People Management Skills Are Critical for Small Business Owners

Steve WeaverPost by Steve Weaver, Apex Senior Advisor and Owner of Celebration Party Rentals

As you consider your decision to become a business owner, you might want to think about the people-management aspect of the job. It’s a critical factor in business success. As a small business owner myself, I spend a lot of time working on this.

Seek Input on Attracting Qualified Staff
In today’s job market, you have to be savvy to attract the talent you need. You’ll want to cover this topic thoroughly during your due diligence with the sellers. How are they sourcing talent today? Where have they found good talent in the past? What’s the tenure of current employees, and how committed are they to staying on after the sale?

Talk to other people, too. How do others in this field see the market for talent? How have they been successful?

It’s a good idea to talk with both business and non-business associates. You never know who might have insight or sources for you. Some of our best employees have come from casual referrals via friends and neighbors. It may sound harsh, but you should always be looking for the next new employee. Employees will move on. And like any job or business, you need to keep your pipeline full.

Websites like are an inexpensive way to post jobs. You’ll get plenty of hits, but you still have to do a lot of work to weed out those who won’t fit. This is a struggle for our business sometimes, because we need to fill vacancies fast. We’ve had to get comfortable with some level of risk here. We manage that by establishing a 90-day transition period. This lets us and the employee take some time to see if it’s going to work. If we end the relationship during that time period, we don’t have an obligation to pay unemployment benefits.

TeamWork on Retaining Your Employees
Hiring the right people is only half the equation. Now you need to work on keeping them. Low-wage workers are especially difficult to retain, because they tend to job hop in search of small pay increases.

Encourage their potential: Most of our employees are earning in the range of $28,000 to $38,000 a year. But many of them have ambitions to earn more and get better jobs. To keep them from job-hopping, we offer to work with them to increase their skills and management experience.

You can even sit down with them and help them work out a career and education path for getting where they want to go. You may not have a $100,000 job waiting in the wings for them, but you can potentially keep them happy and productive until they’re ready for the next step.

Train them well: You can’t be too detailed when it comes to training. Don’t just throw your new employees out there to sink or swim. Provide some documentation about the job, if you can. An employee handbook is a must! And consider setting up mentors or partners so employees can help one another.

Recognize their needs: Scheduling part-time employees is always tough. It’s hard for them, too, especially when they’re juggling multiple jobs, childcare or education. Whenever you can, try to show you’re attempting to accommodate their needs. It often pays off in terms of employee loyalty and productivity.

Find meaningful ways to create community and rewards: While money talks, you can find other ways to reward employees. Millennials, especially, are motivated by praise, feedback and a sense of community with their coworkers. Find ways to recognize great effort and results, host company lunches and give out small prizes, like gift cards. We find that the return on these small investments is much greater than the cost. For example, our business is super busy on holidays like the 4th of July. So we provide burgers, dogs and drinks for our staff and their families. It’s a small gesture to show we care and understand how a job like this can affect family time on holidays.

Involve them in the business: As much as we can, we like to be open with company information. We try to keep our employees posted on how the business is doing so they can see how their work contributes to the bottom line. They need to understand that company performance can affect them – in the form of staffing, wages and potential bonuses or gifts.

Recruiting and retaining workers may be the most challenging part of our business. It takes a lot of time and effort. But when it works, it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of ownership.

If you or someone you know is interested in buying or selling a business, please call us at 913-383-2671 or contact one of our Apex Business Advisors today!