In my last Building Value piece, we discussed how business owners often get in their own way, especially in building a business of enduring value. After shoring up your own skills, there’s still work to do. If you want your business to thrive, focus on your delivery system. Focus on your employees.
Start by communicating your vision. If you don’t have a vision, get one, write it down, and keep it where everyone can see it.
Set expectations. Your employees look to you for direction, so be clear about what you do and don’t want them to do. Teach and model the habit of asking the litmus test question: Does this support our vision?
Hire the right people. Unless you have significant interviewing and selection experience, outsource hiring to someone who hires a hundred people a year. Let a professional recruit, screen, and pre-interview your applicants. Then, you can spend your time working on the business and interviewing finalists for each position.
If you’re “well-seasoned” like me, you may have been taught early on that employees should check themselves at the door. Well, that’s pretty crazy. It’s far better to get to know your employees and their families and let them know that you care. The more you use and develop emotional intelligence, the more your relationship management skills and everyone’s fulfillment at work will soar.
Position Your People for Success
Fast forward a few months. You have hired well and trained your new team members. Right? Don’t assume they know how you want things done. Document your procedures and teach new employees how to do their jobs. Encourage participation in continuous improvement opportunities—these are some of the best investments you can make, often with ROI beyond your wildest dreams.
Ask employees what you can do to help them do their jobs and listen closely to their answers. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—use your best active listening skills and take notes. Sometimes you have to sift through emotion to find data and intent. Savvy business owners listen with an open mind and ask clarifying questions to gain a full understanding of what their employees say.
This next step is simple and often missed.
Do what employees tell you should be done to remove barriers to meeting your customers’ expectations.
Meeting the needs of your customers unifies teams. While none of us can motivate employees, we can remove de-motivators from the work environment and help our teams get the job done in an as enjoyable a manner as possible.
Hold employees accountable for job performance. You’ll see that people thrive when they are coached. Establish clear expectations, identify performance measures, and follow up with specific feedback. Find reasons to celebrate. Lots of reasons to celebrate.
Don’t Settle for Second Best. Ever.
To the contrary, don’t be afraid to retrain, reassign, or fire employees who don’t meet expectations. Never settle for mediocre performance. Manage the people who work in your business, and your business will work for you. Neglect that responsibility, and you’ll suffer the consequences.
Fast forward a few more months. Congratulations, you have systematized your operation, and developed the individual habits and team-based culture to build a valuable business that’s working for you. You might again ask yourself that question from the earlier Building Value piece, “How much would you pay for your business?” Then again, you might rather hire someone to run it, while you start a new venture.