Building strong relationships with your employees is one important factor in running a small business despite the stress of keeping up with the day-to-day goals. Our employees are the workforce our business thus they become an indispensable part of success. If they are happy, the better the customer service or work performance is. If this happens, success is almost guaranteed. In this episode, we explore 11 tips in creating lasting relationships with employees without cutting into your budget.
- Lunch break is a an important time
- Make lunch a personal thing
- Get together outside of work
- Find out how they are
- Know what they want out of the trade
- Make them feel comfortable
- Trusting employees foster loyalty
- Introducing them to clients will make them feel appreciated and important
- Small business is the game changer requiring give-and-take
- The “four-tens” work schedule magic
- Go out of your way to make employees feel special
Welcome to Smart Tradesmen. The show dedicated to bringing Entrepreneurship into small business. Whether you are a seasoned business owner or just starting out, it is our mission to help you design a business that works for you… and not the other way around. Now, here’s your host Daniel Eric Bowling.
Yes that’s me, Daniel Eric Bowling. I am very excited that yet you join me for another episode of Smart Tradesmen the Podcast. But I want to remind you that we are not just a podcast. Yes we are a show dedicated to bring entrepreneurship into your small business but we are much more than that. With your help we are building a community around Smart Tradesmen, I am going to say movement; it’s more of a mindset. So if you want to be a Smart Tradesmen now is the time. Go over to facebook.com/group/smarttradesmen and that is where you can join our private facebook group and get the conversation started with other likeminded individuals that are really looking to help support you and get you unstuck if you need to grow, and help your business and your life – your personal life rather, aligned with each other. We are all working towards the same goal, so let’s not do it alone. Today’s episode was totally unplanned. It’s actually Saturday here in south Carolina and I am preparing for the Podcast movement coming up here in a couple of weeks and so, I’m just trying to get some of the house cleaned up and my head around the things that I’m going to pack. As I was doing so, I was thinking about how I’m very blessed with the connections that I have made in my small business and that my past employees have become such good friends with me and they really still help to support me, that anytime I ever need anything they’re there. So I pulled out a pen and a paper and I just started jotting down what I think I could possible attribute this to and I really think it’s a good topic to go over right now.
When we are running our small businesses, it’s just hard to keep up with it day-to-day. We sometimes forget that our employees that we totally rely on, they have problems too. And in the small business, our employees they step up and they try to make our problems their problems. And they really try to make the deadlines and to me, they really feel like it’s a personal thing to them if we’re doing good and we’re doing everything we say we’re going to do and if they can help you meet deadlines, then you are going to be happy, which works for a better work environment. It’s just sometimes we have to remember to make them feel like they are people too.
Without spending too much money you can really do a lot for your relationship with your employees. Even if you spend a little money doing these things, you are going to gain it back with extra productivity and them thinking and avoiding issues, because they really take the job seriously, because they love their work and they love you.
You have to remember that this is a small business, it’s like a family. When you show up to work you are only seeing the same couple people almost every day. It’s not like a big company environment so you have to treat it as a family and you have to do some of the same things that you might do when you’re at home to keep in touch with your wife or your kids. You really need to work on that relationship. So when I sat down, I know this is probably an incomplete list but there is about eight things off the top of my head that I could remember doing with my employees or my past business partner before, we were actually business partners he was my boss, and just the environment that we created together and for the people that worked with us, it really is something that I can hardly explain other than to just to tell you jump right into some of the things that we would do, that would really help to build our relationship together.
Now that I am thinking about it and looking at the list, it is actually eleven things that I’m going to mention and it just so happens that three of them have to deal with eating lunch, so you should be in for a treat. Keep in mind that these are in no particular order; these are just what came out of me when I started writing down. I know that probably sounds bad but what flowed out of my pen when I sat down to write is the better way to put it. So, the first three things that I am going to mention – they all center around lunch. I don’t know about you but most tradesmen that I have been around that are small businesses, lunch is a big deal. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, even in the big business world lunch is probably a big deal, I just never been there and done that. It’s just that lunch is a time to either, just be by yourself (it’s your time) or it’s a time to connect with those people that you are working with all day long and connect with them on a personal level. It’s your time to be yourself and forget about work a half hour or an hour. And there are actually three things that center around the lunch experience that you can do to build rapport.
Every once in a while for no reason at all, it doesn’t have to be because you met a big deadline it doesn’t have to be anything just take them out to lunch as a group, just go out of the shop. If you are an outbound service truck, meet somewhere. If you are working near each other, make it a point to meet up somewhere and grab a burger, and if you are able you pay for it because those little things really mean a lot. You never really know how their finances are when you suggest going out to lunch, their first immediate though might be that they can’t really afford it, and at times all of us are there. So if you can, take them out to lunch and get them out of the workspace. Just connect and forget about work for half an hour and be real people together and if you can afford it pay for it.
The second thing that you can do, if you are working like in a shop type environment, I know that sometimes everybody just has different schedules they’re eating lunch at different times. Some people like me get hungry at like ten o’clock and then they need to eat again at like twelve and then they’re starving the rest of the day. So, lunch for me is good at any time I just probably eat two-three lunches some days and that wouldn’t be enough. But if you can, just on occasion encourage like some sort of potluck lunch where you come together as a team and you’re promoting that team effort. Before lunch, and this really go a long way and you guys working as a team, it really reflects how you work as a team in your business type setup.
So one person might bring the beans and somebody brings lunch meat or, I mean, it doesn’t have to be very extravagant but the little bit of planning for the next day, I found it I actually made me look forward to coming into work that day. I would relate it to being like a kid I’m looking forward to a field day because I know the next day I have just that something different to look forward to. Maybe it’s just because I’m hungry right now, but it could be the fact that lunch is a very important part to building rapport in a small business. But the third thing that did center around lunch was for you to personally make them lunch on occasion. I know it’s kind of like the potluck where everybody is making something or you’re treating them to go out to eat, out of the shop, get away. But to me this was a little different this meant a lot to me and it also meant a lot I think, when I made an effort to bring stuff in for my employees (or friends since I like to call them that) to try, something that I might have made the night before, I make extra and bring in the leftovers or you could even set up a crockpot and make a pot of chili and then have all the ingredients together and then come into the shop in the morning and start it and by lunch time it’s done. Again it’s the thought that counts it doesn’t have to be very extravagant it doesn’t have to be anything really special but the fact that they’re not going to spend their money on lunch and that you thought ahead to do this means a lot.
And I know a pizza party means a lot and you buying them lunch means a lot but this means a lot in a different way because you’re not just pouring out your checkbook and (nobody pays for lunch with a check) but you’re not pulling out your credit card and just paying for their lunch just in case they can’t afford it or just to be nice, you actually made this for them and that, I think they will appreciate in a different way. So, the combination of these three things if you do these all three on occasion I think it’ll go a long way.
And then moving beyond lunch and you may see a theme even with the lunch topic that you’re always promoting a team effort. And the next on is similar to the first lunch topic about getting them out of the shop and being in a real environment this one needs to be after work hours. Meet with them outside of work. You can even do it on occasion with members of each other’s families, the spouses or bring the kids. Just get them outside of work and be real people together and connect on the level that’s not just meeting deadlines and boss-employee type relationship. I think especially in a small business setting it’s vital that they see you on a different level than just the boss, the man that they’re trying to just make happy all the time or woman, I mean “the man” figuratively. You don’t want to just be that role all the time they need to know that there’s a sense of connection between the two of you. And when you get on in this environment outside of work, take the time to listen to them don’t limit to just outside of work but this is a good opportunity to just really hear what they’re saying because the distractions of work aren’t there. Just listen to what they have to say.
Sometimes they are closer to the problems than you are so you could really learn a lot by what they have to say about what’s working and what’s not working. And then while you’re listening to them find out how they’re doing on a personal level. You need to know how their family is, what they’re struggling with, I mean, you can’t force them to be intimate and share these things with you but if you can develop a relationship where you’re at that level then it would help to know if they’re struggling at home, if they’re showing up late or their not being productive. If you could pinpoint on a friendly basis that they’re having problems at home, maybe they’ll be something that you can do to help address this for them or help them get through it and with risking sounding disingenuine (i guess is the word) you can really help their work-life by addressing their home-life. But I’m not saying be fake about it genuinely care, don’t just do because it will help productivity, do it because they’re your family they’re your friend. So help them adjust their personal problems, you don’t want to take them on but just listening will go a long way. They look at you as somebody that’s somewhat of a mentor or you’re somewhere where they would like to be, you’re their boss they respect you they look up to you. You come from a place of authority and even if you can’t fix their problems, just having you listen and genuinely caring will go a long way. And also find out their future goals, we’re silly to think especially in trade based businesses that people are going to work for us forever.
Find out what they want and if they want to learn the trade or eventually go out on their own and own their own business, then know that’s a goal and help them work towards that. Chances are, if you can keep a relationship with an understanding that you are working towards his goal, you may be able to work something out to where your relationship last longer than if it comes to a time when your budding heads because they’re ready to go out on their own and then use leave on bad terms. Set the precedents early, let them know that you expect them to go out on their own and that’s why you want them to try so hard to learn the skill sets needed because someday they’ll need to know them. And wow! You get them there for the years that they’re there helping you. They’re going to be better employees for it. Nurture their future goals help them achieve them and you’re going to have an alliance with them for life.
If you’re both going to be in the same industry then you might as will be on good terms and help feed each other in each other’s slow times. There’s no reason he has to be working against each other and it starts early on in your relationship with you almost expecting them to go out on their own someday and I think I touched on this; genuinely care, that is just one quick and easy must have step. You have to care. If you don’t they’re going to see right through that and you’re just going to have to accept that they’re not going to give it their all they’re not going to try because they know you don’t give a shit and you can’t fake being genuine. So really listen to them and work on really caring and while you’re working on a communication with them be sure to tell them thank you. I know from working in small businesses that sometimes I feel like the only time I was noticed was when something went wrong, when things are going good there’s no good job, there’s just that was expected.
When things go wrong, oh that was your fault. So, you have to promote an environment where they’re not afraid to mess up but at the same time you have to let them know that their noticed when things are going good.
Say thank you, say “that was a really good job that you did yesterday thank you” and it will surprise them it really will and you might avoid them slowly growing bitter because they don’t feel like you notice how much they do for the company until one day that you just butt heads and they demand a raise or quit. That little thank you could save you a lot of headaches down the road because animosity won’t start growing out of nowhere without you knowing it. Two words to remember in your small business vocabulary “Thank you.” If you don’t hear anything else that I’m saying today at least hear that and remember that.
Next topic is Trust. You have to be able to trust employees. Some people are just not trustworthy I understand that but for the right people that you can put your trust in you need to sincerely trust them by trusting them in giving them more responsibility. They’re going to try harder and they’re going to care more about their job because people just want to be trusted. They want to be given responsibility, they want to know that you think that they’re smart and they can handle their job. So when you run into a problem and they are the ones closest to the problem ask them their opinion and trust them. I know if this is handled badly and you asked for their opinion and then you don’t go with what they think then that might cause them to be a little bitter. But just have a conversation and say, “what do you think we should do here?” because I trust your judgment because you’re the one doing it. But ultimately they need to know and you need to clarify that you’re taking their opinion into account but ultimately it’s still your decision. Make sure that they’re not feeling hurt because you don’t listen to them, explain to them why if you ask them their opinion and then you don’t go with what they say. Explain to them why you think you’re going to go a different route but that you appreciate their opinion. So that if things don’t go right they’re not going to say I told you so. As a team you’re going to figure it out, there’s never a “you messed up and we have to fix it”, it’s “how do we move forward”.
I could probably go on all day about each one of these topics but moving on. The next topic that I want discuss is something very simple that you can do that will go such a long way is introduce them to your clients. Make it a point to let them know that you care enough about them that they’re not just somebody behind the scenes but they’re important enough for their clients that they’re working with to know who they are because they’re not just your clients it’s a combined effort, I guess I should say. I remember that feeling when I was firsts learning upholstery going into designers’ workshops, into their offices or into customers’ homes and when I would be introduced to them like I was somebody important even though I didn’t know anything about the trade yet.
It made me want to learn because here I am coming from a construction background where I was a nobody, when things are being finished up we were rushed out the door and then finishing touches are put on and we never got to see the end result at all. And here I am getting brought into a customer’s house and we’re meeting with the designer and given such respect because I’m not just a nobody my name’s Daniel and I’m here to help you.
And I entered into the apprenticeship role with the feeling of “don’t speak up I’m behind the scenes” but I did appreciate the fact that the guy that I first started on a upholstery with introduced me to the people that we worked with, made me feel like somebody, he gave me the responsibility of having that face to face interaction and trusting me enough to make decisions and speak for the business. I was only 18 or 19, I was just a kid but here I am speaking for the business really made me feel important and special. Go out of your way to introduce them to clients or with somebody that they deal with every day or if they’re working on that clients’ work behind the scenes. Make it a point to maybe jump in the car and drive them across town to introduce them so that they can put a face to the name and to say, “I just wanted to make sure that you guys have met since you guys are working with each other every day or on each other projects everyday and I want you to know that this is, so and so and he works for me and he does a great job and this is the person behind-the-scenes who’s doing the work for you.” That will make somebody feel special almost more than anything else.
I can guarantee you that if you have an apprentice and you introduce them to somebody and give them the title of whatever they’re trying to learn to do, I mean, it could even be like, you know, “this is my new employee and he is an apprentice, he’s learning plumbing he’s a plumber” that’ll take them from maybe just being just some kid with the job to feeling like, “Oh wow I am a plumber or I am a carpenter, I’m an upholsterer I have a trade it’s not just the job.” As soon as you can make them feel like that they make that connection themselves, that they have a trade and it’s not just a job they’re not going to treat it just like a job anymore. So introduce them a clientele and make them feel important. Yes, stroke the Eagle a little bit because that some times that what you need to do. I can speak from personal experience as a kid, it really worked it made me feel important and special.
Moving on; the thing I think that we need to remember in a small business is that we are a small business. You can’t treat it like a big business you can’t forget the fact that people work for a small business by choice, that they do so because they’re so close to the top, they can call their own shots to a certain extent. They have flexibility you need to give them that flexibility and you need to be understanding to know that the reason they are working for small business is because that works for them and their lifestyle. It’s possible they have a family that they’re working around and they need the flexibility, unless it’s a job that has to be done in a certain time period like 8 to 5, be a little flexible and give them a little leeway to know that one person might like to come in early, let’s say you’re working in a workshop and it gets really hot during the day so they like to come in at five or six so they can leave after their eight hours before it gets really hot. And then another person has kids so they have to drop their kids off to school in the morning so they have come in a little later. Be flexible but trust them and say that it’s on you to make sure that you get your forty hours and if they’re given that responsibility typically they will try their best to make up for if they are a little short. It’s the big picture that we have to remember, it’s on average, it’s not you’re here for eight hours today. In a small business its give-and-take, it might be nine hours one day seven hours another day but it’s the big picture.
And another topic that I just start off for another podcast the episode is four-tens. I personally I’d rather not force my employees to work five days a week out of eight hours a piece, if they have the option if it works into their schedule, ten-hour a days are way better. Let them work four-tens it less gas money for them, it gives them a whole extra day. If they’re able to put in a good solid ten hours to work and they don’t have to be somewhere to pick up kids they’re more productive for ten hours than they are for eight because when you first show up for work there’s an hour for getting settled and then an hour before you leave there’s the winding down period. So four-tens there’s less ramp-up, there’s less downtime at the end the day because it’s only four days instead of five. Once you’re in the middle of the project your working longer on that project, you’re not getting pulled away and getting distracted, so I’m all for four-tens that’ll be another episode I’m going to talk all about that.
The last thing, and what could be kind of a silly sounding suggestion but it’ll really go a long way in making them feel special is: if you have a list of holidays that you’ll honor, that you let them take off and get paid for try making their birthday a holiday it will make them feel special. Give them a paid day off for their birthday if you can afford it because even if you’re busy sometimes they’ll still come into work because they care enough about their job to show up to work that day but plan another day if it falls in the middle of the week. I’ve had employees say, you know, I appreciate the fact that you wanted to give me a birthday off can we make it on Friday so that I can make it a three day weekend. Yeah, I don’t care it’s their birthday they can use it anywhere around the month of their birthday time. You can even have stipulations, it could be maybe two weeks before or two weeks after their birthday, it’s a floating holiday let him take it and just make sure it works into your work schedule they will appreciate it. It’s their day and you’re making it a holiday, how can you make them more important than that.
That just wraps up my quick list of things that you can do as a small business owner with employees to really build rapport and work on building a teamwork environment because it’s not just you and it’s not just them it’s a team effort and you need to remember that and instill that in each and every one of employees.
Well that’s all I have today. I just want to remind you that whether you’re just starting out and planning the future of your new business or you’re trying to plan the future of your existing business and get yourself up and moving away from the plateau that you’re on, then jump over to smarttradesman.com/bizplan and grab your free business jumpstart worksheet and if you like what you hear, as always please leave me a rating-review on Stitcher or iTunes however you’re listening to me. Find a way to subscribe, rate and review and that will help me get into the ear buds of all those other countless people that need to be hearing this message. Be sure to reach out to me any way that you can, I’m happy to help, I’m here to help. I want to connect with you on the phone or Skype and get you through any problem that you’re going through currently I’m happy to help.
Search smarttradesmen.com to find the show notes for today’s episode and leave a comment at the bottom of the page or you can reach me at Daniel@smarttradesmen.com and that’s my email address, feel free to use it and tell me what social media platforms that you’re on. That’s the question for today; what social media platforms do you use the most? I would love to hear the answer to this because I’m curious to know which social media platforms I should be putting my efforts into. I don’t want to use, let’s say Twitter if none of you are using Twitter. I only want to focus on the ones that are going to give you the most value. So let me know what you’re using and I’ll be happy to jump on there, create an account if I don’t already have one. So I will see you in the next episode of Smart Tradesmen, peace out.