At my last 9-to-5 job, every time I thought differently from my supervisors and managers about a problem we faced, I wrote down what bothered me and how I would do it differently given the opportunity. Before long, I had a huge spiral notebook filled with ideas. I realized that all these "negatives" were actually opportunities for better leadership. And I brought many of those ideas to the company I now co-own.
You can do the same. Whether you are working in an executive position, just striking out on the entrepreneurship path, or you have already started a business, consider the following seven ideas for taking your business (and company culture) to the next level:
- Location. Location. Location! (Did I mention location?) You are paying rent already, or your bosses are, so make it money well-spent and get on a prime street with high traffic. Bright signs near a freeway let everyone know you are there. If you only need a small office suite, make sure you can have your name on a sign outside the building so you are getting the exposure.
- Hire slowly; fire quickly. This is a big one for entrepreneurs and business owners. Let me repeat it: Hire slowly. Fire quickly. You might be in a rush to fill a vacant spot or add a new position, but it takes more time (and money, and stress) to train the wrong person and fix their mess than it does to hire the right person in the first place. A bad hire brings down the entire company. Their effect is felt by all employees. The phrase I use time and time again is: “You never miss someone after you have let them go. You only wish you had let them go sooner.”
- Inspire, develop and lead by example. Your employees are vital to your success -- and payroll is also the highest cost in a company. At Star Staffing, it is our employees that make us the reputable firm we are today. Inspire your employees to be the best, motivate them, and help them grow. Make sure to provide continuing education too. Whether you send them offsite to conferences and training seminars, or offer an internal learning website or trainer, it's important for your team members to strengthen skills and gain industry knowledge. It is up to you to make sure that they are given the right tools and resources to do their job efficiently.
- Have fun, but keep it real. If it moves, measure it. Track activities that lead to results. I’m a true believer that activities done correctly and continuously lead to results. For instance, in sales, it takes an average of eight times to break into a new client. You need to see that company or person eight times before you can even begin to think you have a chance. If you continuously see that client week by week, you should gain real traction, and that will lead to a potential new client. Another great reason to track everything is that you can see how your company operates overall: what’s working, what’s not working, and what's needed when hiring (see #2).
- Operate with integrity. You will be faced with challenges to your integrity and to your company’s integrity; do not let money or greed get in the way. Your reputation counts on it. At Star, we always operate with ethics and integrity. Even when it costs us, we tell our clients the truth -- and that’s why we have high loyalty and retention rates.
- Strive for excellence in everything you do. From answering phones to handling collections, every task can be improved to give your client that "WOW" feeling. How do your processes look? Are your clients hanging up the phone feeling like they just dealt with the most amazing company or the opposite? We try to make every client and employee feel appreciated, valued, and taken care of. It's important to look at every operation of your company's front line. Are you striving to be the best in every aspect, even the smallest of tasks?
- Be different than your competitors. What sets you apart from your competitors? The answer is YOU, and your people. Embrace this, and take it all the way to the bank. The main reason I chose to leave a comfortable paycheck was to do things differently, and now that I am co-owner of Star Staffing, we continue to live that philosophy. We operate 24/7, and I visit clients on a regular basis as the main sales representative. That’s right -- who better to sell than the owner of a company? Half my new clients had never met their prior staffing firms' business owner -- yet they deal with me on a daily basis, cell phone number and all. I heard a great quote recently from "Good to Great" by Jim Collins: “Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, not the biggest problems.” Too many owners and executives sit in an office all day submerged in paperwork. I spend my prime hours (9 a.m. - 3 p.m.) in front of clients and employees. After all, they're people that make my company the industry leader it is today.
Nicole Smartt is the Vice President and co-owner of Star Staffing. She was recently awarded the Forty Under 40 award, recognizing business leaders under the age of 40. In addition, Nicole co-founded the Petaluma Young Professionals Network, an organization dedicated to helping young professionals strive in the business world. Nicole can be found on twitter; @StaffingqueenN.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.