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The Need to Show Pride in Your Employees

Great employees are hard to come by

There is a business in our town that employs an outstanding young lady. She knows most of their customers by name. When I have called their office, even if for the first time in several months, she addresses me by name without a moment's hesitation. Other people I know that do business with her company tell me the same happens to them every time they call.

Their business is a busy place; from both the customer's and employee's perspective.  When you visit their business, you will see this employee being able to take care of a customer on the phone, answer the question of a customer in the building and even direct a couple of employees in their efforts to take care of their customers. Perhaps not all at once, but pretty close to it.

As I was in their business one day, I mentioned the owner of the company by name and asked this outstanding young lady if the owner knew just how valuable she was to their business. "Oh, I am sure he does", was her somewhat passive response. My follow up question was to ask if she thought that he let her know often enough. And without a moment of hesitation, her short and cold answer was, "No!"

This is not a unique situation. In preparing to write this article, this writer quickly listed another six situations that were similar. The businesses included office supply stores, dry cleaners, an accounting firm, and a grocery store. Each business was fortunate to have at least one very talented employee; the type of employee that stood head and shoulders above the rest of the staff. Some of the businesses had this exceptional employee continue to do their job. But as I saw them on repeat visits, you could see that they did not stand quite as tall as they did before. The excitement continues to slowly, and surely, drain from their voice and actions. Unfortunately for some businesses, they lost a very good employee.

We had the occasion to bump into one of the grocery store managers in a parking lot one afternoon. It happened to be the afternoon he gave his resignation. Of course, this prompted the question of, "Why?"

As it had just rained, there was a large puddle of water nearby in one of the parking lot pot holes. The former manager went to the puddle, stuck one finger in the water and then pulled it out. Their answer was, "It is just like I am the finger and the puddle represents this business. When I take my finger out, there is not a hole. I do not ... No, I cannot make a difference here."

If you took business management classes in college, there were many theories you were exposed to that probably have very little to do with your business today. However, there is one, the Maslow theory, that can most definitely hit home. Boiling down the hours this was studied in school, Maslow said there were five things that were important: basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, to belong to something, the esteem of others, your self esteem, and the opportunity of giving to others.

Maslow explained that the five could only be given in sequence. For example if you want an employee to share their knowledge and expertise with other employees, it is only going to happen if the owner/manager/supervisor has taken care of the first four needs.

Basic pay is an item that is greatly influenced by your local market competition.  However, incentive pay programs can be an important part of your business management tool box. Try creating incentives for sales increases, average ticket size, or selling certain items, and see where your sales go. For other parts of your business, such as delivery, creating incentives for timeliness, correct order fulfillment, and customer responses can work wonders for getting more of your employees working toward the same goal.

As for the other three factors in the Maslow theory, belonging, the esteem of others, and self esteem, they represent perhaps the "softer" side of business management. The word "team" seems to flow naturally with the idea of belonging. Some dealers organize their staff in teams, with the outside sales person, inside sales person, and delivery staff working as a unit with an assigned group of customers. This works well from the customer standpoint as they can build a level of rapport with your staff. Here is where competition, and incentive pay, can be utilized to maximize results.

The esteem of others is the third factor. An example I give in seminars is that of the employee who is given a key to the business. When you total the assets of the corporation, you have at least several hundred thousand, if not a couple of million dollars represented by that key.

So, why does a business give this "valuable key" to an employee, yet fail to allow them to make any decisions that represent a substantial dollar value? Think about the customer who asks to exchange $50 worth of merchandise they ordered, while the "keyed" employee responds with, "I will have to get an OK for that". Everybody; the customer, employee and owner all lose in this situation.

As for self esteem, this is probably where the grocery store example lost their very good manager. It is great to be the business that has developed a system by which to operate. While allowing an employee to make a decision can expose you to failure, it can more often expose you to new ideas that can expand your business.

After all, when you first interviewed this person for a job, did you hire them because they impressed you with the way they expressed themselves, in what they said on the job application, and what they spoke? Businesses, like the grocery store, are likely to have job descriptions, job specifications, and even a policy and procedure manual.  What they have missed is realizing they had employees that can and were hired to think.

The question of showing pride in employees happens in every type of business and organization. Leonard Bernstein of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was once asked what was the most important instrument to play. It was said that he gave his answer without hesitation, "Second fiddle".  You might think he was naming that particular instrument and that there was something unusual about the musical score that the player of second fiddle would be attempting to master.

However, his follow up comment showed that Mr. Bernstein was not talking about the instrument, but was talking about the orchestra, and the ancillary people being able to work together as a team. "Everybody wants to play first chair; nobody wants to play second fiddle".

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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