employees

Help Your Employees Succeed in 5 Steps

One of the common topics that I discuss when advising business owners is that of employees. From finding employees, keeping employees, and sometimes letting employees go. Dealing with employees can be difficult because we are people with emotions, problems, families, health issues, and also have lives outside of work. As a business owner and manager, here are 5 steps to make sure that your employees succeed:

#1 First things first: Slow down the hiring process to make sure the position and the potential employee are a good match before even starting. This can include multiple interviews, interviews with your other employees or managers (if you are a solopreneur, then the other interviewer can even be your wife or someone that you trust greatly), asking the right questions to gauge ethics and personality, and tests. A test can include a short demonstration of skills and knowledge.

#2 Initial set-up: It seems so simple, but is your employee ready to start working on their first day? Do they have the proper technology, equipment, uniforms, or even completed payroll information all ready before starting? Don’t waste their time because ultimately you are wasting your time and money and also do not appear to be organized.

#3 Training: Even if you hire experienced employees, they will still need to be trained with how you operate. Take the time to train so that they will perform well and feel good about their job.

#4 Set expectations: Let your employees know what you expect them to work on today, tomorrow, this week, and in the future. Also, set expectations for hours worked, time off, busy times during the year, and the like.

#5 Support: Employees will experience sickness, need to attend to family matters, and go through stressful times. Support them during their time of need to help them throughout any ordeals they may have. If you need support, then good employees will support you too.

There are many more ways, but this is a good start. Remember, success is not accomplished by itself.

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What Keeps Business Owners Up at Night?

Aside from worrying about everything, there are really just a few timeless concerns of most business owners. If you don’t have at least one of these concerns then that is probably a concern. Here they are with a few solutions:

Employees: No matter how well you run your business, it will always be a challenge to manage employees. Common problems are: finding good employees, keeping good employees, and making sure that they are productive. There are several ways to address these concerns that are simple, but no way full-proof. The first step is to take your time hiring and to hire the right people from the beginning. Next, treat your employees well and fair. Lastly, spend the time to train your employees properly so they are productive. It sounds so simple, but maybe that is why it is so difficult.

Taxes: Who wants to overpay their taxes? Not only paying taxes, but staying compliant with all of the numerous tax filings can be a huge burden. Having a good accountant can help to alleviate this concern.

Growing: If you are not growing then your expenses will soon eat up a good portion of your profits. Growing sales is a major concern, however, the focus should be to grow your sales profitably. Aside from smart marketing, each new dollar of sales should be profitable to you, otherwise something is wrong.

Cash flow: Either not knowing where your cash is going or not having enough are both problems. Your accountant should help to explain where your cash is going and why there is a shortage. Common solutions are to improve your accounting systems and procedures, increase sales, implement better collection processes, increase your profit margins, and obtain a line of credit.

Too many hours: I don’t think that you are allowed to stop thinking about your business so technically you work 24 hours a day. How can you work less hours? There are dozens of ways, but a few easy to implement solutions are: better scheduling, delegation, and a commitment to work smarter, not harder.

There are a few other closely-related concerns, such as health insurance for employees, feeling burnt out, and the economy. Unfortunately, we cannot control the economy.

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5 Traps to Avoid When Growing Your Business Rapidly

Growing your business, especially growing rapidly, can be a really great accomplishment, but there are dangers when growing too quickly. Here are several traps to avoid to ensure successful growth:

Cash flow: Quite often, a small business will have cash flow issues when growing too rapidly. This is due to a delay of getting paid, while expenses need to be paid for upfront or before getting paid. There are 3 solutions that can help depending upon your situation. The first is to see if you can obtain terms with your suppliers to delay expenditures, second is to obtain a line of credit to support your receivables, and third, which tends to be the hardest, is to build up a cash cushion first.

Finances: As you grow your business, the financial aspect becomes even more crucial to your success. This entails a focus on investing in more robust accounting software, accounting staff and/or accounting services, streamlined processes and procedures, and internal controls, to name a few.

Employees and management structure: Unless you enjoy working 24/7, you need capable managers to manage your employees (you have been hiring more employees, right?). It is easier to have a few people reporting directly to you then several dozen. Also, make sure to acknowledge and reward the loyal employees that helped you to obtain your success.

Personal time and wellness: It is very easy to put in excessive hours to handle the massive growth of your business. There will be times when you need to work extra, but if this becomes the norm then it is easy for your personal relationships to suffer, along with a decline of healthy habits.

Infrastructure and organization: This applies not only to the physical nature of your business, but especially your operations. Have you outgrown the physical space that you occupy? Are you using equipment, technology, or IT that is not keeping up? Are your vendors and advisors able to handle the growth of your business? What about marketing and marketing staff? These are all areas to consider; otherwise, they will act as barriers to your growth.

Growth needs to be profitable, stable, and smart; otherwise, your results can easily go in the opposite direction that you intended. Think long-term, strategically, and surround yourself with the appropriate advisors to help you along your journey.

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The Lifeblood of Your Business

There is one critical aspect of your business that you cannot underestimate or take for granted. It’s not marketing or accounting, although these are important and critical also. It’s . . .

Your employees!

Customer service: Depending upon your role in your business, they probably have much more interaction with your customers than you do. Your employees should understand the importance of your customers and enjoy servicing them. Customer-focused employees will ensure a pleasant and successful experience for your customers.

Operations: Properly trained employees will be more productive and have better outcomes than poorly trained employees. Training can be on-site, off-site, or a combination of both, but is extremely important to the overall results of your business. Your customers will also have a much better experience when dealing with capable employees.

Team: Your employees are your team and to some extent like an extended family, especially if you factor in all of the time that you spend together. The business owner is the leader of the team and how well your team is lead will ultimately determine how well they perform. Leadership skills can be learned by experience, training, advisors/mentors, and education resources.

Treat ‘em well: Your employees are people too and need to be treated with respect and compassion. This does not mean that you should not correct them or be firm when necessary. Everyone needs this from time to time, even you. Make sure to compensate them as well as you are able to and provide room for career growth. Remember that people have ups and downs in life and sometimes it will be your employees who will pull you through those rough patches; other times you will be their rock.

Good employees will help your business to grow and prosper and they will grow along with it. Bad employees will provide a stumbling block and decrease your chance of success. Don’t neglect your team!

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Don’t Use Your Employees and Employees Don’t Use Your Employers

When I was a kid, sometimes a friend would say, “Don’t be friends with so and so because they are users.” I have to admit that I really did not know what that meant back then, but since I now have the Internet nowadays, I was able to look it up. According to urbandictionary.com, a user is someone who takes advantage of another’s kindness or generosity. They pretend to be a friend but are only in it for what they can get out of it. A user takes and takes, rarely gives. When it comes to employers and employees it can easily happen, but here are 4 ways to avoid using each other:

Be honest: When an employee takes a job there should be honesty on both ends. First, the employer should set expectations about the responsibilities, compensation, work environment, hours, advancement opportunities, etc. Employees should be honest with their employers about their experience, their ability to perform their job functions, their availability, and their own expectations. If you do not tell your employer that you plan on moving out of state in 6 months, especially after your employer has spent time and money on your training, then that is lying by omission. The same holds true for an employer that plans on moving their location in the near future without informing a new employee. Be upfront and honest.

Don’t dawdle or overload: A business makes money when employees are productive and loses money when they dawdle. Keep this in mind as an employee. Alternatively, if an employer overloads their employees then this can lead to burnout.

Give, don’t just take: Employees should not focus solely on their own paychecks, but on the overall success of the business. Think about what you can give to make your job better and for the business that you work for to succeed. Most likely, unless you work for a user, you will be compensated for high achievement. Employers should compensate their employees fairly and reward them when they are helping the business to be more profitable.

Do a good job: Do an excellent job and take pride in what you are doing whether you are an employee or an employer.

Don’t be a user!

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The Overlooked Business Asset

What is the most important asset of a business? Here are a few choices:

  1. Customers
  2. Employees
  3. Technology

They are all important, but there is one missing element. Relationships. Strong relationships are what make a business successful. It’s not a new concept and it’s been around since business started. Let’s look at each one:

Employees: Most employees do not just want a job, but a place that they enjoy working at. Strong relationships start with appreciation and gratitude for your employees and a team-based approach. When you have great relationships with your employees then productivity increases, loyalty forms, and customer service is improved.

Customers: Every business should strive for strong, lifetime relationships with their customers. However, this means that you should do business with people that you enjoy doing business with. As a byproduct, strong relationships foster win-win results, including an increase of business activity, loyalty, and referrals from friends and family.

Technology: Technology can help to foster relationships by keeping you more connected with your employees and customers and making their experience more enjoyable.

Based upon anecdotal evidence and especially the thoughts of business gurus, the concept of relationships seems to be very true. Also, what greatly impacts a business and is overlooked even more is the condition of our personal relationships. Look around and see for yourself.

One caveat. Do not form vain relationships with people just because of what they can do for you or from a view of utility, but rather as an act of charity.