadership style. What are
some of your tendencies, and how might you change your perspective?
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