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Involve Your Employees in Your 2014 Plans

By: Ruth King

 

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It’s December. The last month of the year. The holidays are upon us. If you are like me, you comment on how quickly the year has flown by and start reminiscing about its good and bad points. Then your focus turns to 2014. You’re creating a business plan in your mind. Take five minutes and put your thoughts on paper. Why?

 
I used to teach a class called BOSS (Business Owner’s Survival School). As part of that class I had all owners write goals for one year, two years, and five years. One attendee wrote the goals in class, threw them in his desk drawer when he got back to his office, and forgot about them. Several years later, when he was cleaning out his drawer, he found the list of goals and was surprised that he had accomplished most of them. He hadn’t consciously thought about them since class. However, his subconscious was steering him towards achieving what he said he wanted to achieve.
 
For my July 4th column this year, I wrote that in July, 2012 I established a 45-year goal. Most of my friends thought I was nuts (I probably am). However, it has focused me. The first year, which ended this July, saw the writing and publishing of The Courage to be Profitable, which hit #1 on Amazon’s money and finance list on March 19, 2013, and the beginnings of many other activities which will enable me to meet that goal. It’s a long term goal with many objectives along the way.
 
You don’t have to establish a 45 year goal—start small—just think about where you want your business to go in 2014. And this is where your employees come in.
 
Your employees know a lot about your business. They know who your productive employees are. They know who the slackers are. They know who is “good” and who is “bad.” They know new competitors and those who are getting stronger or weaker. They know what is happening, since they are on the front lines every day talking with customers, suppliers, and other team members. You just have to ask them, and you’ll probably get some eye opening statements!
 
If you set 2014 goals by yourself, then they are your goals and some of your employees won’t buy in. If employees have input, they will care about the results—and often push you to do things you might not have continued to focus on without the employees asking where you are with respect to goal X.
 
Determine your employees’ reward for helping the company achieve the goals. You might think “a paycheck is enough.” However, for most, the paycheck is only part of the reason they work for you. Establish a profit sharing plan, a retirement plan, or some other incentive when the entire company helps you achieve the goals.
 
The first time you ask for ideas, many employees won’t believe you are serious. They may give a half-hearted idea or two. However, if you show that you are serious, create the company goals with their suggestions, and report results during the year, the second year you will get more ideas and generate even better results. I’ve seen companies where the employees actually report and help get rid of unproductive hires because they know it affects their bonuses and profit sharing!
 
Here are five simple questions to ask your employees:
 
  1. What went right in 2013?
  2. What went wrong, and what did you learn from it so that you don’t do it again?
  3. Have you run into any new competition?
  4. Have you seen any of our competition go out of business?
  5. What would you like to see our company do in 2014? How can you contribute to making that happen?
 
Put a these questions with their paychecks along with an envelope. They don’t have to put their names on their answers—just make sure they give the sealed envelopes to a person you designate by a specific date.
 
Compile the answers. The answers to these questions will start great discussions. Make sure you have them on “your employees’ turf”—in the field, at their desks, etc., rather than a formal company meeting or in your office.
 
Goals should include sales goals, profit goals, and other goals that employees want to achieve. Once you get feedback, have discussions, and determine the goals, put the goals where everyone can see them. If the goal is “at the top of the stairs,” you have to determine the stair steps, or objectives, to achieve the goals. Break the goals down into monthly objectives. Put the objectives somewhere you can see them and review them each month. Then, in 2014, check off each objective as you complete it. 
 
When you involve your employees in where your company is going, you’ll have more fun, you’ll be challenged, and you’ll be more profitable.
 
Published: December 23, 2013
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Ruth King

Ruth King is a serial entrepreneur, having owned seven businesses in the past 30 years. Ruth has been instrumental in helping business owners understand and profitably use the information generated from the financial segment of their businesses. Recently, she was the instructor for ICE, the Inner City Entrepreneur program in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. Ruth has written many manuals and books, and she was the 2006 USA Best Books Winner for Entrepreneurship and a finalist for the Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY) for her first book, “The Ugly Truth About Small Business.” Her best-selling book “The Courage to be Profitable” was published in 2013.

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