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16 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

Speaking at a conference recently, I was wrapping things up and opened the floor to questions. All started well enough, until this one guy got the mic. He just would not, well, shut up. His questions were all prefaced with lengthy monologues and the queries themselves were all about his specific, particular situation. On and on and on he went. Finally, with the audience clearly exasperated, I had to be more direct than I preferred, interrupted him, and told him I had to move on.

 

He was not happy.

 

Everyone else was.

 

It seems that no matter where you work, there is always someone who just doesn’t “get it” – people who are obnoxious, rude, lazy, loud, mean, narcissistic, selfish, manipulative, clueless, whatever. It is a wonder they ever get hired.

 

These are the people with very low levels of emotional intelligence.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

To understand what this means, think of the opposite of that coworker: The people in the office who really do get it; the ones who are good listeners, good conversationalists, smart, witty, fun, bright, giving, hard-working, and friendly are the ones typically with a lot of emotional intelligence.

 

That’s the kind of person people like and bosses love.

 

So what is emotional intelligence, exactly? Emotional intelligence refers to a certain savviness with emotions, in regard to one’s own emotions as well as those of others. It includes the ability to comprehend and identify emotions, and apply them usefully to life’s daily tasks. Emotional intelligence also entails having a sense of empathy and the ability to understand and appreciate other peoples’ moods.

 

Psychology Today puts it this way:

 

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:

 

1. Emotional awareness

2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and

3. The ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”

 

It goes without saying that these sorts of skills come in very handy at work.

 

The concept of emotional intelligence has been ingraining itself into workplace discourse for a few years now. Relating emotional intelligence to workplace success is not an obscure idea; these days, it makes an actual, material, financial difference. And as such, as a boss or manager, it would behoove you to take emotional intelligence into consideration in the hiring, firing, and management of employees.

 

Consider the many benefits of hiring, supporting, and promoting the emotionally intelligent person:

 

They are empathetic: Hiring someone with empathy carries its own set of obvious benefits. Empathy allows people to understand and connect with others, a trait very valuable when dealing with co-workers - as well as customers. Empathy also helps create a tolerant work environment. Empathetic employees and managers are also, generally, well-liked and great team members. In short, empathy means someone has natural, effortless people skills.

 

28402228_s (1).jpgThey are self-aware: Emotionally intelligent people have a keen sense of self-awareness. They can identify the source of their emotions and reactions, understand how they are affecting other people, and respond to this knowledge accordingly. Compare that to those people who react strongly, irrationally, and without stopping to consider whether they might be justified.

 

With whom would you rather work? Exactly.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Want to be a Great Boss? Develop these Traits

 

They are thoughtful: Emotionally intelligent people think before they act, which is important in so many aspects of work life: Making quick executive decisions, interacting with fellow employees, juggling deadlines, interacting with customers, and so on. People want to work with people who carefully consider the best course of action.

 

They are dynamic thinkers: People with high emotional intelligence can go beyond linear, black-and-white categorical thinking. They see gray. That type of dynamic thinking allows for resourcefulness, clever problem solving, and innovation – just the type of thing you want in today’s ever-changing and demanding workplace.

 

What I am suggesting is that, as a boss, it would be emotionally intelligent of you to prioritize emotional intelligence.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

A few years ago, a large franchise association conducted a survey of its franchisees to find out what separated the best from the rest.

 

Was it advertising, marketing, location? No, no, and no. The missing piece is you.Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

It goes without saying that there are many factors that contribute to a business’s overall success. Having loyal customers, standing out among the crowd, budgeting wisely and great customer service all come into play. However, there is one factor in particular that is as important as it is overlooked and undervalued, and it is the one that the franchise survey revealed:

 

The most important factor in creating a great small business? Being a good boss.

 

Yep, that’s right. The common denominator between the franchises where profit was solid and consistent, where employees were happy and devoted, and where customers were plentiful and consistent was the quality of the boss. Great bosses create great businesses and bad bosses create, if not bad, at least mediocre ones.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

What this means will probably vary somewhat from business to business and from boss to boss – after all, everyone has different values, visions, and personalities. Just know that the type of boss you are makes a material and lasting difference in the overall success of your business.

 

Think about it. Bosses that manage in a way that is inclusive, friendly, open, and fun (but not too fun!) will most certainly have a happier staff. And, typically, happier employees make for happier customers and happy customers mean a happy boss. It all comes full circle:

 

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Happy boss = happy employees = happy customers = happy boss.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: IS YOUR CUSTOMER TELLING YOU WHAT THEY REALLY WANT?

 

So how can you become the best boss possible and build that happy workforce? In short, it comes down to creating a great work environment, fostering a positive culture, and doing the little things.

 

For starters, it is important to realize that studies have shown that a more relaxed work environment is very closely associated with a positive culture. Micromanaging is out. Trust is in. Respect matters. Similarly, a more relaxed work environment lessens an employee’s fear of making mistakes, and that in turn can allow people to take risks, innovate and test out new ideas.

 

And yet, while creating an environment where employees feel relaxed is one of the most important things you can do as their boss, it is not the only thing; indeed sometimes, it really is the little things that count even more.

 

Employees, just like anyone, want to feel valued and appreciated.  Simple things like giving someone recognition when they have done outstanding work can be just the incentive someone needs. Offering bonuses when warranted doesn’t hurt either. People like to feel noticed and appreciated; honoring that need is vital in creating a positive, extraordinary work environment.

 

A famous example of a big company that gets it is Google. Google’s philosophy is “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.” The Google offices typically include a lot of little perks that add up to one big, positive culture:

 

  • Outdoor work areas

  • Complementary food and beverage

  • Private study rooms

  • Team activities, personally designed desks, and more.

 

Of course, small businesses do not have the budget that Google does, but the guiding principle can still be emulated in any office. Creating a workplace where employees feel valued and nurtured, where they are respected and listened to, a place where it is fun and creative to work, and where little things are done to show them they count is what makes a difference.

 

Quick Tips to Start Building a Great Culture for a Small Business:

 

1. Hire the right attitude for your business. It all starts in the beginning. A bad hire can dampen the mood and rub off on other employees. Make sure the person is the right fit for your company. For example, you wouldn’t want an unfriendly person working at a family-oriented restaurant.

2. Meet with your employees. This is a great way to build relationships and to give feedback on their performance, but remember to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

3. Have fun outside the office. As a small business owner, you might not have the budget to spend a day golfing, but you can host a summer picnic or other budget-friendly activities. This gives employees the opportunity to foster relationships with you and each other. People like working with people they like.

 

Employee retention matters. And you don’t have to Google that to know it’s a fact.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngTech companies are well-known for offering some of the best employee benefit plans. Why? Because they know that to attract and retain the best and the brightest, they need to be a place where people want to work.

 

Take Facebook for instance. The number of benefits offered by the social media giant is too long to list here, but the highlights include:

 

  • Financial: Pension and retirement plans; performance bonuses; stock options, charitable gift matching.
  • Insurance: Full health (including vision and dental); life and disability insurance; mental health; on-site healthcare.
  • Family: Flex-time; maternity and paternity leave; onsite childcare.
  • Vacation: Paid vacation; volunteer time off; sabbaticals.
  • Other perks: Free food; gym memberships; pet friendly; tuition assistance.

 

Fairly amazing, right?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

That said, of course we all know that owning a small business means operating under a tight budget, but what we don’t all know is providing a solid benefits package to your staff does not have to break the bank.

 

You may not be able to afford all the perks Facebook does, however you can probably offer more than you think.

 

At face value, it is certainly easier – and less expensive – to simply give your employees their regular paycheck and required worker’s comp insurance, but the truth is that providing benefits to your employees doesn’t cost, it pays.

 

There are plenty of advantages that come with providing extra benefits:

 

  • Good morale – Doing more than the bare minimum for your hardworking staff is a great and easy way to establish mutual trust and respect. This makes for motivated employees who feel incentivized, thus producing higher quality work.
  • Staff retention – A result of the above also means a lower turnover rate and fewer hours and resources spent on training. In turn, you will get more experienced and trustworthy staff; all of which creates a very positive corporate culture.
  • Healthy employees – Giving your staff health insurance and vacation days will keep their bodies moving and their minds clear.
  • Top talent – Smart, capable, motivated people usually won’t settle for a company that doesn’t provide them with added benefits.

 

45872722_s.jpgRELATED ARTICLES: SMALL BUSINESS RANSOMWARE ATTACKS. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

According to a National Federation of Independent Business poll, health insurance (61 percent), paid vacation (75 percent), and paid sick days (59 percent) are the most common employee benefits offered by small businesses. It is the extra things you offer that often make the biggest difference (and again, they do not need to cost a lot). Here are some examples:

 

Wellness programs: Things like gym access and incentivized fitness programs are very desirable, and as an added bonus, can help reduce your healthcare premiums.

 

Supplemental insurance: Life insurance, for example, is very affordable and a nice perk.

 

Flex-time: Allowing your team to job share for instance, or simply to work when and where they want, is an easy way to be a great employer.

 

Employee discounts: Being able to purchase your company’s product or service at a discount is another desirable bonus; employees will appreciate feeling like a valued member of the team with privileges.

 

Commuting help: Having access to a free parking spot can be very important for a lot of people. By the same token, being bike friendly is becoming more and more popular (and easy to do).

 

Family friendly: Speaking of being friendly, creating a pet-friendly workplace, or one where the kids are welcome to visit, is an easy way to endear yourself to your staff. By the same token, maternity and paternity leave (even unpaid) is a pretty easy way to up your benefits package.

 

Time off: Taking another cue from the Facebook employee benefits playbook, what about offering people time off to volunteer, or building in some three-day weekends into your scheduling?

 

The bottom line: Small businesses need to do whatever they can to attract and retain top talent. Being employee friendly by offering a great benefits package is a critical component to a successful business.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngDid you hear the story about the guy who went to the same office every day, worked at the same desk staring at the same computer, and clocked in and out at the same time every day?

 

Yeah, so did I…in 1997.

 

Nowadays, there is no real reason for anybody to go to an office every day, or any day for that matter. With the rise of digital technology and globalization, it has become common for teams to collaborate remotely; that is, working with other team members who live in different cities, or even completely different parts of the world.

 

This is the beauty of the modern age.

 

Collaborating remotely certainly has its benefits. A whopping 91% of employees feel that they will get more work done remotely than if they were to do their work in the office, according to Ayers Management. Maybe one reason for this is because over half of remote employees interact with their supervisor daily, whereas regular employees only tend to check in a couple times a month. The stronger the communication, the better the results.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

While working with a remote team can be a new and exciting shift in the workplace paradigm, it also comes with its own sets of challenges and obstacles. Time zone differences, technical difficulties such as Wi-Fi connection or lagging video chat, and lacking that unbeatable element of face-to-face conversation are just a few of the hindrances that sometimes get in the way of fluid collaboration.

 

Luckily, there are plenty of tools to help you avoid such problems. Here are my top tips for working with a remote team:

 

Hire smart: Because that special X-factor of face-to-face interaction is missing, you must be more particular about whom you hire. You won’t be able to walk over to a cubicle to check on an employee’s work, so you have to make a point to hire people who: 

 

  • You can trust, and
  • Have a proven track record of being able to work independently

 

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Clearly, employees who need to be micromanaged will not be right for this type of job; instead, you will need people on your team who can rock a deadline, and those who can independently find solutions without much direction.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER EXPORTING YOUR PRODUCT

 

Aside from trust, the other key is communication. You need to hire people who communicate well, who will respond in a timely fashion to emails and texts, and who ask questions and raise concerns without needing to be prompted. These are the people who will help you achieve success.

 

Get techy: What has made this work revolution possible are advancements in technology, so get your geek on and embrace it.

 

  • Use cloud-based chat software. For example, Microsoft 365 with Teams allows you to work collaboratively, in real time. Other good collaboration tools include Basecamp and Google Docs.
  • Video chat. When working remotely, video chatting is another secret ingredient to success. Not only do video chats help you stay connected, but it is also an essential tool for working together and bouncing ideas off one another. Skype, FaceTime, and Google+ chats are your best options.

 

Be available: Even though managing a remote team might make it easier for you to go about your day-to-day routine, it is vital that you remain available to your employees as much as needed. Thorough and consistent communication is one of the most important factors in establishing a successful remote team, so don’t underestimate the value of what it means for an employee to be able to shoot you a text or email whenever needed.

 

  • As a rule, it is a good idea to check in with your team on a regular basis, probably daily
  • Schedule times to talk with each team member individually

 

It can sometimes be hard to keep up with the rapid changes in the workplace, but working remotely might be one you should embrace. According to Ayers Management, 10.6% of employees who work remotely report feeling more valued at work, and in general report a 7% increased rate of happiness at work.

 

A happy employee almost always makes for truly excellent business.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

I have a friend who loves to tell prospective employers that he is “as honest as the day is long.” It seems to me, however, that having to announce how honest you are during the interview process is tantamount to declaring that you are probably not to be trusted, after all, isn’t being an honest employee a given? Why feel the need to highlight that?

 

Maybe that’s why he always seems to be looking for work.

 

But, it does bring up an interesting question: Just what traits are most important when hiring new staff? It is not an insignificant question, that’s for sure. After all, a new employee can improve morale, can become a new profit center, and can keep customers content.

 

On the other hand, they could do the exact opposite.

 

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

If you let the wrong people in the door, there is no end to the potential havoc they may sow. They can steal from you, anger customers, hurt sales, not complete projects, or even sue you when they are eventually fired (i.e. alleging “wrongful termination”.)

 

So finding the right person or persons is critical. In a recent article here in the community, I shared three tips for hiring the right way, including thinking it through thoroughly beforehand, casting a wide net, and taking your time. Today, I want to drill down a bit more into the type of person to be looking for throughout that process; the type of employee that makes everyone better.

 

Let me suggest that there are three underrated traits that are more important than any other.

 

Of course you want someone who is smart and capable. Like being honest, that is a given. You likely want someone with some experience (although that is not always critical). Being dependable is also an obvious and important trait. These qualities can be easily discovered in the early stages of the hiring process. A person’s work and school history, and how they answer a few key questions can reveal if they have these “baseline” key traits.

 

Though often overlooked, here are three other characteristics that, if you find in a candidate, you can almost assure he or she will be a successful hire:

 

1. Coachability: A key characteristic of a great employee is the ability to adapt and grow. That is, can they not only take direction but can they incorporate that feedback, pivot, and make different and better choices? The ability to adjust and make changes is key to hiring an employee who fits in and does things the way you want them done.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, it’s also true that not everyone is cut out to be an employee (yes, that’s me you see raising my hand.) You want to be sure that the person you hire is able to take direction and incorporate feedback.

 

2. Independence: This may seem contradictory to coachability, but it’s not. Aside from finding someone whom you can easily train, you also want someone who can take the initiative and doesn’t need constant supervision. After all, one reason you are hiring employees is to lighten your load and unless they have the ability to think on their feet and do what they see needs to get done, your load won’t be very light.

 

3. Being a team player: The final piece of the hiring puzzle is finding someone who plays well with others. After all, no matter how coachable they are or how much initiative they may take, if they don’t work well as part of your overall team, they will be of little use to you. In the end, they will be a disruptive force and cause more harm than good.

 

So there you have it. You will know you have a winner candidate if you can locate that trainable, independent, team player, especially if they don’t boast about how honest they are.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Steve Strauss

You’re Fired!

Posted by Steve Strauss Jul 15, 2015

I was once fired from a job because, my manager said, I did not “write well enough.” Given that this was two months before my first book was about to be published (though my manager didn’t know that fact), you can imagine my surprise, but that made it no less difficult. I had a wife and new child at home. What was I going to do? For me, getting fired was one of those “blessing in disguise” moments; it forced me to start my first real business. (And, yes, I must admit that I sent that manager an autographed copy of my book when it came out.)

 

But let’s be frank: Almost always, firing an employee is a tough situation for everyone involved. Of course it’s a life altering moment for the employee on many fronts – financially, ego-wise, with regard to future employment, just to name a few. But firing is difficult for everyone else involved too – for the manager tasked with sharing the bad news, for the morale of the office (usually), and for other employees who worry about their own jobs. Firing an employee can also be seen as a sign of failure on the part of the company; if the person had been vetted properly during the hiring process, firing may have been unnecessary. Firing isn’t easy on anybody.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

The final thing to note up front about firing someone is that it should be the last action in a fairly formal and very transparent process, the process being:

 

  • Identify the problem
  • Explain what performance / actions / benchmarks are expected instead
  • Provide training, coaching, and resources
  • Have follow-up performance reviews

 

All of these actions must be documented for two reasons:

 

First, documentation puts everyone on the same page: what is wrong and what needs to be righted can be seen in black and white.

 

Second, documentation is critical to the legal aspect of a potential firing – both proving that you were even-handed and fair throughout the process as well as creating a paper trail to prove your case, should you ever need it.

 

If, after documenting the transgressions and the requested course correction, you still do not see the desired results, then it is time to terminate the employee.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You need to call a meeting and explain to the employee that he or she is being let go, and why. But, that said, if you have done your job right (above) the firing should come as no surprise.

 

One thing to note is that in most states, employees are considered “at will.” This means that they work at the will of their employer and can be fired for (almost) any reason, or no reason. I say “almost” any because you cannot fire someone for a discriminatory reason, that is, because of their race, gender, religion, and so on. You also cannot fire someone out of retaliation, for example, if they legally were required to attend jury duty and missed work.

 

The fired employee will need some practical logistical information that you need to have answers to:

 

  • When is their official end date?
  • When will they receive their last paycheck?
  • What will happen with their benefits?
  • Is there a severance package?

 

It is good practice to have a witness with you when firing the employee. The witness can testify that you followed proper procedure during the termination process, that you shared necessary information, and that you did not fire out of retaliation or discrimination. (And if you think a lot of this advice is to protect you legally should the employee later sue for wrongful termination, you are right.)

 

Final tip: Do not argue. Sure, you can and should explain your decision, but to the extent possible, make it short and simple, and reinforce what your documentation process identified. Afterwards, gather your team, talk about the firing, and what it means for them. Be aware that their emotions may also be running high and reassure them to the extent possible.

 

If you have followed this process and the ex-employee understands why you took the actions you did, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any backlash or legal challenge to the firing (and only in very rare cases will you receive a book from your ex-employee.)

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss

Hiring the Right Way

Posted by Steve Strauss Jul 1, 2015

I once had an assistant whom I fired after only two weeks. Whose fault was that, hers or mine? Both probably.

 

There is a concept in business today that says you should hire slow and fire fast. This means two things:

 

  1. First, it means that the smart small business person will take their time throughout the hiring process, from creating a job description all the way through several rounds of interviews. You need to make sure that the potential new employee has the right qualifications, his references check out, and that he will fit your culture. You need to do your due diligence. Don’t rush it.
  2. That said, it also means that once you realize that someone is not fitting – for whatever reason – that you let him or her go sooner rather than later.

 

In the case of my old assistant, I didn’t really follow the first rule. In need of immediate help for a big contract I had just gotten, and not wanting to get bogged down in what could have been a long hiring process, I hired the first person that seemed right. Only she wasn’t. We didn’t click (which was my fault), and let’s just say that she had puffed up her resume (which was definitely her fault.)

 

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

Lesson hopefully learned! I’ve certainly never made that mistake again (others yes, but not that one.)

 

Hiring the right person is a three-step process:

 

  • First, you need to think through carefully what it is you need from this employee
  • Second, you need to cast a wide net, and
  • Third, yes, you need to be sure to take your time throughout the process

 

Let’s drill down a bit into each.

 

The only way to find the right person for the job is by first knowing exactly what it is you need and what the job will entail. Understanding clearly what it is you want from this new employee and what their duties will be, not only helps you in the short run as you advertise for the position, but is equally critical for the new person to be able to perform his or her job properly.

 

Make a list of qualifications and duties, especially since new hires may be filling positions you have not filled before. Consider the culture of your small business. Think about what the new employee needs to know, understand, and be able to communicate. Then use that analysis to create a detailed job description. This will be useful both internally and externally. Externally, your accurate job description will serve as the basis of your help-wanted ad. Internally, it will help you analyze the applicants and narrow down the field. 

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Casting a wide net is equally important because it will help ensure that you find the right person for the job. Nothing in the hiring process is worse than taking the time and spending the money necessary to hire a new employee, only to realize after the fact that you either made a mistake or that there’s someone better out there. You can avoid that by listing your job wherever appropriate: On Craigslist and the many job boards (Monster.com, etc.), putting up a sign in your store if appropriate, and most importantly, by putting the word out to your network. Nothing beats a personal referral.

 

Finally, be sure to take your time throughout the hiring process. Your perfect employee may see your ad or hear about your opening the first week, but maybe not. Their cover letter and resume may come in on day one, but probably not. Taking your time means sifting through the many applicants you will hear from and finding a half dozen or so that seem to be the best fit. It then means interviewing them once, probably twice and it means following up with references.

 

Yes, all of this is a lot of work, but it should be worth it. As the carpenter says: “Measure twice, cut once.”

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Why, anybody can have a brain. They are a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous animal that crawls on the Earth or slinks through the slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they’ve got one thing you haven’t got: A diploma.

 

- The Wizard, The Wizard of Oz

 

In this case, the Wizard was talking to the Scarecrow, but the same can be said about small business versus their big business cousins. As you well know, they’ve got things you haven’t got – bigger budgets, greater reach, and more manpower.

 

But, that said, you’ve got something they haven’t got, and maybe something far more important: The personal touch. This is especially true when it comes to customer relations.

 

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One of the things people appreciate most about shopping with their local small business is that it is generally more personal than a large retail experience.

 

This is certainly borne out in the results of the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR.) According to the Report,

 

“Establishing relationships with customers is a primary driver of repeat business. More than half (57%) of survey respondents feel they get repeat business because of relationships they have developed with their customer base. This sentiment is even stronger among Baby Boomer small business owners (71%) compared with 47% of Millennials and 53% of Gen-Xers.”

 

The SBOR comes out twice a year and one of the best things about it is that, because it is a survey of small business owners, it is a great way to pick up tips from successful entrepreneurs. This edition of the SBOR is no different. Indeed, when you look at how the survey respondents show their appreciation for their customers – how they market[DP1] the stuff that they’ve got that other businesses don’t – you can discover a lot of super ideas.

 

The two most common ways that small business owners said they showed their appreciation were:

 

Monetary (29%): There is nothing like a sale to both draw interest to your store and say thank you to your customers. In fact, if you really want to stand out, then have a sale, not for the general public, but for your best customers only. Similarly, offering discounts or coupons to your best customers is smart.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Events and Celebrations (29%): Along the same lines, consider having a special invitation only customer appreciation event.

 

One thing that the SBOR makes clear is that making it personal is a hallmark of these successful small business owners. As such, the Report lists a few other ideas that you might want to consider:

 

Personalized gifts (25%): As we all know, receiving a thank you gift is good, but receiving a thank you gift that really fits and took some extra thought is great. Your customers will think the same thing if you take the time to personalize your gift.

 

Referral programs (25%): “Refer a friend and get 15% off your next purchase.” Referral programs are popular among customers because people love getting things for at a discount (or free!) For the small business, referrals are extra special because they create that most treasured of marketing bonanzas: Word of mouth advertising.

 

Loyalty programs(24%): You have seen them of course, and are probably a member of a few. Whether it is a stamp card for a free car wash or a free sandwich or whatever, customers love and appreciate loyalty rewards programs and points.

 

So take it from the small business owners who were part of this SBOR; showing appreciation is the way to reinforce the one thing you have that no one else does, namely, an already-solid relationship with your customers.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steven A. Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steven A. Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steven A. Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 


Are you a small business owner looking to hire but having a tough time finding the right person? If so, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), you are not alone. Almost half of the small business owners surveyed in the Spring 2015 SBOR are having similar issues.

 

The good news is that there are some smart and easy things you can do to rectify the situation.

 

First, we should note just how far the economy has come in the past few years. For starters, according to this latest SBOR, almost half of all small business owners surveyed planned on hiring additional employees over the next 12 months. Given that the “Not-So-Great-Recession” is not that far in our rearview mirror, the fact that so many small business owners are looking to increase staffing is both remarkable, and welcome.

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Indeed, according to the SBOR, small business owners’ confidence in the economy rose eight percent over last year, with more than half stating that they are confident that both their local economy, as well as the national economy, is going to continue to improve.

 

So yes, hooray, small business optimism is booming!

 

The bad news (as it were) is that, as indicated, 41% of those small business owners surveyed stated that they are struggling to find qualified job candidates. There were several reasons for this according to the SBOR results. The owners surveyed indicated that the job candidates either:

 

  1. Lacked the skill sets they are seeking (59%), or
  2. Had salary expectations that were too high (45%), or
  3. Preferred to work for a large or midsize brand (29%), or
  4. Wanted benefits that aren’t provided (26%)

 

If you are a small business owner, there really is not much you can do about Reason #3; if someone wants to work for a bigger company, so be it. But the other three reasons? There are definitely some savvy ways to work around those so that you can get the employee you want and need.

 

1. The employee lacks the skill set you are seeking: Back in law school, I had a friend named Eric. Eric was a smart guy for sure, but he was not our top student by any means. But, what he may have lacked in scholastic intelligence he more than made up for in emotional intelligence. People loved Eric. He was personable, funny, easy to work with, and took direction well.

 

“What people are looking for when they are looking to hire someone Steve, are two things,” he told me. “First, yes, they want someone who is smart and experienced and has the basic skills necessary to do the job. But I think, more than that, what they want is also someone with whom they will like working eight or ten hours a day.”

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Eric’s offers after law school ended up proving him right. He had four interviews with major firms upon graduation and received three offers. Most of us were happy if we got one.

 

The point is this, skills can be taught. That is what training is for. Indeed, according to the SBOR, “Small business owners are increasingly opting to train and develop existing personnel. Among individuals who plan to apply for a loan, 38% plan to use the funding for employee training and development.”

 

That’s smart thinking.

 

So, look for someone like Eric; a candidate who is smart and personable and who is coachable. You can teach people like Eric the skills they need and then you really end up with a great employee – not only someone who can do the job right (because they were trained to do the job right) but also someone who can grow with your company (because that is part of their skill set.

 

2. Salary and benefit expectations are seemingly unreasonable: I am lumping numbers 2 and 4 together here because they are two sides of the same coin. In some ways, small businesses can never compete with big businesses. When it comes to pricing for instance, their larger volume and buying power usually means that a big corporation can offer lower prices than a small business.

 

Give them that. That’s their playing field.

 

But, by the same token, small business can do things that big business can’t, and that’s the secret. Play on your field. Use your strengths to your advantage when looking to hire.

 

For instance, the flexibility and personal touch you can offer are unique. Whether it’s flex time or a creative title or job sharing or tickets to the ballgame, a small business can often be very creative when it comes to benefits. And you know that once you find the job candidate that appreciates that, you are on the right track to hiring a person who can make a difference.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steven A. Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steven A. Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steven. Consult your competent financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

A few years ago, the California Chamber of Commerce surveyed some of the best, most successful small businesses in the state. What the Chamber wanted to figure out was what these successful small businesses had in common. So they asked several questions, including the following (and yes, please feel free to score yourself at home):

“The real key to business success is . . .

 

  1. Hard work and perseverance
  2. Having valuable products
  3. Offering real customer service
  4. Advertising and marketing
  5. Having great employees”

 

A case could be made for almost any one of these answers of course since all are important in their own way. But, that said, the most common answer among these successful entrepreneurs was . . .

 

“E. Having great employees.”

 

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When you think about it, that makes sense, especially for a small business. Employees are the ones who make things happen and are the ones on the front lines.

 

The success cycle goes something like this:

 

The entrepreneur takes care of his or her employees. This makes the employees happy. The happy employees do their job better and take better care of customers. In turn, the customers are happy. Those happy customers become repeat customers and those repeat customers create a profitable business.

 

The thing to notice is that this whole system – from satisfied customers, to a happy culture, to making money – all stem from how well the owner cares for his or her staff members.

 

You can certainly follow the reverse logic too. It’s hard to imagine how unhappy, overworked, under-appreciated employees could represent a company well, and how customers would leave their interactions with those employees with any good vibes at all about the business.

 

It is no surprise that the latest edition of Bank of America’s Small Business Owner Report (SBOR) indicates that “when it comes to their employees, small business owners overwhelmingly find the need to reward them and show their appreciation in a variety of ways.” Indeed, a whopping 94% of the small business owners surveyed in the Report indicate that they have some sort of employee appreciation program.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

From the expected to the creative, what is surprising is how varied the different forms of appreciation can take. For starters, the owners surveyed offer the type of perks and benefits that employees clearly like:

 

  • Flexible hours (56%)
  • Paid vacation time (46%)
  • Regular salary bonuses (43%)

 

But, more than this, what we see in this edition of the Small Business Owner Report is that small business owners also understand that appreciation needs to be shown in many different ways, and so that is what they do. According to the SBOR, employee appreciation programs include things as varied as

 

  • Dinners and outings (46%)
  • Spot bonuses (44%)
  • Office recognition programs (35%)
  • Extra time off (34%)
  • Off-cycle raises or promotions (25%)

 

One of the interesting things to notice about these stats is that, first and foremost, the small business owners surveyed see that benefits must include many different forms of compensation, from salary to bonuses to paid time off. The reason this is important is two-fold:

 

  1. Of course, for starters, employees work to make money.
  2. But just as importantly maybe, is that employees work for reasons beyond just money. As the Harvard Business Review has stated, “compensation is more than just a paycheck. It is a signal to the individual about his or her value to the organization.”

 

  That is one of the real takeaways from this edition of the SBOR. Small business owners get just how important employees are to their overall success. These owners’ endeavors to show their appreciation by rewarding those whose hard work fosters



About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steven A. Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steven A. Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steven A. Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Whoever said “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” might have easily been describing the joys, and potential sorrows, of working with family. The good news is that you know your family and can trust them with your beloved business. Working with loved ones can be fun. The bad news is that when things go wrong, they can really go haywire.

 

In fact, there are seven areas where mixing family and business can be particularly tricky. Be careful with these potential pitfalls:

 

1. Hiring: Especially with a new business, an entrepreneur may bring in a spouse, or sibling, or even an adult child, to help out and get the business off the ground. These sorts of arrangements are usually casual, and as such, important issues such as compensation, hours, duties, and so on may not be discussed as extensively as they would be with a regular employee. Needless to say, this can lead to misunderstandings.

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The solution is to treat the relative as an employee first and as a relative second. Be the boss, as uncomfortable as that may be initially.

 

2. Unequal treatment: The possible problem with hiring a loved one to work for you compared to your other employees is two-fold:

 

  • First, whether or not you treat the family member equally to everyone else, there will be a built-in perception that the family employee will receive special treatment. This is understandably bad for morale.
  • Second, family-member employees may think that they are deserving of special treatment; after all, they are related to the boss. If you don’t give them that special treatment, they may come to resent you – justified or not.

 

The solution here is frank communication with your loved one. Make sure they know that it is in everyone’s best interest that you treat them equally.

 

3. When world’s collide: Being someone’s husband or brother or dad is inherently different than being someone’s boss, or even business partner. Big problems can ensue when you mix the two worlds and roles get co-mingled.

 

Consider this: It’s late November and you two are having some issue at work. All of a sudden, not only do you have a work problem, but you have a family problem too as Thanksgiving is looming and you have to put the problem and work roles aside for the sake of family harmony around the Thanksgiving table. Easier said than done sometimes.

 

The challenge is that work relationships can stretch family ties, and family issues can interfere with work. 


Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


4. Power struggles: Your employee may not like or expect you to assert the power and control you may need to in order to run your business effectively. The very nature of being a boss means that the relationship is unequal. Similarly, while you likely value your loved one’s judgment in many areas, that simply may not be as true in your work world.

 

5. Dispute resolution: Again, the way you resolve disputes with your family may not be how it happens at the office, and what works at work may not be what works at home. They are two different worlds with different rules and cultures.

 

6. Firing: As if all of this were not tricky enough, now it gets really tricky: What if things don’t work out with your family member? How do you let them go without causing a major family rift? You and your loved one need to have good communication. He or she needs to know that they will be treated like all other employees, for better or for worse.

 

7. Exiting the company: Is your loved one expecting a piece of the pie? Does he have a right of first refusal to buy your business in case you want to sell? Succession issues like these need to be worked out well in advance of retirement.

 

The upshot of all of this is that, of course, there are many benefits to working with family. Just be sure that everyone is on the same page so that work issues do not interfere with your familial bond.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



We all know, or have heard, that a company’s most important asset are its employees. In my opinion, it is rare to come across entrepreneurs who truly stand by this statement.   Too often, a small business owner treats his or her employees like a disposable item. 

 

On the other hand, there are employers who understand the importance of this statement. These are the folks who walk the talk; the small business owners who give their employees autonomy, respect, great work environments, good salary, and extra benefits, among other things.

 

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How do you compare? Let’s see:

 

Not long ago, I came across a list compiled by The Great Place to Work Institute (GPWI). The list consisted of a variety of factors that both employees and managers consider the most important in making a business a great place to work.

 

The list was interesting for all sorts of reasons. The  list is very similar to the traits you see when you look at Fortune Magazine’s annual rankings of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. According to Fortune, what they look at are four areas: credibility (communication to employees), respect (opportunities and benefits), fairness (compensation, diversity), and pride/camaraderie (philanthropy, celebrations). In 2014, Google topped the Fortune list.

 

GPWI also creates an annual list of the best places to work, but their list focuses on small and medium-sized companies. In 2014, the top small company to work for in the country was Granite Properties in Texas. And it’s not hard to understand why:

 

“Staff rave about the real estate investment company’s family-like atmosphere as much as they praise managers’ leadership skills. Granite [makes sure] employees have a say in business decisions, and the CEO gathers employees for regular informal brown bag lunches at all of the company’s locations where he learns — and remembers — people’s names. Employees say they are paid fairly and have great benefits. Staff work together to improve the community too, thanks in part to 40 hours of paid volunteer time.”

 

What is it that makes a small business a great place to work? It’s trust. According to GPWI, great workplaces are built through the day-to-day relationships that employees experience — not a checklist of programs and benefits. The key factor in common in these relationships is trust. From the employee’s perspective, a great workplace is one where they trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Looking over the whole list of these great employers, a few consistent traits emerged:

 

Friendly Communication: Great workplaces are places where communication occurs regularly, easily, and informally. 

 

Great Benefits: Great small business employers do more than what is required, they do what is desired. It might be a great party, financial planning seminars, an on-site gym, a wellness program or an extra holiday off. Whatever the case, going above and beyond for its employees is what makes an employer great. And of course, grateful employees usually reciprocate many times over.

 

Work Together as a Team: According to GPWI, great workplaces achieve organizational goals by inspiring, speaking and listening. They have employees who give their personal best because they are appreciated, thanked, and are cared for. And they work together as a team/ family by hiring, celebrating and sharing.

 

Values: In the excellent book Built to Last, author Jim Collins explains that great businesses are built on values first and profits second. The same holds true for these great small business employers. They have values that everyone buys into, and these values are reinforced in all they do.

 

So the recipe is clear: Be fair. Be flexible. Treat employees like adults. Pay well. Have core values. Have fun.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



One summer, I interned at a law firm in San Francisco. I wanted to impress the partners so that they would offer me a job after I graduated the following year. This was back in the day when law firms really wined-and-dined their potential associates.

 

Man, I loved that summer.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

The partners took us river rafting, invited us to fancy dinners and drinks at their homes, and yes, they even took us in a hot-air balloon. Oh yeah, we also did a little work too. Needless to say, I really wanted to work at that firm. Well, I got my chance a year later, and let’s just say that the real world was a tad different than my summer of fun.

 

It turns out that many businesses are learning that one of the smartest things they can do, especially at this time of year, is to take advantage of the natural rhythms of the season and give employees their own summer fun.

 

In fact, if you take a close look at the latest edition of the spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that many employers are taking this idea of creating a strong culture seriously. The Report found that almost nine in 10 small business owners offer some type of benefits to their employees.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

If you want to engage your employees this summer, here are a few tips mentioned in the SBOR that will make your employees feel more engaged:

 

1. Offer flexible work hours: Forty-five percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the SBOR said that they reward their staff with flexible hours and/or they let them work from home. While this used to be an exotic idea, it is much more commonplace today. Between the cloud, smart phones, apps and laptops, anyone can work anywhere at any time.

 

https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/4542/Image-CTA-v2.1.gifSo let them.

 

Especially during the summer, it makes sense to give employees some flexibility and some time to enjoy the nice weather.  By allowing your employees to get work done at a time more convenient for them, they will reward you with their loyalty and hard work.

 

2. Share amenities like free lunch, massages, etc. When you visit a large, successful Internet company like Google or Facebook, one thing that is very noticeable is the amount of free (or subsidized) food available. No, it’s not cheap, but it is a benefit that keeps people at the office and not taking two-hour lunches.

 

For small businesses, one alternative might be to provide free, healthy snacks like fruit and water, which are affordable and appreciated.

 

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3. Lead team building events:  According to the SBOR, only about 25 percent of the small business owners surveyed used this tactic, and I think that is a mistake. In the summertime, when everyone is thinking about a lot more than just work, a fun event together away from the office is often just what the doctor ordered. Whether it is going out to dinner, a game, or a concert together, a team-building event is the best way to grow as a team and build a strong culture.

 

4. Allow social media at work: This is a tricky one. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they use this tactic to reward employees. However, as we all know, social media can easily gobble up a whole lot more time than one anticipates and potentially decrease productivity in the office. I recommend offering this perk to employees as it is a great way to take a short mental break from work, but certainly speak up if you feel the privilege is being abused.

 

5. Give unexpected freebies: Give employees some free time off. Have a spontaneous contest and give the winner a pair of seats to a game. Buy gift cards from Starbucks and hand them out. Give everyone an unannounced afternoon off.

 

This is the time of year when people like to take advantage of the outdoors. Let them and you and your business will both be rewarded.

 

What are some techniques that you use to engage your employees? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

If you are like most entrepreneurs, you went into business for yourself for at least one of the following reasons:

  • You wanted a better work situation
  • You wanted to be your own boss

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  • You wanted more freedom and free time
  • You wanted more creativity at work
  • All of the above

 

One of the little known facts of small business life is while most of the above certainly is possible, getting more freedom and free time is pretty difficult.

 

When you worked for someone else, getting a week or two off a year was easy and you didn’t worry too much about the complications of your time away. But when you are an entrepreneur, taking time off can have bigger ramifications (or at least it can feel that way). While it is common for a small business owner to steal an extra few days off here and there, the two-week stay in Hawaii often goes by the wayside.

 

 

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The thing is we all need time off to recharge our batteries— and the people who know this best are our counterparts over in Europe. In France, people are guaranteed at least five weeks of paid vacation time a year. While that is not how it works here in the U.S., with warmer weather around the corner it would behoove you to re-examine your vacation policies for both yourself and your employees, so that everyone gets some much-needed time away.

 

Let’s take a closer look at each approach:

 

Vacation plans for yourself: If you’re your own boss, be a good one. Give yourself a break. Even better, give yourself a long break— you deserve it. Here’s how:

 

 

1. Plan ahead. This means:

  • Saving enough money so you can get away without financial stress;
  • Telling clients and customers that you will be gone and for how long;
  • Making a list of essential things that still need to happen while you’re away.


2. Hand off your duties to an employee, a temp or a virtual assistant: Getting away requires having someone around who can keep everything running without you. No, they cannot do everything you do, but you just might be surprised how much they can do with proper training and good communication. To make sure things are running smoothly, consider having a chat every few days over the phone.


3. Get more done early: Get as much extra work done as you can before you go. By getting ahead, you make getting away much easier.


4. Schedule a time buffer when you get back: Here’s another trick to lessen the stress upon your return. Don’t tell everyone you will be back in the office Monday, tell them Wednesday. Then, when you start working again on Monday you can have a few days of uninterrupted time to catch up.


Vacation plans for your staff: Are there any sorts of leave policies that you can adopt that will not only make your employees happy, but will make your workplace exceptional?

 

You bet.

 

Most small businesses have basic time-off policies where employees get X number of sick days, and X number of vacation, holiday and personal days off per year, with the vacation days usually increasing as the years go by. On average, full-time employees in the U.S. usually get about 17 or 18 days off per year (nothing like Europe!), while professional, long-term employees could receive up to 30 days or more.

 

Why not consider adopting a new trend for employee time off, one that I am seeing more and more of these days. Many employers are pooling all of their employees’ time-off days intapril 7 pull quote.pngo a day-off “bank”. Employees may get, for instance, 150 total hours off per year (about 19 work days). The “bank” would add all personal days off, time off for holidays, time for vacation and sick days together. But instead of divvying them up into pre-defined categories, it is up to the employee to take off the days he or she wants, when he or she wants them (within the needs of the business, of course).

 

 

The main benefit of this plan is that it allows employees to use their time as they see fit. If they want to take time off for Ramadan or Yom Kippur, or take a personal day to take care of a few appointments, that’s their choice, and they don't have to call in sick or make up an excuse. In fact, they can use the day-off bank for vacation, personal time, sick days or whatever they choose. Some employers even allow employees who bank more than say, 80 hours, to redeem the excess hours by exchanging them for cash or extra time off.

 

This sort of creative time-off program is one of the intangible benefits that separate great small businesses from the pack, and, maybe best of all, it gives employees a greater variety of options to organize their own time off.

 

Have you recently updated your time-off policy? Share your story below.


About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

With spring around the corner, both businesses and college students alike are thinking about summer internships. Small business owners love interns because they not only provide an extra pair of hands, but they are lively, eager to learn and can offer a fresh perspective oSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngn the day-to-day running of a business.

 

That said, it can be tricky to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship for both you and your intern. You of course want your intern to learn and contribute, but you also need to be sure that your business continues to run effectively.  When you decide that you want to hire an intern, keep in mind these dos and don’ts of the hiring process that can help you each get the most out of your respective experiences:

 

Do hire like it’s a job. An intern should be more than just an extra pair of hands, so you need to hire your intern as if you are hiring another regular staff member. Be thorough and careful about whom you bring in. You want someone trustworthy who fits with the culture of your business.

 

Do create a valuable experience. Back in the day, I was a member of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs— a full-time, nine month, graduate-level experiential leadership training program that rotated internship opportunities. The best internship I experienced was my time with a local labor leader, where I shadowed him throughout his daily meetings and negotiations. The worst one I experienced was my time working for a media company, where I was put into an empty office with nothing to do for three weeks.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

If you are fortunate enough to find interns who want to work at your office for little pay, then make it worth their while. They are typically very capable and eager to please. Use that. Give them real work. Let them sit in on meetings. Give realistic assignments for their skill level. Don’t just give them busy work that renders them unable to learn.

 

Don’t forget to give your interns proper training, supervision and a mentor. Interns don’t work out when they are given little or no training, supervision or feedback. You have to help them help you and often, the best way to do that is to assign a mentor to the intern. Having one point person give direction and march 5 pull quote.pngmentor the intern makes the intern feel secure, and also gives you a way of ensuring that he or she is getting their work done properly and on time.

 

Do make sure to include some play. Most college students are not yet used to the 9 to 5 grind, and typically have more down time during their normal day. By including some fun into their experience— maybe an afternoon at a ballgame or free tickets to a local concert that you sponsored— the internship can also infuse your business with some energy.

 

Don’t lower expectations. A good intern wants to be challenged and wants to impress. Let them.

 

Bringing in interns might be a little more work than you expect, and it might take some time for each new intern to settle into his or her role.  But, the experience is rewarding for both yourself and your intern if you offer them an exceptional experience.  And who knows— maybe they’ll spread the word about how great it is to work for you!

 

Are you planning on hiring an intern this summer? Share your thoughts below.

 


About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

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