by Abbie Fink
A business' best asset is its people. Nothing new there. But when times are tough, it is easy to overlook that asset in favor of landing the next big deal, or securing the next big client. And if your people feel that something might be amiss with the business, then your best asset may walk right out the door.
We're a "small but mighty" public relations firm in Phoenix. We have a great team; we've been together for quite a few years now. Like many businesses, one of the ways we show our appreciation to our team is through raises and bonuses. That's been a bit tough to do over the past several months. The easy way out would have been to ignore the situation, hope that maybe the team wouldn't notice. By some miracle maybe they wouldn't remember that there were envelopes with cash last year, but not a single one this year. But the easy way out has never been our way out. If it weren't for our hardworking staff, we'd have no business at all. So instead of continuing to ignore it and hoping no one would mention it, we decided to share what was happening.
My business partner and I were a bit nervous at first — we had never really discussed the company's financials with our staff. What would they think when they found out — would they somehow think it was our fault, did we mismanage the company somehow, did we make bad decisions? What if knowing that things were tough they would start looking for a job somewhere else.
But you know what, just the opposite happened. They were grateful that we took the time to share with them what was going on. They understood that times are tough and that every business decision comes with consequences, good and bad. And, they were happy to know that we valued them enough to share. Better yet, they wanted to know what they could do to help.
The results — a team that is even more dedicated to our success. And when I say "our" it is because they now feel connected to that success. They know that what they contribute has value; that our decisions are for the better of the company.
And we have found ways to recognize our team's efforts, based on their feedback, that are just as appreciated as cold hard cash.
A simple thank you — we often forget how powerful those two words can be. We do it publicly and as often as possible. When it is appropriate, we do it in front of the client. They also need to know how much we appreciate our team.
We refer to them as a "team" not our employees. Words really do make an impact; even the simplest words make a big difference.
An extra day of vacation goes a long way. So does a half-day on summer Fridays. It is amazing what a long weekend can do for morale, and providing flexibility — work/life balance is so important.
Tight business market or not, business owners always face the challenge of how much is too much. But sharing with our team the ups and downs of the business, what's happening and what we are doing, and what they can do to make a difference in the business made all the difference to us.
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