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How do you keep employees happy while driving a strong ROI for your small business?

Posted on 21 August, 2013
There’s much to be said for taking advice from those who have already accomplished the challenging goals you have set for yourself. We talked with successful small business owners from across the country about how they keep employees happy, motivated, productive and profitable. Here’s what they had to say:


Jeff Milano, CEO
The People’s Chemist
I’ve found that making people responsible for their areas and simply allowing them the ability to make their decisions – instead of treating them like children – goes far in their desire to be productive. Also, it doesn’t hurt to make a game out of hitting some production target and then letting everyone share a portion of the profits. This may be regarding dollars or even something as simple as a BBQ in the park for everyone’s families. The possibilities are endless.


Julie Sue Auslander President / Chief Cultural Officer
To boost productivity in the workplace, we designed and implemented a performance Incentive Award Program to reward excellence and actions above and beyond what is expected.
Employees are awarded points for unsolicited, positive customer feedback, creative solutions to unique problems, new client referrals, new employee referrals, innovative ideas to improve our processes, system and procedures, special thoughtfulness toward another employee and more. Accumulated points may be exchanged for family vacations in major resort locations throughout the world.
Acknowledging, rewarding, and celebrating our success in this way has been key to our growth.


Ben Sayers, CEO
VoIP Supply
The best way to stay productive and profitable is to have all the employees hold themselves accountable. In our office, we have a Critical Number that we all work together to achieve. This number reflects the efforts from every department including Sales, Marketing, Customer Experience, Shipping, and Accounting. If we hit or exceed our number, we know that we’re on track for our revenue goals. Knowing that your efforts directly help the company hit its goals and knowing that you’ll be asked to contribute to keeping us all focused on the same thing.


Barry Maher
Barry Maher & Associates
Businesspeople understand they have to establish value when it comes to their customers, but we sometimes forget that we have to establish value just as consistently when it comes to our people.
Sometimes one of the greatest incentives can simply be the chance to belong to a first rate team, an outstanding organization, to belong to something an employee can be proud of. Why do people perform so heroically in battle? Do they love their country? Of course, they do. But when you ask them about it, the answer you get is often the same one you get from championship football or basketball teams. They did it for their buddies. For their teammates. Because they didn’t want to let them down. And they felt like they were part of something special.


Elle Kaplan, CEO
Lexion Capital Management LLC
When an employee believes firmly in the company’s mission, their job is no longer a job – it’s a calling. This kind of loyalty builds a strong, devoted team who are committed to the ideals of your business.
Speaking from my experience as an entrepreneur, in this capacity team members work harder and are happier with what they do because their involvement in the company’s success becomes more personal.


Steve Small, P.E.
4Thought Products
The key so far I have found is to keep your overhead and expenses as low as possible.
I have been able to launch my products and business by essentially doing all tasks myself without employees.
This includes everything from the design of the goods to packaging, overseas sourcing, graphics, website, promotional materials, sales, shipping, etc.
Of course not every type of business can do this, but it’s worth investigating to keep profits high.


Brock Blake, CEO
You need to trust your employees. At our company, we recently implemented a new vacation program where we won’t be tracking the amount of time an employee takes off. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t expect employees to work hard and achieve success it just gives workers more ownership of their roles and responsibility to advance the company. I told my team to consider themselves the CEO of their role -we have some of the smartest people and most motivated employees I know that are working for us, I trust all of them to do their job and take the time off they need.


Dr. Jay Parkinson
As a doctor, I believe that the best way to keep employees productive and profits high is to have employees be healthy. There are healthcare companies like Sherpaa that help small businesses get the right health insurance for their company and also provides the employees of those companies with unprecedented 24/7 access to doctors and healthcare professionals via text, email, phone, and web app to answer any and all medical questions. This saves the company time and money and keeps employees healthy, productive, and happy which increases efficiency and the bottom line!


Dr. Chad Laurence, Owner
Corrective Chiropractic
I have found that flexibility and unexpected gifts at unexpected times can make a real difference. Even gift certificates in small denominations, combined with complimenting an employee’s work ethic goes a long way. Staff members like money in their pocket now vs. pensions and contributions to their retirement funds. Buying treats or even little things like water ice once in a while as a surprise helps them feel good throughout the day and keeps moral high.


Seth Young, COO
Star Fantasy Leagues, Inc
We keep our employee productivity high by treating our team as the group of adults that they are. We only hire people who share our vision, and everybody is free to make their hours at work so long as their tasks are completed by the deadlines we set during our meetings. Once you have that freedom at work, you don’t want to lose it; for us, this is a recipe for high efficiency and high morale.


Troy Hazard
Troy Hazard International
Stop working with the clients that don’t reflect your brand. When we updated our business model, we politely notified all clients who didn’t fit into our corporate culture that we could no longer continue working with them. The staff’s response was overwhelming. Morale shot up 1,000 percent; all of a sudden, we were making money on every project. It was amazing. As a business owner, I was happy, and my staff was happy. And we made more money!


Dana Marlowe Principal Partner
Accessibility Partners
Don’t restrict personal devices. The trend of BYOD – bring your device – is gathering more and more traction in the workplace. Employees are responding positively. From a business perspective, there are a lot of reasons to encourage workers to provide their IT equipment convenience, low overhead, and employee morale.


Paul Shrater, Co-Founder
One of the methods we utilize to keep the company successful is to keep all employees connected to the business, products, and customers. One specific method is through a monthly training that we run. This training helps each employee recognize his or her role in the company while providing a comprehensive look at what we do as a whole.


Bryan Beatty Partner / Owner
Egan, Berger & Weiner
At our company, we use an annual productivity bonus that combines client retention and satisfaction with increased revenue or new business.
This is in addition to a hearty 401k match. Obviously, with a small business you need to provide upward career mobility vision. In a small company this is the most challenging task – growing fast enough to keep the staff motivated that they can and will progress in their own career.


Carson Tate, Founder
Working Simply
Invest your time wisely. Be the leader a company needs by taking back control. Decide how you need to spend your time and then ruthlessly create boundaries around your minutes, hours and days putting you back in the driver’s seat of your time. Maybe there are tasks that have slipped into your daily routine that the company no longer values. Time is a commodity and we cannot get hours back.


Kim Roxie Founder and Director
LAMIK Beauty
The best tip for keeping employees productive is developing a culture that highlights productivity. At our small business we are engaged and all invest in the success of our business, that at the end of the week we discuss all of the achievements from the week.


Cynarah Ellawala, Principal
Alcantara Marketing

In my experience, four things work great to keep employee morale high and business booming.

1 Taking hourly dance breaks in the office helps relieve stress and keeps the environment fun.
2 Creating a regular schedule of weekly meetings to catch up on recently finished projects, what needs work, and bring up any questions
3 Offering staff outings to promote bonding and provide a chance to have fun outside the office too.
4 Bringing relevant reading material into the office to keep staff up-to-date with what’s happening in your field.


Janice Wilson, CEO
Arjuni International, Ltd
The cultivation of our employees, both personally and professionally, is of the utmost importance of us. We’ve found that the most effective method in keeping our employees productive is by giving them ownership of our operations.
Our staff conducts group interviews and hires new team members based on a majority vote; and they create our operating procedures; We celebrate victories vigorously — this is critical;
Our staff is encouraged to give feedback and recommendations about how we can be more efficient and have a better work environment.


Clara Lippert Glenn President and CEO
The Oxford Princeton Programme
I learned early on that productivity is tied to having good workplace policies in place policies that are clear, easy to enforce and fair. These types of policies give everyone the parameters they need to be creative, happy, productive and ultimately successful at work. A good work environment should not be a luxury’, but rather it should be the norm. Smaller companies cannot always pay the highest salaries, but we still want the best and the brightest. So how do you attract, motivate and retain them? Make your business the place they WANT to work.


Susan Steinbrecher Founder and CEO
Steinbrecher And Associates
The key to cultivating a happy, productive workplace is to create a sense of meaning and engagement that connects with your employees emotional needs.
Understand basic human needs. People want to be valued, cared about, listened to, appreciated, respected, involved and connected – these are universal needs that show up in the workplace – and in every facet of life. And, show appreciation. Face to face words of appreciation for a job well done and encouragement carry a lot of clout and strengthen workplace relationships. Spend some one-on-one time with each employee – build it into your schedule. People need to feel their work matters.


Shelly Sun Co-Founder & CEO
BrightStar Care

Owning a business isn’t easy but there are techniques to help lay the foundation for success and growth. I’ve identified five ways that business owners can keep productivity high:

1 Defining the vision, culture, and organizational goals to achieve success
2 Creating a great team
3 Building an external team for support
4 Implementing an effective sales process
5 Onboarding and training employees effectively


Fiona Gathright, CEO
Wellness Corporate Solutions
Just as we work hard to design health and wellness initiatives for our corporate clients, we put equal energy toward ensuring that our own employees receive the same level of support. Employees are encouraged to participate in some type of group exercise every day. WCS offers organized Tabata sessions (quick, high-intensity workouts), sit/stand desks, encourages walking meetings and meditation sessions, and provides a healthy lunch to employees each Friday. At WCS, we find that workplace wellness ultimately makes good business sense.

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