Small Business Advice
Dealing with ineffective staff can be the toughest business challenge
"Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
The No. 1 question entrepreneurs ask me is, “What do I need to do to be successful in running my small business?” You might imagine a million ways to answer this question, but there is one thing every small business must have in order to be successful. This is a great staff.
Having a great staff allows your firm to blossom and succeed. Every entrepreneur must devote a considerable about of time to finding the right people and work constantly at maintaining a great staff. This is not an easy process, particularly for small business owners.
Often I see small businesses with mediocre staff simply because the owners lack the energy or will to change or train staff. It’s a classic mistake — one that can be fixed, but it requires effort and a renewed commitment to success.
Replacing an ineffective worker seems like an obvious and easy solution, but it is difficult for many owners. Why? Because in small businesses, the staff is usually very close. Letting one of them go is like going through a painful divorce.
One entrepreneur I counseled had an office manager who’d worked for him for more than 10 years. However, she was totally ineffective in that role. The entrepreneur was fully aware of this, but he felt that he would lose a part of his family if he fired her.
I worked very hard trying to encourage this entrepreneur to take action for the good of his business, but every time he got close to letting her go, he reneged at the last minute.
I finally got so exasperated with him that I enlisted the help of his wife. The two of us double-teamed him and convinced him this employee was poison to the firm. He finally admitted he had to let the office manager go, but it was hard.
It has been two years since her dismissal, and the owner often tells me that he does not know why it took him so long to make this decision.
Most entrepreneurs understand which employees are liabilities to their firms. Ultimately, if you would not rehire a worker, then you should let them go. It is easy enough to say that, but finding the right time to deal with a problem employee is the tough part.
What I’ve found works best is to ask the entrepreneur what type of aberrant behavior they are willing to tolerate and for how long. Sometimes I just have to be blunt and ask if avoiding an unpleasant situation is worth the cost of keeping a mediocre employee in place.
All businesses have unproductive workers. Go out, look at your staff and identify yours. Then analyze the economics of keeping them. If you decide to keep them, ask yourself what psychological fear is keeping you from letting them go. Typically, this allows the real fear to surface so you are able to make a unemotional decision.
You can do this!