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Ken Keller: Help me ... keep you employed

Brain food for business owners

Posted: August 24, 2010 4:33 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2010 4:55 a.m.

This column has been written in one form or another every week for 14 years. The intended audience is business owners. The mission of “Brain Food for Business Owners” is to educate, motivate and provide tools to help successful owners be more successful.

The column this week is different because these are different times. There is fear and uncertainty among both owners and employees today. First-time unemployment claims are on the rise, the “summer of recovery” has not produced the results anyone wanted and the media is talking about a “double-dip” recession.

No owner likes to terminate people. It is an unpleasant task, at the least. And it results in a person moving from a place of security and gainful employment one day, to being unemployed in a life with uncertainty the next.

An out-of-work executive once said that being unemployed was worse than being in jail. The key difference was the person in jail knew when precisely when they would be released whereas the person who is unemployed faced a very
uncertain future.

Below is a script for business owners to use in helping their employees become better employees and in turn, help the company remain stable, grow and become stronger.

Help me … cut costs. Our business needs to watch every penny. Turn out the lights when you leave a room and close the door behind you. Try to talk less on the phone. Don’t print out more copies than you need from your printer, and use the black-and-white option instead of color on the copy machine. Instead of faxing, try to e-mail documents. Instead of mailing or sending letters via more expensive overnight services, scan and e-mail them. Pennies saved quickly turn into dollars saved.

Help me … bring solutions, not just problems. I need for you to be a problem-solver. Maybe the line of people standing to see me all day long would disappear if you brought me solutions instead of just issues for me to deal with.

If you bring me solutions that achieves a couple of things. First, it shows me that you are thinking. Second, I can now choose an option, rather than do all the research and then decide on a course of action.

Help me … take care of our customers. The people we sell things to, and do things for, are our customers — they are not just my customers. Why do I say that? Because these customers (and some are not easy to deal with) pay all of our bills — including our salaries — allow the company to provide you with paid holidays, sick days, vacation, our share of taxes and all the benefits you and your family have available.

Help me … grow yourself. In order for the business to grow, the people in the company have to grow. You need to do your job to the very best of your ability. While you likely do some things very well, other things aren’t done well and some things might not get done at all. At the root of this is learning. I need for you to learn more so you can contribute more.

Help me … bring energy to work. High energy, provided it is focused, will propel the company forward. A lack of energy or a lack of enthusiasm will kill anything a business is trying to do. Our business is simple, and we have many competitors.

The only difference between us and our competitors is you. We can win more often if we out hustle the competition.

Help me … have a smile on your face. Be nice to one another and continue to make this a great place to come to work.

Help me … be a team player. We are all in this together. Our goal is to win, which means we need to hold on to every single customer we have and add more of the right customers. Nothing happens until a sale takes place and then we must respond to the best of our combined abilities, and better than the people who would love to steal our customers away from us.

Help me … focus on results. Everyone in the company knows what is expected at work. Do your job to the very best of your ability. Help others who need help. Pitch in where it is needed without being asked.

Help me … help you.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom-line results. He can be reached at Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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