Tag Archives: small business

Business owners: We’re not in Kansas now, Toto…


Tuning into the local and global news at the moment feels like a long, long pulling tide going out before a huge tsunami hits. News from Europe seems dire and from America, a bit dodgy.  There is an eerie, unnerving stillness in business here in Australia, like the calm before the storm.

These few nuggets have stood me in good stead in the past when confronted with uncertainty:

1. Use what you have

Being resourceful for many in our Western world of plenty is a bit of a dying art. Using what you have seems obvious but not if you are in the habit of “getting more stuff”. This can apply to all aspects of your business: equipment, tools, finance, employee skills and knowledge, your own skills and knowledge, access and connections to people and other opportunities.

Better effectiveness and efficiency is what improved productivity is all about – working smarter, not harder. See this time as a great opportunity to try out what you and your employees can really do, given the right situation.

Create those right situations by increasing the level of trust and motivation in your business. This can be achieved by ensuring you have the right person in the right job, delegating more effectively and giving real autonomy to employees, recognizing work that is well done, ensuring that employees have enough skills, tools and support to do the job well.

Giving respect and care to your clients and your employees and expecting it in return will warm the climate in your workplace; giving your word and keeping it; dealing with people and issues with integrity are all key to unlocking additional value from your business.

And the great thing about respect, care, autonomy, integrity and commitment is they’re not  likely to cost extra $ – just a bit more effort and thought.

2. Think outside the box

This cliché has at it’s heart permission to be more creative and to challenge assumptions, and is a worthy partner to making more of what you have. As an employer, what assumptions do you have that are not working for your business?

  • Do you assume that only you can do certain jobs or tasks?
  • Do you assume that all employees must work, be available and be paid for 36-40 hours a week?
  • Do you assume that only you know the answers to issues affecting your business? Who else might know about these and be willing to contribute?

3. Ask for help and support OR give some to someone else

And then there’s times when I can become completely paralysed with uncertainty and complexity. Too much or not enough information, too many or too few options or not enough energy can be very debilitating, inhibiting ability to act and deal with the situation.

The old adage a problem shared is a problem halved certainly has merit and I would contend that sometimes the problem is solved. I have run countless group training and work activities and know there’s nothing more powerful than handing a real problem to people and supporting them to come up with a great solution.

Think about trusted colleagues or friends that you can discuss business issue with confidentially. And think about how you might be able to help them – sharing what you have, your suggestions or even just listening. Or do you trust your employees enough to share with them? Try it and see – you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

What works for you in times of uncertainty?

Paying attention to people WILL pay off: How to get that link between better people management, increased productivity and profit.


“People are our greatest asset”: How many times have we heard that? I know from my own experience that good people management makes for good business but how many employers out there are wondering what the evidence is before they take the plunge?

There is a good deal of research that has been done to find the evidence, and it is definitely there. One particular UK study* of 67 manufacturers (average 253 people) showed a predictable improvement of close to 20% in both profitability and productivity when a range of integrated people management practices are improved.

The two key areas of people management practice they found to be significant predictors of profitability and productivity as:

  1. Acquisition and development of skills – Having the right skills and abilities for your business, the right people capability and an approach/ attitude to developing capability. See learning & development as way of improving morale, job satisfaction for your staff as well as way of improving the way they do their work.
  2. Job design – Thoughtful job design that provides meaningful work where possible, opportunities to take more responsibility when ready, seeing a job through from start to finish and getting a sense of achievement from work done.

ImageBoth these areas underpin what Frederick Hertzberg and his famous theory on motivation, would call intrinsic motivators:  a strong universal human need for purpose, achievement, challenge, learning and satisfaction.

The great thing about both these two key areas is that they don’t cost much. To design and implement, they require thought, planning and possibly some change to your business but not necessarily much in the way of extra dollars.

Acquisition and development of skills

The simplest form of business learning is to review business progress regularly with your staff – how did we go this week? How did we go with that new client? What worked and didn’t work? Have a regular process for review and a way of harnessing the learning and making changes to business processes that improve the whole business.

Encourage people to learn on the job, learn from each other, learn from outside – courses, visits to other businesses and learning through networking.

For acquisition, take a considered approach to recruitment, think carefully about what capability you need for now and for future and recruit accordingly . Think about how you bring new people into your business and show them how to do the job, and how to offer every opportunity for your staff to learn and to stretch their abilities and their existing knowledge.

Job design

Think about having job roles that encompass a bundle of connected responsibilities and tasks that people can say “That’s mine – I am responsible for that” and have the satisfaction of seeing an entire job done and finished. This doesn’t mean that people don’t continue working together as part of a team: even team workers have specific roles.

If you as an employer take the time to clearly spell out why we are all here (purpose of the business), organize the work (clear roles and structures), give staff some autonomy and integrated opportunities for everyone to stretch and grow. All are guaranteed steps in the right direction for happy workers, higher productivity and a profitable business.

What’s your experience? I’d love to hear from you…..

* MG. Patterson, M.West, R.Lawthom, S.Nickell (1997) Impact of people management practice on business performance Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD), UK.

What successful employers have in common with The Spice Girls: They know what they want, what they really really want…


Recruiting employees in some ways is a bit like match-making – trying to find the right person. And, just like the game of love, in the heat of the moment it can be very hard to see past the one who looks just right on the surface. But perhaps in the cold light of day, they don’t actually have all the abilities skills and knowledge that your business really needs. Like The Spice Girls, get clear about what you really want but that’s where the similarity ends: save your passion to drive your business and recruit with a clear head.

Being an effective employer and a successful business person requires good judgment, and judgment can be improved with thinking, planning and a good dose of objectivity.

Some suggestions for planning your next recruitment:

  • Consider the job first and the person second, not the other way around. Don’t have the tail wagging the dog.
  • Look at the reality of your business, acknowledge what the business really needs, and not a fictional idea you may have of the job. If your business requires a wide range of very different tasks, that’s what you need to focus on getting, and not someone with specialist skills.
  • Learn to articulate what you want and to know it when you see it – IT being the specific behaviours, skills and knowledge you are seeking, not just how you respond to the person. One of my clients in the hospitality industry said, when I asked them how they determined whether a candidate had good commonsense, was judged partly by what kind of body tattoos they had and where they had placed them. “Well, you know if they have them on their face or hands, that they haven’t really thought it through. Others may have them discreetly covered and in our workplace, that’s fine”.
  • Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. Work out what is essential to doing the job and don’t settle for less. Only consider those who have the essentials.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – what job features might be attractive to the kind of person I am looking for? What can my business offer that the person I am seeking would want? People are motivated differently and at different times in their life, and you may find that you are able to offer something that costs nothing but worth a lot to the right person.
  • It’s all about the evidence – how will I know that the person applying for the job can do the job?  You need evidence that the person can either do the job or has the potential (depending on what you want)You need to devise a selection process that gives you the evidence you need, not a whole lot of information that doesn’t relate to the job.  And remember, the way you get that information can be extremely informative – how well they write, how well they talk, how well they think and how they react and respond.

My next post will be all about how to recruit once you know what you want.

Want to know more about recruitment planning?

Please email me (see About Me for details) to get a copy of your FREE e-booklet 5 Steps to Successful Recruitment Planning or leave  questions and comments below.

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