I always wondered how I was able to progress so quickly early in my career as a marketer. I only had 1 year of solid marketing experience before becoming a manager for a team of 5 in my own department. But now that I am not an employee, and instead an employer, I realise how hard it is to find good workers.
One of the challenges small businesses face is finding great employees. As a small business we have little to offer talented people. I remember my first job out of Uni was a part time marketing gig with a small business. They had 3 employees, a receptionist, a sales manager and a program developer. While it was a great first gig, I knew I was only there to get some work experience under my belt. There was no growth opportunity and the marketing experience and exposure would be limited to flyer drops and logo designs with basic admin coordination. And this is where the problem lays for small business owners. As a small business we struggle to retain workers with initiative and drive because those type of workers are looking for personal and professional growth. It also happens to be that those same workers are among the best of your employees because they bring new ideas to the table and problem solve for your business.
Talented workers were easy to find when I was a manager for a leading airline and recruiting new marketing assistants and coordinators. Yes, it was still hit and miss but there are a lot of people who want to work for a large brand so they can enjoy long stable careers and all the benefits large companies can offer them. The roles are attractive and the remuneration is too. But as a business owner, its a whole different ball game. Competing on remuneration is not the key to securing a great employee. It will attract a larger pool of applicants, but it doesn’t solve your underlying problems. The key problem is retention. Once you have found a great employee who has drive and initiative to help you grow your business, what can you offer them that a large business can not?
Everyone is motivated by different things. So understanding your employees and both their personal and work related motivations will help you retain great workers. However, you need to know when some workers can not be retained, simply because your business is limited to its offering, for example career growth. It’s every small business owners dream to have the perfect employee who you can rely on to do everything. But the truth is, the only consistent person in your business is you. So what do you do about this problem? It’s simple, you need to stop relying on employees and start relying on process.
They key to running a great small business is not looking and hoping for great employees, its creating a simple process that minimises error and allows anyone to do the task regardless of their talent or skill level. EVERY operation in your business needs to be replaceable and not dependable on you or a single person you employ. In a small growing business, innovation needs to come from you. Because lets face it, you can’t afford that kind of talent yet.
3 things you need to have a sufficiently run business that does not rely on good employees
1. What gears make your business run? Develop a process for all key elements
First you need to establish what makes your business run. And I mean, the day to day tasks that must be done everyday to even open the doors in the morning for customers to come in. Break it down into departments, then make a list of things that need to be done in each department. Then create a check list for all those individual tasks.
2. What skills do you need to employ? Focus on basic skills and compensate more technical skills with procedures.
Based on what tasks need to be done, what skills do you actually need? Someone that can lift heavy boxes? Someone that can use a computer with basic excel skills? Someone who has great attention to detail? These should be basic skills, not trained skills. Remember those that are professionally trained are more expensive to employ and unless your business is dependable on service professions (i.e. business services like consulting or web development etc) then you need to solve lack of more developed skills, with process.
3. Training and refinement
Once you have your set of tasks and processes along with a few workers that can read and follow direction, its time for training and refinement. Processes are no good if employees do not know about them, or are not responsible for them. Refinement is also important, because I can guarantee you, you won’t develop the most efficient process on day 1. You need input and feedback from your employees who do the day to day work to understand how you can improve efficiency in your business. A process always has room for improvement.