Highly Chilled Habit #6: Be Careful

The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business owners

This is the fifth article in a monthly series on small business owners I have met or worked with over the years who developed beautiful successful businesses.

Stories of successful real business owners

In 35 years of doing business and working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, I’ve learned a very important lesson: Success in small business starts by building great habits. I call these practices the “7 Highly Chilled Habits” and I find they’re best illustrated with the stories of real business owners who I happen to have had the pleasure of coaching.

The articles are based on my E-book, The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business Owners. All of my books and other resources are available for free here

Habit #6:

Highly Chilled Business Owners Find the Best Person for the Role

business mane rope balancing employment

In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you have to put great people on your team, give them every opportunity to shine and remove the ones that don’t fit.

BTW, You can read up on Chilled habit #1: Be dependable here

The Hard Stuff

Small business owners often lament the fact they can’t afford to hire great people because big corporates have so much deeper pockets. They also often complain that managing people (especially millennials!) is a nightmare because they think the world owes them a reward for turning up and as soon as you’ve finished training them, they leave again.

It’s true that finding, hiring, engaging and keeping good people is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your business.

But it’s meant to be hard because employing people is also your greatest opportunity to build a Highly Chilled business that makes money. And generally, in business (as in much of life, I suppose), the hardest things are where the greatest opportunities lie.

Be Careful, Like Adrian

I know lots of business owners who have struggled with employees their whole life. I’ve also met a bunch of them who get it right. Adrian is one of those people.

Adrian owns a Highly Chilled retail design, development and store fit-out business in Sydney. This is his website. Things have been going incredibly well for Adrian since he started his business in 2010. He employs around 30 people and half of them are young millennials. They come and go, get paid the industry average and have their good and bad days. But they deliver. The culture of the place is buzzing, and they make lots of money for Adrian and his business.

Adrian’s secrets are simple:

  • Hire the best people, not just the ones you can afford.
  • Hire for cultural fit AND skills/experience.
  • Set high expectations.
  • Give everyone lots of encouragement and genuine personal attention.
  • Get rid of them early if they don’t work out.

A couple of years ago, Adrian’s business had grown to the point where he needed a general manager. The temptation was to promote someone internally to the role. That would have been the easy, economical solution.

However, he was aware of the Peter Principle that says: “People always get promoted to one level above their ability.”

And Adrian needed someone with experience in fast-growing national and international business.

The answer was clear. The person in the business he’d considered for the role didn’t have GM experience and although a great team member, promoting this person was not what the business needed. Adrian actually knew exactly the person he wanted to have on board, a good friend, but she had a high paying job at one of the biggest corporates in Sydney (with all the perks and trappings of corporate success). What could he offer to entice her away?

She Jumped at the Opportunity

Long story short, Adrian took his friend to lunch, took the plunge and matched her corporate pay. He also offered her other financial benefits and options in the business down the track. The friend jumped at the opportunity, and they’ve been working together for 3 years with great success.

Your business is only as strong as your people. Hiring someone based on whether you can afford them, or because they happen to be there already, is a recipe for stagnation.

Adrian’s is a Highly Chilled business and Adrian is a Highly Chilled small business owner.

Your Homework (The Chilled Kind)

Here’s a short exercise you could carry out to start the process of making this habit your own.

Practice Highly Chilled habit #6:

You may not currently need to hire someone, but the next time you do need to find a new employee, resist the automatic temptation to consider promoting someone you already have on the team. First, take some time to visualise the person you’d ideally like for the role.

Are you a small business owner who’s feeling the heat? Explore Highly Chilled habit #7 as soon as it is live on my blog here 

More on this topic:

Staff engagement and the Germans in Brazil

winning kid

How to build a team that fires?

staff engagement germans champions I have spent the last few weeks getting very excited about World Cup soccer, and whether or not you like soccer or you get more excited about other footbal games with pointy balls… one thing is clear some teams sparkle (Germany for example) and some teams don’t (who can forget the crying distressed faces of the Brazillian supporters at the end of the semi finals?)

Thinking about staff and employees I often flash on what a friend of mine who is a nurse used to say (half-jokingly): “I could run such a great hospital if it wasn’t for all those ruddy patients.”

But the business owner’s lament is a different one: I know I could run such a great business if it wasn’t for those pesky staff

Michael Gerber, in his famous book: The E-Myth told us 25 years ago to give up trying to manage people, and focus on systems instead.

Gen Y

And in his time, Michael Gerber hadn’t even met a Gen-X employee yet, let alone Gen-Y! Ask your Gen-Y staff member to do something simple like smile at a customer and make them feel welcome when they walk into the shop and they look at you as if you just asked them to kiss a cockroach.

We all know that employing people is tough and it can be the toughest challenge any business owner faces when trying to develop and grow his or her business. And yet, it is also where the greatest opportunity lies for your business, because the essence of just about any business model ever invented is about charging a margin on labour, employees of some form in other words. And that statement holds true equally for either product or service business and even fully digital businesses will find it hard to be successful without employees of some sort.

So how do you engage those pesky staff members, so that you get the best out of them, and you don’t go grey prematurely?

I believe it all starts with this Golden Rule:

Hire for attitude and train for skill.

When you recruit for new employees I urge you to keep this Rule in the forefront of your mind – Always look for attitude first.

dee hockThe founder of Visa International, Dee Hock shared this about hiring staff: “Hire first on the basis of Integrity; second on the basis of motivation; third, capacity; fourth understanding; fifth, knowledge and last and least, experience.”

Integrity and motivation are what makes a great team member. Most other skills can be taught.

Prepare Prepare Prepare

So how do you hire for attitude?

  1. 1)   Prepare, prepare, prepare… Put together a simple series of questions that give you the opportunity to get a clear insight into this person, what they’re really like.
  2. 2)   Organise trial days.
  3. 3)   Experiment with role plays,
  4. 4)   Involve your manager in the hiring process
  5. 5)   Check references.

This is what happens when you don’t check references:

beauty salonA client of mine, Wendy, runs an upmarket beauty salon in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.  6 months ago she fired one of her staff for unfailing laziness.   Recently, Wendy received a phone call from the owner of another beauty salon in Sydney who had employed the previously ‘fired’ employee for some months, on the strength of the fact that she had worked for Wendy before. She rang Wendy, confused and disappointed, because of the bad attitude and performance of her new employee.

A simple reference check, before hiring a new employee can save you a whole heap of aggravation.

Second step

The second step in engaging your people is a little less obvious.

You see, your staff aren’t actually all that different to you, they are actually normal people, just like you, honest they are, trust me.

And people like to be engaged, they like to enjoy life, they like to collaborate with other people and they like to win.

It’s the reason so many of us play team sports. In my experience of working with many small business owners, the most effective approach to engage a bunch of employees in small business is to think of business as if it is a game of rugby.

Fun and winning

winning The reason we join a soccer team is to have fun and enjoy ourselves and the object of the game is to win.

I encourage all of my clients to start to think of their business as a soccer team (But maybe not the Brazilian world cup team at the moment!!) and their staff as fellow team members, with yourself as the captain and coach of the team.

As the captain you understand that your staff joined your team for exactly the same reasons you created it, to have fun and enjoy themselves and to win the game (That is as long as you hire for attitude). Furthermore you must help them understand how the whole team depends on each other.

As the coach you know that you must take the time to teach your team members the rules of the game, you have to train them to become more effective in their roles, and you have to show them how their actions have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.

Finally the team members need to feel they have a ‘stake in the outcome’; they have to feel that winning is good for them as individuals as much as it is for the team as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong, implementing what I just described isn’t easy, and no doubt there will be plenty of times when you will want to pull your hair out (there’s a good reason I don’t have any hair left). But by making it your prime responsibility as the business owner to become a great coach and captain of your team, you will be well on your way to building a Fun business that sustains you for years to come … I promise you.

For more information about to how to step out of overwhelm, get unstuck and start having Fun in Business again, click here