I’ve had the pleasure — even displeasure, if we wanna keep it real — of working for a number of small companies; small business owners. And I’ve taken every lesson I’ve learned from each employer into my own business. I’ve watched them studiously as they conducted business, formed relationships and grew — and I’ve retained as much as could about all they were doing right and much of what they’re were doing wrong. And it seems like whenever employees are introduced into a growing established company, problems arise. In other words, people make things crazier —who knew! But the important takeaways that I gathered about owners and their employees were:
- Hire people who have the potential to grow as your company grows and not just someone looking to fill the position. Hell, with the right training, anybody can do a job. That’s how most people got to the jobs they have now — by being trained, or taught or schooled, or whatever you want to call it. But ambition to grow — that’s not something you can teach, that’s inherently in select individuals. Hire those folks.
- Keep your word. I remember a company I use to work for; we were a staff of 14 people including the owner of the company. For some reason, we were unable to have our annual holiday party in December, so the owner decided to move it to January and call it an “Employee Appreciation Dinner”. The date was set for the middle of January. Well, when January came and gone, we started to passive-aggressively joke about how little we were appreciated because there was no mention of the dinner anymore. Although it was just a dinner, people became a little resentful of the fact they were promised something and it wasn’t delivered. Deliver or don’t promise, but you can’t do both.
- Know what the gossip’s about. I don’t care how small a company is, there’s always gossip. And 9 times out of 10, it’ll be about you, the owner. So as they owner, know what’s floating around the office. Check in with each employee on a regular basis. Create an atmosphere in which your employees can feel comfortable with approaching you with what they need to make your business better. You might even find that the open-door policy reduces the noise of gossip.
- Say what you mean. No one’s a mind reader. I don’t believe mind readers are mind readers. And neither are your employees. Don’t have them guess what you’re thinking or try to figure it out. If you don’t know what you mean, they don’t know. And don’t punish them for not knowing. That’s so dumb.
- Be the first with a greeting. I know it sounds trivial, but you’ll be surprised how sensitive people are in the work place. Not receiving a hello from their boss in the morning can start the day off all wrong. Listen, I said nothing about being buddy-buddy. I said say, ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’ or whatever the time of day calls for. This goes along with acknowledging your employees. You may not be saying ‘job well done’, but a ‘hello’ can simply translate into ‘hi, thanks for coming in today and giving me your time today’.
Listen — the people that work for you are your crew. They’re there building your dream. They don’t have to be there. They could be working for someone else who doesn’t mind showing them a little appreciation. You have a relationship with your employees, no matter how badly you’ve neglected it. And just like any relationship, it’s about the little things.