Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Power of being a little bit BETTER

by Jonathan Habbershon, High Center Associate

Jay Goltz, serial entrepreneur
Great employees make a company great; they can even differentiate you from your competition.  The first part of having great employees is bringing them in.  Interviewing and following up on references are critical to determining the excellence of an employee before they even begin working for you.  According to Jay Goltz 75% of management is hiring the right person from the beginning.  Start with writing a detailed job description in order to attract the right people, advertise well and perhaps you will attract a competitor’s best employee away, have the RIGHT person interview and always check references. 
Managing great employees that are competent, work hard and are loyal is much easier than constantly trying to coach someone to learn those skills.  After an employee has been properly checked train them very well.  Create lists of all possible adverse scenarios that can happen and train your new employees on how to handle each one.  Teach employees to practice how to interact with customers before they ever interact with a customer; by doing so you are diminishing the risk of a newer employee turning away a potential client.  One bad employee can ruin the appearance of an entire organization to a customer and not only will they never come back to you but they’ll only give you bad press when your name does come up.
Despite hiring great employees there comes a time when some need to be let go.  The most productive employee in your company can be one of your worst personalities and can negatively impact the work lives of the rest of the company.  Jay Goltz made a critical point regarding nurturing environments and family businesses; you can be the most nurturing environment in business but at the end of the day that does not mean you keep employees that create hostile work environments.  This becomes especially difficult in a family business because at times that employee can be a family member.  The duty of the business owner is to protect the business and if anything you’d be doing a disservice to the rest of your work force and the company as whole by keeping the difficult employees.  Jay offered up a good test to determine if a company has any employees like that: “Is there anyone in your company that if they walked in to your office Monday morning and quit your first instinct would be to sigh in relief?”    It is Jay’s opinion that you as the business owner need to begin the process of letting that employee go.
Releasing employees is never an easy task and never fun.  There are three ways to handle a difficult employee.  You can “Fix” the issue with coaching and teamwork and hopefully they’ll respond well.  You can “Fire” the employee perhaps after a warning or two, or even after the “Fix” stage.  Firing an employee can be tough simply because you will have to pay unemployment; this is a factor to be considered but should not be a deterrent from firing someone.  Finally “Flee” is the process of encouraging an employee to look elsewhere.  Do not bully employees out the door, or make their situation uncomfortable but let them know their behavior is not going to be tolerated and perhaps they should look elsewhere.  Ultimately your focus should always be towards making your business just a little bit better and remembering that you’re only as good as your worst employee. 
 --adapted from serial entrepreneur and columnist Jay Goltz’s presentation to the High Center for Family Business membership and guests on March 22, 2012.  Jay can be found at

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