Entrepreneurship News: June 18, 2012

It was a pretty slow week for entrepreneurship news last week so I didn’t make a video.

One tidbit, however: Congress is considering some legislation that would help medium-sized businesses compete in the federal marketplace. In an attempt to help companies that have reached a level of success that excludes them from small business set-aside programs but are not yet large enough to effectively compete against the big guys, Section 1611 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act would have the DoD create a program – including new set-asides – aimed at helping these mid-sized companies. More information can be found here.

Also, don’t forget to let the SEC and the SBA know what you think about how they should implement certain provisions of the JOBS Act:

SEC Comments on JOBS Act:

Online Marketing Timing Strategy Part 1: Social Networks

The web has opened up a host of new, inexpensive ways for companies to communicate with and market to their customers and potential customers. What many small business owners don’t realize, however, is how important timing is to finding success with these marketing media.

To help you make the most of your resources and take full advantage of the marketing options created by the web, take a look at this 3 part series, “The Science of Social Timing,” from KISSmetrics to ensure that you’re reaching and actively engaging as many potential customers as possible. We’ll start this week with timing for social networks, next week will cover timing for email marketing, and the third week will explain timing for your company blog.

Keeping Employees Engaged and Productive

For most businesses, nothing is more important than the employees that keep it going. This is especially true for small businesses because they have fewer total employees, meaning that each one likely plays an integral role in how smoothly the business operates and how the public views your company. Unfortunately, a new survey shows that the majority of employees in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their jobs and dissatisfied workers lead to less productivity and efficiency and potentially damaging customer interactions. The survey covered all US employees, not just those at small businesses, but the statistics are still sobering.

So, how can a small business owner make sure that his/her employees don’t fall into the dissatisfied or disgruntled workers camp so that the business continues to shine? In a recent post at Fast Company, Paul Alofs describes 8 Rules for Creating a Passionate Work Culture. A few of the tips he suggests that I like are:

  1. Hiring the right people to begin with – especially in the world of small business, you need people on your team who are committed to the company and its vision. You don’t want someone who will jump ship at the first sign of trouble or who is constantly looking for greener pastures. Employee turnover is expensive for any company, but it can be deadly for a small business, so put the time in up front to make sure you’re only bringing the best onto your team.
  2. Communicating effectively – even the most passionate people are not going to be able to get behind your company if they don’t know what’s going on with it. Make sure that you keep everyone involved so that they know what’s going well, what isn’t, and are involved in strategic planning so that they’re invested in following through with the company’s plans.
  3. Firing quickly – if you’re running a small business, a bad seed can poison the whole operation quickly. If someone is constantly negative, drags down other staff, or is unprofessional or unreliable, you have to let them go.
  4. Having a diverse work force – this doesn’t necessarily mean ethnic and gender diversity. A Diverse work force is about diversity of thought. You want different perspectives and ideas to come to the table when you’re planning your strategy, so make sure everyone doesn’t come from the same cookie cutter.
  5. Making collaboration across departments and jobs easy – Alofs discusses this as it relates to the physical office space, but it goes deeper than that. You want to create a culture where all of your employees feel comfortable with each other and can share ideas and opinions even if they don’t have expertise in a particular area. Building a company culture where employees have congenial relationships makes it much more likely that a water cooler conversation could blossom into a brilliant business idea.
  6. Thinking long-term – don’t be handicapped by thinking only about short term success. You need to also develop long-term strategies to ensure continued success and your employees know that. If you’re looking only at the short term, so will they, meaning that they may look at their position with your company as short term stop and begin looking for a company with more appealing growth prospects.

Additionally, I’d like to add a couple of suggestions to the list:

  1. Make sure your employees feel that they are learning and growing – recent research found that employees value training and professional development even more than they value additional money. If you want your employees to stay engaged and committed to your company’s growth, you have to show them that the company is engaged and committed to their growth.
  2. Do your best to provide work/life balance – this may seem to run somewhat counter to Alofs’ “work hard, play hard” point about making sure everyone’s prepared for long hours (which I left off the list because I didn’t like the way he presented it) but it gets to the heart of making your employees feel that you’re committed to them so that they will be committed to you. You may not be able to provide tons of paid vacation or other expensive perks, but you can certainly be respectful of people’s other obligations, so make sure that your employees know you’ll be understanding if stuff comes up. Every job I’ve had that respected me enough to know I would get the job done without punching a time clock got many, many more productive hours of work out of me than the ones that treated me like a cog in the machine.

Do you have any tips to add for how to keep employees happy, motivated, productive? If yes, please share them in the comments below!