Management

8 Qualities that Determine a Great Employee

One of the most exciting milestones for a small business owner to reach is when it is time to add someone to their operation. Having enough work where you need to hire additional help means your business has achieved a degree of success and looks like it will continue to flourish. It is also a big responsibility, however, and must be performed carefully to avoid hiring the wrong person.

While direct experience or skill in your exact business would be nice, that is something that can be taught. Personality traits, however, are usually much more fixed, and are extremely difficult to change. This means that knowing which qualities are those that have the highest likelihood of resulting in a positive working experience is of exceptional importance.

Autonomous and Self-managed

Given that the primary reason to hire a new employee is to reduce the amount of work you have to do, it would be less than optimal to have to keep answering questions, and providing detailed instruction on how to complete the given task or project. If an employee is naturally autonomous, it will cut down on the amount of times you receive those annoying interruptions.

The ability to also manage time and behavior is another important trait. Managing time effectively is necessary to ensure the optimal amount of productivity, which gives you the greatest return on your investment in an employee. The capability to manage behavior helps prevent frivolous and time-wasting activities, such as surfing the internet or looking at memes.

Creative

A certain degree of creativity can also be helpful in different ways. A creative employee can think of new ways to help maximize your company’s operation, or even come up with new and innovative products or services you can add to your offering lineup. Remember, one of the keys to growing a business is new ideas and methods, and having an extra person to help in this department is invaluable.

The ability to think outside the box in creative ways can also be beneficial in coming up with the best solutions, if problems arise that are difficult to solve. If your employee encounters a disgruntled customer, having the capacity to find a creative and effective solution helps avoid unwanted loss of business and reputation.

Reliable

As you are likely to find out over your course as an employer, few things are more annoying in an employee than being unable to rely on them. An employee who fails to show up or complete a task on time can easily result in missed deadlines and angry customers. Find yourself a candidate with a proven track record in being reliable, something you can easily determine by contacting former employers. While it may take a little extra time to go this extra step, finding out there is a problem with reliability before you make your employment offer, rather than the hard way, makes it well worth the effort.

Passionate

While it is possible to work a job you have no real interest in, it usually results in a much more lackluster performance. Having true passion and interest in the work being performed can manifest itself in a myriad of positive ways. If a customer speaks to a passionate employee even in an online business, they are much more likely to receive the best information and problem-solving solutions. They can also just feel how much the employee loves what they are talking about, which promotes a feeling of confidence that they are shopping at the right place.

Passion can also have positive effects in the workplace itself, and the operation of the business. Passion can be contagious, and fellow workers might see it and emulate it in their interests and behavior. An employee who is passionate about their work is also much more likely to go the extra mile when performing their duties.

Ambitious and Driven

The basic quality of having a strong desire to really make something out of life is something easy to see in someone’s performance at work. A lack of ambition or drive usually means the employee will look for every opportunity to do the minimum amount required to keep the job and receive the paycheck. There is no need to impress a boss if the goal of advancing and improving is missing.

Detail-oriented

As most experienced business operates can attest to, the devil truly is in the details. One missed digit or incorrect address can quickly snowball into a serious situation that can have long-lasting negative repercussions. Even failing to jot down a customer’s name correctly can reflect negatively on how they perceive you if you need to communicate with them.

As such, any employee you take on should know those details matter, and understand the importance of making sure each is handled correctly. Not only does this avoid those nasty issues that can result from a mistake, you can enjoy a level of confidence in knowing you do not have to go back and check their work for accuracy.

Strong Work Ethic

As with most others things in business, hiring an employee is an investment. The time and expense involved in the process is high, so reaping as many benefits from your investment helps raise profits and expand your business more quickly. An employee with a strong work ethic gives you much more for each dollar paid than someone who just likes to slack off and do whatever they have to to skate by.

Positive Attitude

A gloom-and-doom attitude is a liability in virtually every aspect of life, and business is no exception. A truly positive attitude is obvious to see, and can influence the attitude of both customers and fellow employees alike. An employee should be able to be positive not only in the good times, but also remain so if they make a mistake. Looking at these stumbles as learning experiences means a less likelihood of them happening again.

Fewer things contribute more to the success of a business than excellent employees, and knowing which qualities are the best to have for your individual operation ensures the highest chance of enlisting superstars. Taking the extra time needed to make these determinations will undoubtedly pay itself back in spades over the life of your business.

April 30, 2018 / by / in
5 Steps to Developing a Solid Business Plan

If you want your business to succeed, you will need to have a solid business plan. Although this may sound like it’s not that big of a deal, creating a good and detailed plan can be quite challenging. After all, this is a document that holds the description of the future of your company. It should contain all the information about what you plan on doing in the future and how you plan on doing it.

In case you know you have a good idea but aren’t sure how to go about writing the business plan, then you should consider hiring some professional help. There are a lot of great business plan writers that you can find online, which will turn the information you provide them with into an amazing plan.

Developing a solid business plan is important not only because it will allow you to come up with certain strategies, but because it will allow you to check your progress. On top of that, it’ll also show investors that you have put some serious thought into your idea and that you aren’t simply winging it. In order to prove that you’re serious about your future business, you will need to take all the necessary steps towards developing a solid plan.

Do Your Research

Research is by far the most important step towards creating a business plan. You will need to analyze and know your market before you actually start making your product. Find out whether people would even be interested in the products or services you plan on providing. After that, you should do extensive research on the market. In order to come up with a solid plan, you’ll need to know your competition well, so make sure to get as much information about other companies in your industry.

Keep in mind that as a business owner, it is your responsibility to find out as much as possible about the industry you are entering.

Be Realistic

Even though it’s completely normal to be optimistic when writing a business plan, you should always try to be as realistic as possible. Things won’t always go as you might anticipate them to, so your company may not grow as fast as you expected it to. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs get overly optimistic with available resources and time when making a business plan. In order to be more realistic, you should always assume that your every operation will take 15% longer than you anticipated.

Include a Company Profile

If you want to develop a solid business plan, then you must include a company profile. This is a section that should have information about the history of your company, the services and products your offer, your resources, as well as your target audience. This needs to be one of the first sections in your business plan, since it is used to describe the company. If you have a company website, then you can use the information in the company profile section of your plan for your “About Us” page. This way, both investors and consumers will get to learn a lot about your company.

Have Proof

If you make a certain claim, you will need to have proof that will back it up. In case you write that you expect your product to be a success all across the country, then you will need to add some facts that will support this statement. If you write that you have an excellent management team, you will need to show an example of staff resumes.

Show That You Care

The people who read your business plan will need to see that you’re passionate about what you do. To do this, consider sharing some of the mistakes you’ve made in the past and what you’ve learned from them. You should also try to include why you think your product or service will make the lives of your consumers easier.

April 22, 2018 / by / in
Supporting Women In Business

Times are changing. Across the United States, more women are pursuing and completing post-secondary education than men. However, they are still earning less money on average, receive less funding for their businesses, and find themselves moving more slowly up the corporate ladder than their male counterparts. This is nothing new, and, fortunately, it is getting better.

Women in business today are combatting centuries of patriarchal control: men ruled the business world, as well as everything else. Study after study is finding that women are not only as capable as men, but in many regards even better suited to lead. It has largely been acknowledged that a lack of female leadership is one of the greatest weaknesses that a company can suffer, and policies are being implemented left, right and center in order to remedy this.

However, studies and policies can only go so far. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each and every member of a business to right this deep-rooted historical ignorance. Unconscious bias, age-old ways of thinking, fear of judgment, and lack of consideration are all responsible for gender inequality. Here are some ways that you can shift your thoughts and actions in order to support women in business.

ACKNOWLEDGE UNCONSCIOUS BIAS

The fact that inequality continues to exist despite decades of growing awareness, and even clear company policies developed specifically to counter it, demonstrates the prevalence of unconscious bias. In so many words, unconscious bias—in this context—refers to the reactions and judgments we make of a woman based on stereotypes and other information that is inconsiderate and unfair to the particular individual.

We are talking about reactions made at the subconscious level, so this is difficult to directly manipulate. However, the least we can do is think about our unconscious bias regarding women in the workplace, acknowledge it, and at least try to drag it up and make ourselves conscious of the issue. This unconscious bias is at the root of almost every recommendation on this list.

A short-cut to acknowledge this unconscious bias is specialized training programs, which are now available throughout the United States—recommend it to your company!

GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE

Women in business routinely report a male colleague repeating points originally made by women, and subsequently receiving credit for the idea. One strategy to mitigate this phenomenon is to amplify female opinions. If a woman makes a good point, repeat and agree with her idea, making it clear that it was indeed her idea. Even one additional voice makes it that much more difficult to ignore a woman or misattribute her idea to a male.

GIVE HARSH FEEDBACK WHEN IT IS DUE

Studies have shown that women are less likely to receive harsh or difficult feedback than their male counterparts. When it comes to accounting for this behavior, the response of (overwhelmingly male) leaders is that they didn’t want to come off as mean, or hurt the employee’s feelings. While this behavior may seem like a kindness at the surface, it harms the development of women in the workplace, as clear and concise feedback is essential for development.

This is another leftover from an age where women were seen as delicate and fragile creatures. If women are playing the harsh game of business, they can handle—even deserve—the difficult feedback that is needed for proper professional development.

LEND A HAND; BE A MENTOR

Women can often feel isolated in business circles, which unfortunately more often than not can seem like boys’ clubs. If you are in a position to do so, it would go a long way to extend a hand to a woman seeking to advance in your company or industry. Everybody needs a mentor, and mentoring can be just as rewarding for the individual giving the advice as for the person receiving it. Clear and honest feedback is more useful than an open door.

This is particularly needed in facing one of the greatest challenges in the business world today, which is the overwhelming lack of female leaders. This is due in large part to every professional’s urge to mentor individuals who remind them of a younger version of themselves—a phenomenon known as similarity bias. This is an area where we are still very much feeling the hangover of patriarchy—business leaders are overwhelmingly male, and therefore hold a bias toward mentoring male employees.

GROW UP

As ridiculous as it seems, men in senior positions sometimes try to avoid one-on-one contact with female employees out of fear that they may be suspected of sexual misconduct or having an affair. Part of this is undoubtedly a symptom of the social climate of the Weinstein-era, and is a difficult issue to resolve.

With a culture primed and highly sensitive to any sort of sexual tones in the workplace, this point is perhaps the most difficult in this article. As the smoke of the #MeToo movement clears, we can only hope that greater understanding of and respect for boundaries will emerge, and we will be able to leave all the awkward stuff at home, and handle business with nothing but business in mind.

STANDARDIZE

When there is no clear criteria for leadership at a company, the workforce will inevitably resort to stereotypical concepts of a boss, which will be drawn, among other sources, from cartoons. By defining the characteristics that a leader possesses, those characteristics become the image of leadership—traits like great coaching ability can be possessed by anyone.

Standardization is also useful in combatting the feedback issue. Setting scheduled feedback/performance evaluations for each employee has an effect on a couple elements of gender inequality. Firstly, it has an effect on reducing similarity bias by ensuring that each and every employee sees an equal amount of feedback and coaching. Additionally, it would reduce the impact of that embarrassing fear senior males may have of mentoring young female employees due to how it may appear.

With the overwhelming prevalence of unconscious bias, standardizing the way various aspects of workplace interaction—at least for the most difficult transitionary periods—just may prove to be a lasting solution. For the time being, by taking the steps outlined in this article, you can play your part in leveling the playing field, and supporting women in business to reach their full potential.

April 8, 2018 / by / in
How To Recover From Business Setbacks

Things rarely go according to plan, and that maxim certainly applies to business as much as anything else. Whether you’re growing a start-up or running an established juggernaut, it is very unlikely that the road will be without twists, turns, potholes and sudden stops. Whether it’s losing a primary client, a valued employee, funding shortages, scandals, or utter act of God, you are almost certain to encounter setbacks with your business. However inevitable these problems may be, they do not necessarily spell disaster. Here are some tips to keep things moving up, even it may look down.

CHECK OUT ALL THE ANGLES

No matter how confident you are in your business, a significant setback can be a seriously unsettling experience. Like any emergency, it is important to remain calm and assess the situation objectively. Don’t make snap decisions that you will later regret.

After a calamity, it is normal to feel stressed, disappointed, depressed and even afraid—these feelings are to be expected, although they’re certainly not helpful. In order to avoid making critical decisions based even partly on emotion, you should take the time to consult as many people as you can. Even asking friends and family outside of the business could yield potentially brilliant approaches that you may have missed. Look for positive people with can-do attitudes—misery does NOT need company.

Don’t have many positive business-minded people in your circle? Consider branching out further. Post questions to relevant LinkedIn groups or Reddit forums . . . Chances are that someone’s been there, and can share what they learned. In the end, the first step to responding to a business setback is to take a breather, and examine the situation—and your options—in full before deciding how to react.

CHIN UP, CHAMP

This is going to sound frustratingly cliché, but the importance of a positive mindset cannot be overstated. If your business is sinking, it may be unrealistic to expect to see the silver lining, however you should strive to at least identify the opportunities at hand. At the very least, this is an experience to learn and grow as a professional.

Don’t focus on the past, especially not now. Accept that a mistake was made, or a variable overlooked; acknowledge it, but don’t place blame. The most helpful thing to do right now is to simply acknowledge and accept what has happened. Focus on moving forward.

This step is especially important to achieve before moving onto the following . . .

IS IT VIABLE TO KEEP GOING?

Depending on the size and scope of your setback, you may need to step back, look at your business critically, and ask some tough questions.

  • Is it financially viable to continue? There will certainly be situations where this is simply not the case, and in such contexts, it may be best to move on.
  • Do you still believe in the company? The tough reality is that sometimes a setback is just the first sign of a significant foundational problem, and it’s simply better to walk away and start over.

Granted, many setbacks will initially appear worse than they really are. Remember the above points: stay calm, be objective, assess your options. The majority of setbacks will be just that—setbacks. Chances are there will be a way around.

. . . IF SO, TAKE ACTION!

If you’ve analyzed the issue and believe that your business can survive, it’s time to get moving. Don’t sit around and let the vultures move in—as the saying goes, more is lost through indecision than wrong decision. Nobody says that this part will be easy. The fix may involve cutting corners—whether through laying off employees, or moving to a smaller office, or some other unfortunate compromise—and there’s no use griping about it.

Aside from the brass tacks, you’ll also need to address the issue to your employees, clients, or maybe even the press. Don’t sugar-coat it. People don’t want to hear excuses. Own the problem, acknowledge it, and deliver your plan for recovery—that’s the only thing that is going to set people at ease.

Regardless of your action plan, you will need to remain flexible. This applies both to your resources and your mindset. Fixing your setback may involve delaying a planned purchase or expansion. You need to be able to rearrange your priorities in order to best fit your new circumstances. You should be flexible with all aspects of your business, and willing to go so far as compromising long-term goals in favor of new and realistic shorter-term goals.

DON’T NEGLECT OTHER AREAS OF YOUR LIFE

Time and time again, businesses tank or experience a near-miss and their founders credit their health or family for helping them pull through and keep things in perspective. Working around the clock to set things straight will likely hurt more than help the situation if it compromises your health. Whatever happens, you want to be able to face it objectively and actively—to do so, you need to take care of yourself.

Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Spend time with your family and friends. Make time for what you love. Not only will this help clear your head, but it will keep you grounded, and allow you to view the problem from the perspective of what really matters.

LEARN

Denial will get you nowhere. It probably wasn’t just someone else’s fault, and that sort of thinking will hinder your development as a business professional. Instead of finding someone or something to blame, simply acknowledge the failure, and own it. Learning can only truly occur when blame has been set aside.

Specifically, try to identify the foundational issue at the root of your setback. Poor customer service? Unrealistic expectations? Mismanaging of funds? Figure out what you can do in the future to make sure that whatever happened won’t happen again.

Setbacks are a reality of business. We only really learn when we fail, and how you deal with your setback is more important than how it came to happen in the first place.

February 11, 2018 / by / in ,