Jumping over small business hurdles: Part 4

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What makes a business great?

We’ve heard the answer before: It’s the people behind the business. Your employees are the ones who’ll make it work. Finding, building, and having a good team is a stepping stone to success. But inevitably, misunderstandings, conflicts, and severed ties occur.

So how do you avoid these? And if they happen anyway, how do you fix the situation? Here are 4 team-related steps for part 4 of our Small Business Hurdles Series.

THE TEAM

1. Me, me, me

Of course, if you’re a one-man show and plan to stay that way, then this post isn’t for you. Here’s a guide that talks about the startup decision of working alone or with a group. I think it applies to small businesses as well. Basically:

Do you enjoy your own company and working on your own? Do you like having control of everything – making all the decisions? If the business becomes successful, and grows quickly, can you handle it by yourself?

or

Do you like discussing, sharing, collaborating? Do you need to present to investors? (The latter prefers teams to individuals.) Do you like and know how to put together and manage people?

Maybe you’ll begin as a lone wolf, but eventually you might want to expand. Then it’s time to gather your team. Before bringing others on board, the first thing you need to do is figure out what you want from them.

What are you looking for in an employee – what do you expect that they will do for your business, and what will they get out of it? These are things to think about during the recruiting/hiring process.

Unfortunately, you can never tell how good an employee will be from his/her resume, the interview, or even from terrific recommendations. A new person is always a risk – but sometimes worth it.

2. Starting out, building, managing

When you have a team, it’s more than just about the work and money. Your team members will become your friends. The office should be a place of contribution and collaboration, not anxiety or boredom.

  1. Search for people who have the same business values as you do, whose career plans align with the positions you offer – this ensures that all of you are working towards similar (if not the same) goals. Remember, though, that even if values are the same, you want people with skills and backgrounds different from yours. Diversity makes a better business.
  2. If you truly have faith in someone, offer them more tasks and projects; give them more control.
  3. “Use mistakes as fertilizer”: any long-term business needs to expect failures, deal with them, and work to avoid them in future.
  4. Have clear short-term and overall objectives. Share this with your team so that all of you can measure progress.
  5. Be committed to at least one thing, whether it’s customer satisfaction, regular product enhancements, or service expansion.
  6. Develop a SWOT analysis with your team. Identify strengths, weakness, opportunities, and strengths. This will improve your overall strategy and it gets people thinking.

3. Rewards & criticism

What better way to acknowledge someone’s hard work than to reward them with something? This motivates them to continue the productivity and improve it even further. Plus, it could inspire his or her co-workers to do the same. Here are 3 effective rewarding methods:

  1. Do it quickly. Instant rewards, such as an immediate bonus, are the most gratifying and have the maximum impact.
  2. Acknowledge it publicly. For many individuals (this blogger, for example), recognition is better than monetary compensation. Praising your team member in front of others is especially satisfying for the said worker.
  3. Empower them. “Good people want more responsibility”: trust the rewarded one with a new project, for instance. This shows that you believe in their skills. Then again, there are those who don’t want more responsibility. But they’re probably the ones who won’t get rewarded in the first place.

For every reward, there’ll probably be twice as many inadequacies. Every single person is expected to commit at least one or two major errors. These need to be worked through patiently by both you and your employee.

Honesty and constructive criticism is key. Provide feedback regularly, not during an annual or semi-annual review (which everyone’s nervous about). And don’t forget to discuss the good along with the bad.

If someone is consistently underperforming, there could be a personal problem that’s affecting his/her work life. As an employer, it’s up to you to figure out if that’s the case, so that you can come up with solutions together.

Having said that, you’ll reach a point when enough is enough. See below.

4. Letting go

There are warning signs that tell you it might be time to fire your employee(s). Here are a few important ones:

  1. Apathy for project outcomes, or during work in general, is a red flag that they don’t care anymore; a lack of passion means that we should all move on. Take it from           someone who knows.
  2. In line with the above, they are not willing to work on current shortcomings or mistakes. There will rarely be flawless employees who are as invested in your business as you are. However, if assistance and useful feedback does not lead to improvement, then it’s over.
  3. They are increasingly negative, egotistical, or lazy. Tell me how any of those qualities are good for the work environment, let alone the business.
  4. You dread interaction with them and/or you don’t trust them. This one speaks for itself.
  5. It’s just not working out. You’ve discovered that not only are they not a good fit for the job, they’re not a good fit for the team either. Perhaps they’ve realized the same.

No matter what, don’t forget to always be professional, and from your side, do the best to end the contract as civilly as possible. You never know what might happen in the future.

– – –

Remember that bad employees could be a reflection of you as the business owner/team manager. Take a look at how you’re running things before you jump on others, especially if there’s more than one person who’s unhappy or performing poorly.

Essentially you want everyone to be happy and on the same side, working towards the same goal and being rewarded when deserving. A strong, enthusiastic, and productive team goes a long way in making a small business successful.

Here are some final thoughts: 10 valuable employer-employee lessons to take with you as you go.

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