Every business is looking for that edge that means you are just a little bit better. But for a startup business, that edge can mean the difference between survival as a business and, well, not! There are lots of things I have spoken about before that start-ups need, as well as more mature businesses, like business plans and cash flows. What is going to give you that winning edge once you have got going? Happy staff!
The difference between running a business and merely having a self-employed job is having employees. This challenge with employees is inculcating an attitude that means they not only do their job, but that they do it in a way that brings happiness, develops a team attitude, and ultimately, delivers a customer experience and less hassle for the business owner. Your employees need to be – and more importantly, need to feel – that they are valued, and that they are happy. Your workplace needs to be inclusive; you need to value your people and make sure they are happy in what they are doing. It’s then that the customer experience becomes more than just a buzz word, and turns into a reality; and when your team works well, you feel your business is on rocket fuel – happy staff = happy business!
Bigger businesses can spend on more training and team building events – but there are lots of other ways that a business can nurture their team. Very importantly, the simple things you can do are often just as important as the big things.
Employee buy-in to your ideas and plans has to be the first point. If your people ‘get it’, if they resonate with your business plan and what you set out to do, then that is really important. You get this from talking to them – from sharing your plans and ideas and values, and from sharing both your and their successes and failures. People = creativity, so share your ideas and get theirs in return! Get your internal communication right when you are small, when it is easy to do, so that it grows and scales with you. Talk to your team regularly and make it a mini team-building activity by involving them in the performance of the business, and in sharing in their individual customer service triumphs and disasters.
Very importantly don’t have a ‘them and us’ attitude with your employees. They might be your employees, but they aren’t yours, you don’t own them – you are all a team and have all volunteered to be part of that team. So be a team, be inclusive, get that emotional buy-in and reap the rewards in customer experience and job satisfaction that come from this.
Startup businesses often incentivise employees by giving them shares. Obviously this is a non-cash earnings but it creates a hope value. More importantly for most people it gives them an emotional stake in the business and binds them to its long-term success. There are tax considerations to think about, but especially for a startup this won’t be expensive. What other ways can you incentivise them?
Can your startup look and feel cutting edge?
An existing business has loads of baggage from systems, processes, equipment, buildings, etc. All of this makes it hard to change. A startup has the initial advantage that it has no baggage holding it back. Your startup will have an ever-changing and fast-paced business environment, so embrace that and use it to give you an edge.
Don’t think boring and manual systems: instead use automation where possible. Do away with laborious manual processes and use cutting-edge systems. Not only does it mean you are making the employee roles better, but also it means that scaling up and growing your business will be easier.
What’s more, cloud-based IT systems and processes lend themselves to hybrid and devolved working models. Building in ways to encourage your team to work efficiently, not just harder.
Be professional, be cutting edge with your IT and other equipment. Lots of startup businesses try to bootstrap and grow without investing money. Yes you can do it, but often spending just that little bit more on IT or on equipment will get you further faster. It’s not just about what works, but what is cool and exciting and delivers a cutting edge environment. This has the added advantage of extra interest for your team – you’re basically giving them new gadgets to play with!
This extends to investing in the workspace – having an interesting and exciting workplace always helps. OK, so you might not be able to have a Google office style slide between different floors. But do you have an exciting staff kitchen? Is the reception area innovative? Do you have loos with a difference? Do you have a great paint job or interesting signs or decorative touches? Adding creativity and interest to the workplace often makes a cutting-edge difference.
Hopefully you have now got some areas to look at and ideas to help get you started. Get in touch for more help with your startup business, and tips for the magic happy staff = happy business!