Many people become small business owners because they find their previous careers to be boring and not stimulating. Too often small business owners use the only processes they're familiar with, the ones from their former job. This results in producing a work environment that doesn't differ from the previous job they left.
To insure success a small business should motivate its employees to be fully engaged and committed to the owner's vision from the very beginning. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts as one employee's creativity stimulates new ideas among others. The culture becomes self-sustaining adding more value with time.
Creative environments are particularly important to millennials, the 80 million people born between 1980 and 1995 who will soon dominate the workforce. Millennials already have an edge over Baby Boomer and Generation 'X' elders in terms of their saviness with technology, cultural trends, and connecting with their peers including your current and future customers.
Here are some ways to foster a creative environment and get the most from your employees, regardless of age:
Flexibility first: Not everyone does their best work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Whenever possible allow employees some leeway in their work hours. This also includes allowing them to work from home or elsewhere several days during the week. However, they must be willing to exhibit flexibility, show initiative, be available for extra work as demanded, and go the extra mile for those customers that have high expectations.
Communicate early and often: Employees are more willing to give 100 percent and more when they know and believe in the reason for doing it. Regularly share what's happening in the business and the marketplace. You can't always share everything with your employees, but honesty from the boss goes a long way toward building trust. Make sure the process is two-way, encourage employees to contribute ideas and insights. Ask employees for ongoing feedback. If their ideas sound promising let the employee take the lead. If not, gently explain why, but ask them to keep those ideas coming.
Be a coach, not a supervisor: This is particularly important for younger workers, who are experiencing many aspects of the working world for the first time. Give them the training they need to feel comfortable about doing their jobs and confident in taking the initiative. Sure, they'll make mistakes, but so did you starting out. When you foster a regular dialogue with your employees, you'll have a better handle on what happened and why, and what they can do to improve.
Give timely recognition: In the newly published book "O Great One" by David Novak (former CEO of Yum Brands -- Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut) he delivers a very important message. "No matter who you are or what you do you have the power to show people that someone is watching, that someone cares, and that what they do really matters. You have the power to use recognition to make a difference in people's lives each and every day."
Keep resources up to date: Few companies can afford to continually invest in every new technology and application that enters the market. However, it is essential to stay as current as possible on those applications that support your business needs so that employees will have the best tools available to do their jobs. Your millennial employees may be ideally suited to investigate new technologies and help determine whether it's better to upgrade, or if something better is on the horizon.
• Fox Valley SCORE provides free confidential mentoring to clients in 17 locations throughout DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties. If you need help with existing business challenges, or are thinking about starting a new business, visit our website and click the red "Book Now" button. You can also click on "Workshops & Events" to register for one of the many free workshops throughout the year. The website is: http://foxvalley.score.org/