Business ownership, ideally, is engaging, fun, profitable, and rewarding. All too often, it’s stressful and we end up wondering where the flexibility and freedom are that led us to business ownership in the first place. These three guiding principles, applied consistently to your business operations, will ease operations and have you reaching your goals consistently.
1. Work with the best. Again, your business is your livelihood; why settle when you don’t have to? This applies to team members, distributors, your environment, equipment and business partners. All too often, I hear of business owners who keep poor-performing employees because they feel bad for the person. Guess what?! This is your livelihood, how you support yourself and your family. If you are in the position to consider their salary a donation, go for it. Otherwise, let them go kindly and find someone who is the absolute best, who will help bring your business to the next level.
The “best” does not imply the biggest or most well-known; take the time to determine what best meets your particular needs and work with them. For example, Bankers Healthcare Group works exclusively with healthcare professionals; think they can share valuable data to help your healthcare business be more profitable, more efficient? You bet. Choose business partners with depth in the expertise you are seeking. Partnering with knowledgeable business partners who are the best in their industry means you can focus on being the best in your field.
2. Go to the source. When you need information, go to the original source to insure that you get reliable, accurate data. A medical practice client was looking to add a location to his practice. When a commercial building in an ideal location came up for sale, I encouraged him to call the town office to get zoning and permit requirements. He chose to call the realtor, instead; based on the information, he passed on making an offer. Once it was too late, we learned that the realtor gave him erroneous information. I’ve also heard business owners make assumptions about what their lender will and will not do. Why assume? A simple phone call or email will give you an answer from the source, which can then guide your decision making. Your business is your livelihood; don’t shortchange yourself – go to the source for reliable data that you can bank on.
3. Get data. Have you heard yourself say “I’d guess…” or “I assume…” in the past couple of weeks? All too often, I’ll ask a business owner for data and I get an answer based on Google or what the “experts” say. Estimates about their own business are often based on how it feels; it feels like they are busier than they were a year ago, it feels like they’re short-staffed. If operations are not running optimally, your practice could feel out of control, leading you to make assumptions about what your business needs. Conversely, unreliable data can lead you to believe your revenue is much smaller than it actually is, and you repeatedly ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?” A business owner once hired me because he wanted to grow to $600,000; when I asked him what his current revenue was he guessed it was around $250K. I asked him to double check that with real data and the answer was almost double, at $450K! No wonder his operations were stretched!
Determine what four to six pieces of data will most tell you how your business is performing; average invoice, total number of invoices, and percentage booked are a great start for a medical practice. Track those numbers on at least a monthly basis, preferably weekly. Know those numbers like the back of your hand.
Running a thriving, successful business requires you to focus on what you do best; be sure that you have the tools and resources – from reliable data to business partners – to make it as easy as possible.
In Part I, I talked about how to best on-board your new team member and get them up to speed. The work doesn’t stop there, though. Make sure that you’re holding yourself accountable, and let your team (new members and established ones) know what they can expect from you.
- Reviews. Employees wonder when they will have a performance review and what will happen at a review. Let your team know how often and at what points they will have a review, what the review process is, and what they are expected to bring to the table.
- Define for employees your management style. Are you all business? Tend to blur the lines between owner and friend? Clarity will not only help your staff be comfortable but also help you be comfortable with your own style.
- Decision making. Let new employees know what your decision making style generally is. For example, if you tend to ask employees for input just to hear another person’s perspective, your team needs to know that their input is not a vote, but only an opinion.
The initial days/weeks of a new employee’s work with you are very important. Here’s a quick guide on what to do and when:
- After job acceptance/prior to first day. At a minimum, send an email letting them know that you’re looking forward to them joining your team. Better yet, send them a handwritten note to their home.
- Day 1. Let them know what their first day will look like specifically (i.e., 9-11 AM – shadow Lizzie; 11-12 noon – meet with business owner; lunchtime – team lunch); any documents you need them to bring; how you expect them to dress.
- Let clients and customers know that there is a new team member and when they would interact with that new person, if it’s not obvious. Sharing your enthusiasm for the new hire will encourage everyone to be excited to have them on board! Post an announcement where everyone, including your new team member, will see it.
- Beyond the first day, define in general what their first week or so will look like and how quickly you expect them to be working on their own.
Feedback, good and not so good, are critical in the first few weeks of a new employee’s time with you. Leave a note after an especially promising day. Written communication that they are fitting in and fulfilling their responsibilities will make their day.
Finally, remember that letting your team know what to expect from you raises the bar of professionalism. It is a clear way of telling your team not only what their responsibilities are in your business, but also what you will do to make your team successful. Plus, you can use these expectations as a guide or ruler – it will be easy to see when you’re excelling, and equally easy to tell when you’re not measuring up.
Congratulations, you’ve finally done it! You decided that it was time to grow your staff and hire a new team member. You identified what you really needed in your small business, and you posted your job description online. Thanks to your thoroughness and preparation, you received excellent feedback and brought in winners to interview. Interviewing was a breeze because you kept it simple and asked questions that matter to your small business.
All in all, you are to be commended. You stayed focused, decided who and what you wanted, and now your new team member starts next week.
But wait: this is where the real work begins. Don’t throw your leadership skills under the bus – not after all that great work you just did! Do more than manage your new employee – LEAD them from day one by starting strong. Clarify what you expect from them and that they understand those expectations. Be sure to cover:
1. Their hours. It sounds simple enough, but a miscommunication about hours becomes kindling for further frustrations. Be clear: does 9 to 5 mean show up at 9 or show up at 8:50 and be ready to go at 9? Let them know what to do if they haven’t finished their tasks at the end of the day; do they stay past their stated hours, ask for guidance, or leave? It comes down to your priorities – completion of tasks, overtime, work-life balance, effective use of time – and they are all part of the simple question about employee hours.
- Amongst staff. If becoming “like family” is part of who you are, let new employees know that. Conversely, if you prefer to keep work and personal separate, letting new employees know that can prevent all kinds of undesirable feelings that go to the root of human needs and personal values. Be fair and let them know where the personal/work boundaries are.
- With clients and customers. Boundaries between staff and clients should also be clearly defined. If you prefer that patients stay at an arms’ length distance, be clear up front with new employees. While you won’t prohibit staff from becoming friends with clients or customers outside of the work environment, you can certainly let staff know what your preference is and why.
3. Presentation. Our employees are not mind readers, so while it seems to you that employees should just “know” what your expectations are about dress and office conduct, prevent any misunderstandings by defining your expectations. Dress, behavior, even eating habits at work – if applicable, should be defined.
4. Tasks. Clarity, for yourself as well as for your employees, is critical in every aspect, especially in task completion. Consider:
- What you want employees to do if they don’t complete a task?
- What you want employees to do if they don’t understand a task or their responsibilities. Basically, when do you want them to ask for help? From whom do they ask for help?
When in doubt, clarify and simplify. Make it so that the only thing your new hire has to do is their job. Remove the guesswork, and watch them wow you!