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Debtor Finance Blog

Five ways to retain good staff – by a business owner who just lost a great one.

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What’s wrong with this picture? I recently found myself looking out my office window on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that I should be home with my family, and wondering what the hell I was doing at work on the weekend. Then I remembered why I was there. I was playing catch-up in my pursuit of outstanding client service, simply because one of my great staff members - both a top bloke and a great mate - had resigned unexpectedly.

"I don’t see it as a staff member resigning, I really see it…as though I’ve just been fired."
And I didn’t see it coming. Not at all.

What’s more, I still hadn’t written my weekly blog, the one I promised myself I would. So I decided that this time, rather than banging on about how great Debtor Finance is for small businesses, I would write about how to retain great staff, and relate to you the lessons I have recently learned.

A line I heard many years ago comes to mind – ‘Everybody is leaving you, it’s just a matter of when.’ But I’d really prefer not to accept that. Until last week, I hadn’t had a staff member leave me for years. Frankly, it was a kick to the ego, I don’t see it as a staff member resigning, I really see it as the opposite situation…as though I’ve just been fired. What could I have done differently?

I’ve had lots of people tell me there’s not much I could have done. I’ve been told plenty of times that losing good staff is just a part of being in business. Okay, maybe it is part of business, but I really think it could be minimized, and in my recent case, avoided. So with that thought in mind, here are five things I believe you can do to help retain staff and make sure they love working with you.

  • Have a great company culture

    Yes I said it – culture! Honestly, what small business owner really thinks about their culture? None I reckon. It’s a nice buzzword, but surely it belongs to big businesses such as banks. Businesses that make a lot of noise about it, but in fact have a shit culture. (Notice how I managed to work my love of banks into this blog?) I hate it, these companies aren’t living in the real world. What does it mean? Forget culture and think atmosphere. Do you have a laugh at work and help each other out? Do you enjoy each other’s company and do the right thing by your customers? Do you have a beer or coffee after work? That’s what a great culture is. Make sure you have one.

  • Communicate clearly defined values

    I don’t want to sound like I am singing from the business consultant-coach-guru hymnbook, but values really are important to a business. Your staff need to know what they are. Helping make this clear might come in the form of a training session regarding what your business stands for, what is important to you all as a team. Your staff need to know what they and you believe are the company values. By the way, values are non-negotiable. They are what they are. One of our company values is teamwork- we will always help each other out. Your staff need to know that you are going to do the right thing by them and by your customers. Also, forget Mission Statements, they are a wank for big businesses and your staff don’t give a flying toss about them- whether they contributed to it or not.

  • Pay your people well and take them with you

    Forget the leadership books of Lee Iacocca and Jack Welch - those guys were megalomaniacs. Opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one, but… my opinion from reading their best selling books from many, many years ago is that the only people who were enjoying the business were them! Nobody else was. It was all about them. Make sure you aren’t one of those leaders of a business that’s all about you. Listen to your people, pay them well and make sure they are involved in the journey along the road to where your company is going. That means making sure they are paid well, and that they grow with you.

  • Hire slowly, and fire bad employees quickly

    What I’m saying here is that you should try very hard to not make the mistake in the first place. If your gut says ‘no’ in regard to hiring, don’t hire the person in question. Remember first impressions. A past mentor of mine went to the effort of actually getting the prospective recruit out of the office environment. He would take them to the local nature reserve across the road from his office and interview them there. He’d take a stale loaf of bread and feed the ducks in the lake. Ironically he referred to it as feeding the ducks. He swore by its effectiveness at actually getting the recruit out of interview mode. Still got it wrong? You can still fire fairly quickly in small business in Australia by the way.

Conduct performance reviews

No matter what, conduct six-monthly performance reviews. I hated doing my recent performance reviews, but guess what - my staff loved it. The feedback was that they all loved working here, and wanted more training. Oh, and believe it or not, they also wanted…KPI’s! Wow. They really wanted to learn and grow and to have Key Performance Indicators to aim for. By the way, don’t take three months to review the performance reviews like I did. This needs to be done within a week. (If you want an example of performance reviews, search using Google, or email me via jason.smith@cashflowadvantage.com.au and I will send you ours,
So there you have it. My five tips for retaining great staff. How could I have hung onto the staff member who resigned? I didn’t effectively communicate to him where the business was, or what his role was in it. So…all the best in your new role Scott, it was great to work with you for the last two years and thank you for your massive contribution to our business.Wishing you all the best for your week in business,