No Entrepreneur is an Island

By Razor Suleman, founder and CEO of I Love Rewards, a Web-based employee rewards and recognition program provider and one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies.

Every entrepreneur reaches the point when they realize that no man (or woman) is truly an island. I have found that having the right people in the right place is essential to staying ahead of the business curve. My employees drive the growth and innovation of my company, so it’s up to me to attract and retain top talent to ensure that my business moves in the right direction.

As the founder and CEO of I Love Rewards, a Web-based employee rewards and recognition program provider, I have experienced the ups and downs of running a high-growth company. Four years ago, I hit a low point as an entrepreneur. Turnover was high and morale was exceptionally low— it wasn’t a great place to work. I decided I needed to step up and take responsibility. I wanted to build a great company with great people. To do this, I needed to find a way to channel my employees’ energy and talent.

My first move was to prioritize employees and commit to creating a workplace that attracted and kept “A-players.” I began by developing a vision document and outlining ways in which we would live it. This particular vision spurred spirited debate among employees regarding the direction of the company and their role in it. As months passed, I felt as if we had sown the seeds that would create a unique and long-lasting culture of excellence.

Our ability to align employees with the company’s goals and future came from trial and error, as well as the best practices we’ve learned from the clients, partners and companies we admire. Here is how we live our top priority of recruiting, retaining and inspiring great people:

Recruiting A-Players
It’s no secret that the best way to find A-players is through your staff. Driven, successful people surround themselves with other driven, successful people. To ensure we’re getting the best and brightest, we run a rock star recruiting program that rewards employees for bringing in potential candidates. This program has provided a return on investment four times greater than our previous recruiting efforts, which included cash incentives and recruiting firms.

Holding On to Our People
I’ve learned that retention is all about creating an infectious, distinctive workplace that offers meaningful work and growth opportunities. My employees are allowed to spend 20 percent of their time per week working in cross-departmental teams on initiatives outside of their job scope. This gives employees the ability to explore their interests, develop new skills and contribute to different areas of the business. Some of these initiatives have translated into new job roles and departments, because they produced such excellent results.

Inspiring Future Leaders
To inspire our employees, we need to continually engage them. We do this by recognizing those employees who go above and beyond and involving them in decisions that determine the company’s direction. For example, every year I present my master plan for the upcoming year. Employees are asked to provide their feedback on what goals and milestones they believe are most important to the company. Comments and ideas are collected through a survey, and changes are made to the master plan to reflect everyone’s feedback. I have found this to be the most constructive way to align our people and inspire them to invest their time and talent in the company.

The future of my business relies heavily on the satisfaction and success of my employees. When it comes down to it, building a great company takes more than the drive and dedication of one person— it takes a collective effort. By recruiting top candidates, retaining existing A-players and inspiring my staff to become leaders, I can ensure that their growth, and that of my business, continues.

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