By Ben Baldwin, co-founder of ClearFit, Inc.
As a business owner, one of the most important parts of my business is my staff; the hard-working people who challenge me to be the best leader I can be and who drive the company to new levels of success. While developing an environment that encourages employee growth and happiness, I’ve come across a few rules to work by that help me keep things running:
Understand that each employee is different
Although it may be easy to paint all employees with the same brush, it is very important to realize that every individual is unique. Rather than thinking of my employees as a single, homogeneous workforce, I make it a point to realize the diversity of my staff and the potential inherent in that diversity. Realizing that my employees have different needs, requirements, expectations and advantages is the first step to realizing their full potential.
In my years in business, I’ve found that it’s important for any employer to lay out specific business expectations and benchmarks ahead of the game. Sitting down and drawing up a plan of action is a very useful exercise to ensure that you and your employees stay on track. Also, transparency and honest communication will ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength, and it will help you avoid any confusion about expectations and responsibilities.
Utilize development resources
I’m not afraid to reach out and utilize some of the many development resources that exist out there. Entrepreneurs have a range of options available to them to help get the most out of their employees. While some of these options can be pricey, there are good tools that are easily accessible and won’t break the bank. Other ideas include pairing up employees with mentors, creating coaching plans, joining professional networks and inviting industry experts to coach and work with my employees.
Provide a challenging environment
I make it a point to put myself in the shoes of my employees. If I was placed in an unchallenging and monotonous environment, chances are I wouldn’t like it either. That said, I try hard to provide a challenging and dynamic work environment that fosters creativity and excitement.
Reward your employees (… and not just with money!)
Even though this may seem like a risky proposition, rewarding employees can be a great motivator in general. Rewards do not necessarily have to be in the form of money. Rewards can include verbal recognition, employee perks such as lunches or even other ongoing incentives like paying for daily commutes to and from work.
Foster strengths, work on weaknesses
It’s important that I foster a person’s strengths while being aware of their weaknesses. Realizing an individual’s strengths will enable me to leverage those strengths into productive and rewarding work. At the same time, working on the person’s weaknesses works to strengthen the professional bond between myself and the employee.
Don’t be afraid to fire employees
While it is never the intention of an employer to hire someone who doesn’t work out, sometimes cutting an employee loose in order to maintain workplace harmony is a necessary part of running a business. As an employer, I can’t and shouldn’t avoid taking the lead on issues that jeopardize any aspect of my business. The longer I wait, the more damage will be done. We’ve actually received thank you notes from former employees who have not worked out, but are thankful for our frankness in guiding them toward an opportunity that fits them better.
When it comes down to it, running a company is a lot like reading a bestselling business book—every day is a chapter full of lessons and better business practices. The trick is to absorb as much information as possible and then utilize the tools at your disposal to make yourself—and your employees—better.
Ben Baldwin is the co-founder of ClearFit, Inc., a business that matches people and employers using the most valid predictor of job success: personality and experience.