A recent National Federation of Independent Businesses survey paints a picture of some very stressed-out small business owners. Small business’ earnings are at their lowest point since 1992, and nine in 10 owners surveyed expect the economy to continue to decline over the next several months.
And Laura Harris, a nationally renowned speaker and author of the new small-business owner self-help book, Surrender to Win, says, “The answer for small business owners in hard economic times is to hire and retain the right staff.”
Harris’ hiring tips:
1. Take enough time to get to know your prospective team members rather than hiring on a gut reaction. Part of the interview process should include introducing the potential employee to key staff so you know how the team members will interact. This process can be invaluable.
2. Don’t hire a prospective employee with an unprofessional phone voice or sloppy appearance. The first impression you have of a prospective employee is the same first impression a client will have of your company.
3. Hire an inexperienced person you can train to mesh with your style of leadership. Personnel with experience often come with old habits and pre-conceived notions. Training someone from scratch means you can mold them to perform the way you prefer.
4. Steal good employees from other industries. People who go above and beyond for their current company have a good enough work ethic to work hard for yours.
5. Hire someone with different strengths and weaknesses than your existing team rather than hiring someone just based on how much you like them. Adding staff should expand what your business has to offer.
And Harris’ tips to retain and grow employees who think like owners:
1. Every company needs a foundation of uniformly enforced rules and guidelines on which to agree. Create a detailed employee handbook, and stick to the guidelines so everyone (including you) knows the company policy. Having rules in writing helps the employees understand what is expected of them so they can succeed as a group member.
2. Invest in your employee’s education by paying for courses and offering time off to take classes. Rather than worry your team member will get so smart they’ll leave or want a raise – worry your business will remain stagnant if you don’t invest in employee education and they don’t grow their current level of expertise.
3. Help your employees put their families first. Allow time off for children and parents when it’s needed. Putting family first doesn’t detract from the job – it creates a well-balanced work environment for the boss and the employees.
4. Hire responsible people, take the time to train them well and give them room to work. Micromanaging stifles creativity, creates second-guessing and leads to stress for both the owner and the employee.
5. Be loyal to your staff, and they will be loyal to you. Spend time investing in the right people so they stay with you. A resignation or firing is disruptive to the flow of business, and bad for the morale of everyone remaining on the team.
And Harris notes that sometimes it’s not the employee you need to fire – it’s the client. “Know what type of client gives you the highest return, and is the most hassle-free,” she explains. “Gear your marketing, advertising and public relations toward taking on new clients like those.”