Enlisting employees in changing your small business

Employees are often unwilling to embrace new ideas. This presents a challenge to the owner who wishes to improve his small business. If employees will not make changes in their behavior, improvements are very difficult.

The key to overcoming fear of change is to create an incentive for employees. While money is not the only incentive, it is usually a powerful motivator. If the desired changes will result in increased profits, a bonus system to share those additional profits with employees can help them overcome their fears.

Enlisting employees in the entire process is perhaps the most effective measure that an owner can take. When an owner acts like a benevolent dictator and imposes change on the employees, they often resist. However, if the employees are involved in the process of identifying and planning the needed changes, they are much more likely to “buy in”.

Involving employees can begin by simply asking them what improvements they would like to see. This will do several things: you will be seen as more approachable and caring, employees will feel more appreciated, and you will create a more team like atmosphere.

Owners typically embrace change much more readily than employees. Consequently, the owner must address the concerns and fears of his employees. He must help them see the benefits of new ideas. If he can make them willing participants the changes will be far more effective.

At the same time, he must set realistic expectations regarding the speed and extent of change. In this regard, slow but steady change is ultimately more effective than rapid change that is quickly abandoned.

Employees are a part of your team. If you want them to perform at their best, help them help you. If you work together, not only on the floor or in the factory, but in the “board room” as well they will be much more willing to help you build the business you want to own.

Using systems and procedures to manage your time

If you are like the typical small business owner, you never seem to have enough time. Between giving meeting with customers, doing the books, building widgets, going to the bank, and a myriad other tasks, the day seems to be over long before the tasks are.

There can be a lot of reasons for this, but I think one of the primary causes is simply trying to do too much. There are many tasks that can be outsourced, delegated, or simply dispensed with. As a simple example, I used to pick up supplies for my crews. Invariably, I would arrive at the job only to be told that they also needed something else. I wasted an incredible amount of time making multiple trips to the store. Since delegating this responsibility to the crew supervisor, I rarely pick up supplies.

Just as you wouldn’t assign a new apprentice to perform the more complex tasks within your business, you shouldn’t assign yourself to tasks that are better suited for others. Concentrate your efforts on those tasks that truly require your attention and you might be surprised to discover that you have more time on your hands.

Of course, simply delegating responsibilities isn’t enough. If the task isn’t performed properly the result can be even more time consuming to correct. But the solution is not the avoidance of delegating; the solution is to have systems and procedures to guide the employee.

Developing step-by-step instructions for a task provides the employee with clear guidelines. If the instructions are followed, the result is predictable. The employee can do his job without being micromanaged, and you can spend your time on the things that you love doing.

If I had a hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the evening. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land. I don’t know about you, but thinking about doing all of that hammering makes me a little tired. If I had that much hammering to do, it might make sense to invest in a nail gun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like hammers. In fact I have 6 different hammers, ranging from a 12 ounce claw to a 20 pound sledge. Hammers are great tools. They allow us to drive nails and break things. But sometimes there is a tool that works better than a hammer. Sometimes there is a tool that will get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, many small business owners hammer away all day long and never spend a few moments looking for a better tool. They think that old ball peen they inherited from their father is the only tool that will work.

While that hammer may do the job, it has its limitations. You could use it to break up a concrete slab, but it would be a slow, laborious task. But in a figurative sense, this is precisely what many small business owners do.

Rather than using the available tools to build a better business, they plod along doing things the same way as their predecessors. Rather than take advantage of the technology available today, they use an abacus to do a computer’s job.

The ironic thing is, they are basically using their forehead as a hammer. They are beating their head against the wall and then wonder why they have a head ache. If they’d only pause and reflect on their situation, they might realize that their head can be used as more than a hammer.

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