Problem solver: Create a road map for staff who can drive your business
Q: I have a small business with eight employees. One of them is showing strong potential and initiative and I want to start building on these strengths. Any advice would be welcome.
A: Far too many employers fail to recognise the talent of the key people within their organisation.
Sometimes, it is a matter of putting an arm on someone's shoulder and praising them for the work that they have been doing and thanking them for their contribution. In other situations like yours, it calls for a more structured approach, but I would compliment you on raising the question.
In a small team like yours, it is crucial to retain critical staff members who could go on to be managers of the future. Start by looking at the responsibilities this person currently has and look at ways you might be able to gradually add on more responsibilities with corresponding pay or bonus improvements.
Also, consider their further education, and look to areas where they would benefit from external education and areas which the business would benefit from. Most staff love personal development.
Of course, don't make any rash decisions and assume you know what they want. Sit down with them and in a structured way and find out what their aspirations are, as well as setting out for them where you see their role in the business in the future. Together create a road map.
From time to time do try to find an opportunity to spend additional time with this employee. For example, if you are planning to travel abroad to meet a key client, or attend a trade fair, take this employee with you, partially as an educational opportunity but more as a relationship-building exercise with yourself.
At some point it will also be appropriate for you to make a statement to other staff that you are giving this key employee responsibility for a particular area. This will help the employee with the often difficult transition from staff member to management role.
Q: How did you keep yourself motivated during your career? I own a medium-sized supermarket and worry I will run out of steam somewhere along the way.
A: Motivation is something that is very personal. For me, it was the satisfaction of seeing customers who enjoyed our shops, staff who were energised and the recognition from others within the industry that what we were doing was a little bit different.
Certainly, you need to set yourself objectives for the things that are important to you, as there is significant motivation in achieving these milestones. Cascade these out through your team so they can be involved in achieving them.
Joining international trade organisations was a great source of motivation. Meeting peers from other parts of the world allowed you to benchmark and short-circuit the innovation process. That allows you to stay ahead of your competitors and there is no better satisfaction than growing your market share or capturing new business.
Getting the balance between your work and home life is also important as a motivating factor, and you need to build this in to your overall plan. I always made a point of playing golf once or twice a week, and I always found that the next day I was far more energised and motivated than I might have been had I not played.
Motivating others on your team can also give you a sense of satisfaction. Enjoy!