No one ever becomes successful alone. Successful people know the only way to accomplish more is to enlist the support of other people. So, they form a team or hire employees to help them reach their goals. But not every business owner achieves their goals. Not every business owner attracts the right people. And not every business owner motivates their team to do their best work. Think about it this way. If you are in a position of leadership, you must have people willing to carry out your instructions. Because you must produce results. If not, you will be removed from your position. You depend on the support of your team to remain a leader, and to advance to a position of higher authority. How do you get people to support you? By taking care of your people. Treat people right, and they will treat you right.
If you stay in business long enough, you will experience negative events completely out of your control. Life happens. When it does, your company’s ability to survive will depend on the health of your company. Good companies can weather storms. Bad companies do not. You can measure your company by the attitude and work ethic of your employees. People like working for good companies. People want to enjoy their work and feel like their work will make a difference for the company. And people want to know that they will be rewarded for the difference they make for their company. Ben Horowitz writes, “Being a good company is an end in itself.” And yet, there are so many small businesses that fail because they are not built to be good companies. Would your employees say that you have a good company? If not, start building a good company today.
Like it or not, the people you hire will be the face of your company. As such, they will have a tremendous effect on your overall success story. Their interactions with your customers will determine whether you succeed or fail. Because unhappy employees will make unhappy customers. And unhappy customers will go somewhere else. As a business owner, you need to attract the right people to work for your organization. And the right people want to work for someone who takes an interest in their employees and provides a positive work environment. Sam Walton identified taking care of his employees as the “most important single ingredient of Wal-Mart’s success.” It is that important. So, if you have unhappy customers, look to your employees. Are you taking care of them, or are you neglecting your most valuable asset?
I am not sure what the next great technological advance will be. Nor am I sure of how long into the future that this advance will occur. But I am certain when it does happen, new companies will rise, rushing to be the first ones to get to market. And they will fall. Because ultimately, these companies are built with the wrong people. And that includes the founders. Because these founders are not trying to build something great. They are just trying to build their personal fortunes. When you have the right people working for your company, you can count on them to carefully consider new technology instead of jumping on bandwagons. You can be sure that any technology adopted will fit within the company’s long-term strategy. The great companies, let by the right people, will adapt. And they will continue to be great.
The things that make a start-up so awesome in the beginning are the very things that cause so much trouble once the company achieves some level of success. A small, dedicated team of individuals becomes a large, unwieldy troupe of employees. Hierarchies are established, managers and executives are brought in from the outside, processes are standardized. And that core group of dedicated individuals looks around at what the company has become and realize that work is not fun anymore. So they leave, taking with them their innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that helped the company become what it is. Bureaucracy kills innovation. Instead of creating a bureaucratic system to manage a few wrong people, focus on getting and keeping the right people for your organization. The right people are competent and disciplined. They do not need, or want, a bureaucratic system to work in.
If you have employees that need an incentive plan to work, then you probably have the wrong employees. The best organizations understand this basic concept. In Good to Great, Collins conceptualizes this concept as getting the right people on the bus in the right seats and getting the wrong people off the bus. The importance of this process is greater than the direction of the bus. The right people will help decide the direction that your organization needs to go. And they will do this naturally. The right people will take your bus to awesome places. But the wrong people will not, regardless of the incentive system. The compensation of your organization should serve to attract and retain the right people for your organization. Once the right people are hired, incentive is unnecessary. The right people will do their best, simply because they are not capable of doing anything less.
Back when I was working on my Master of Accounting degree at NC State University, I worked as the manager of a local sporting goods store. I was the manager of the home store, which also contained the corporate office. While there, management hired a consultant specializing in customer service. It was his job to help improve sales at the chain’s seven locations. Ed spent a lot of his time at the corporate office, which meant we got to spend a lot of time together. Not long after Ed was hired, the store manager of one store turned in his resignation. He had been with the company for a very long time, and his resignation was not expected by corporate management. I distinctly remember talking with Ed about this. He said the owner “was very upset. But I told him this is what we want. We want our employees to ...