Unless you are a company of one, being a small business owner requires that you learn how to effectively deal with the people you decide to employ. After all, they have the ability to take your business to higher levels or help it fall flatly on its face, making them a critical part of the operation. Unfortunately, not all employers are cut out for the task. However, you don’t have to be one of them and make the same mistakes that they do. Instead, you can handle them in a way so as to rise above your competitors and develop a company so strong that it could never fail. How? Here are seven common mistakes that some small business owners make with their employees, as well as ways to avoid them:
Mistake #1: Being a Friend
While it is great that you like your employees personally, getting too close to them can really hinder your business success. It can cause you to overlook low-quality work and can even create discord amongst the rest of your staff if they feel that you have a favorite (and they aren’t it). The best way to combat this mistake is to keep your business, well, business. Create boundaries whereby you don’t associate outside of work so that you can keep your company, and not your friendship, forefront in your mind.
Mistake #2: Not Providing Structure
Too many small businesses fail simply because the employees have no idea exactly what they are expected to do. This is probably more so in small mom-and-pop type shops where there are only a handful of people that have the work divvied up between them, as opposed to larger manufacturing firms where everyone has one single purpose. If you own a small business that requires that each person do a number of tasks, set them up for success by providing them with proper structure. Maybe you could create a daily task list so that they know what is expected, or perhaps you can flowchart certain jobs to make sure everyone is doing them the same way. This keeps your level of quality up to your standards, regardless of who is performing the job at hand.
Mistake #3: Expecting Too Much
I once spoke with a small business owner who felt that each employee needed to know every aspect of the business, from materials costs to consumer relations. While that is a great idea in a perfect business world, it isn’t reality. And it is an expectation that can really distress your employer/employee relationship. The only thing that your employee should be well-versed in is the duties that he or she is responsible for. Beyond that, you can teach customer relations skills and other tips and tricks to help them (and you) excel, but don’t expect them to know your business like you do. It’s just not realistic.
Mistake #4: Not Promoting the Team
If you aren’t teaching your employees to work together as a team, you are really missing out. You can’t be successful without the help of the people working for you, so the more you can get them to work together, the higher you’ll climb and the faster you’ll get there. One option for avoiding this mistake is to pair people up so that they learn how to work better together. This could be via a mentor/mentee relationship, or it could simply involve two people who do the exact same job, allowing them to easily share their tips and tricks to help each other succeed. You could also start your staff meetings with team-building exercises. Your employees may roll their eyes at first, but as long as you make them fun, you’ll create a stronger workforce while still having a good time.
Mistake #5: Not Giving Feedback
There is no way your employees are going to know how they are doing if you don’t tell them. That is why providing feedback is so critical. It lets them know where their weaknesses and strengths are, allowing them to grow into better employees. Take the time to tell them how they are doing. You can do it right when it comes to your attention (which is sometimes necessary), or you can also handle it at semi-annual or annual performance evaluations, sharing your thoughts on their work as a whole.
Mistake #6: Being Condescending
While we’re talking about feedback, there are two ways to give it. You can be supportive when telling them what they need to know or you can be condescending, which will likely hold you back from reaching your goals. You always want to start out with a positive when providing feedback that isn’t exactly stellar. This shows them that you recognize their hard work and respect them for what they do for you. And when you share what you’re not so happy with, do it in a way that isn’t accusatory and puts them on the defensive. For instance, maybe you could say, “I was watching you with that customer and I like how you smiled the entire time. It seemed to really put them at ease. In regard to their question about our website, how about next time you show them by using our computers on the counter? I think it would help if they saw it firsthand.” This gets your point across in a way that promotes positive behavior without making them feel as if they are a substandard employee.
Mistake #7: Not Being a Leader
Although this particular mistake is listed as the final one, it is also one of the most important. The only way to take your employees to successful levels is to lead them there. You are the commander, the head of the pack, and the best one to show them the way, like a teacher that helps students excel. Don’t be afraid to step right in and take care of business, doing some hands on work if necessary so they can see exactly how you want things done. It may be uncomfortable for the moment, but failure to lead can result in a lifetime of hurt. Avoid these seven common employee-related mistakes and let your business (and your profits) soar!