Just pay your employees more, that’s what they want, right? You might be surprised how weak that proposition is.
This is not speculation. I’ve done this, lived this, tried things that failed and also turned out amazing. I made actual millions running my e-com business and now consult for others. This little article could change your business, and that’s my hope.
Business success (to me) is creating something amazing and valuable to everyone involved. Provide a remarkable product/service to your customers, respect and nurture your staff, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with your vendors. Sounds easy right? It’s all connected; I’m only addressing the employee success side today.
Just paying your staff a good wage and expecting them to own their jobs is a weak and inconsistent proposition. If your staff loves where they work, it’s contagious.
LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
It’s is one of the simplest, free things to do. Have a weekly meeting for 20 minutes and yes keep it short so the focus is intact. Give a 2-minute state of the business update whatever that means to you. Have your employees or department heads offer a very brief update of current projects. Next, open the floor to all staff to report pain points or opportunities small or large. Note all pain points and opportunities to review with individual staff later. Moderate so everyone is heard and you keep within the 20-minute window to keep attention.
Acknowledge great ideas publicly whenever possible and turn them into tasks and goals appropriately, preferably in task management software or some other shared digital location.
HAVE SHARED GOALS
Create some (company public) short term and long term goals. Sure you can have some simple sales goals but let’s go deeper. Set goals based on current pain points at your business that matter staff and you. Some examples might be outranking a competitor on SEO, upgrade shipping equipment/systems, improving/adding a feature on the website, improving AOV, streamlining a workflow, upgrading the break room, moving the business into a cool new space…
The projects/goals will vary widely depending on your business, just make sure your staff is interested in accomplishing them.
If your staff is poisoned into wanting to do the bare minimum and uninterested in company growth, be patient. Over time the good employees will appreciate this change. Make sure new hires are onboard firmly and weed out the old bad apples over time. I’ve seen first hand that good employees can fall apart with poor leadership and structure, and seemingly weaker staff can do amazing things in the right environment. Having a common goal or enemy can naturally fuel camaraderie and encourage a teamwork vibe.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
If you have a small company of under 30 people, make sure you’re the first one there and last one to leave. It’s an easy win and not rocket science. People gravitate to a strong leader and it’s an easy way to garner respect. Is this required, no. However; being highly engaged with intelligent feedback to your teams gains their respect and the weak engagement erodes it. There’s a fine line between knowing enough about parts of your business and trusting department heads to own it, and execute in the company’s best interest.
AMAZING WORK ENVIRONMENT
This is not very difficult and can be an incredible asset to energize and retain staff. One of my first real great corporate experiences was at Digital Kitchen in Seattle as an intern. They housed some incredible talent and produced some really amazing creative. They also…had an amazing office environment with fully stocked kitchen and premium sushi on Fridays. They NEVER had trouble attracting and retaining serious talent.
I didn’t have millions to spend on my office so I opted for a modified version of this that was within my reach. I also discovered something. My team also wanted a really awesome place to work and would help create it. When your team helps you build something they love, it’s an incredibly powerful thing.
We built a commercial kitchen/breakroom on a budget and the staff had input and even helped tile it and do some of the painting. This ended up being a key point of the tours we gave new hires. We setup a company Traeger Grill out back as well. Employees were interested in working out at the shop so we set aside some space to work out and even built out showers. We set up a projector for meetings and also for optional informal Wednesday night tech sessions. We created our “Ark”!
Creating a physical environment where you and your employees want to be is so important and really not that difficult. If you’re just starting out, do what you can with what you have and more importantly, have a strong plan for that killer break room or new building, etc and share it often with the team.
You also need to consider the expectations and standards of interaction at your business. Where does that start? How do you set that standard…with a handbook?
The standard starts with you. Treat everyone like an old friend and expect the best from them. Create an invisible carrot where they feel comfortable, supported and heard and balance that with expectations. Groom staff consistently with the reasons “why we do, what we do” and layout clear expectations, so they can onboard new hires to be rockstars. If you don’t know what those reasons are you have some important work to do.
If you don’t set expectations…your team can never meet them. I love task management software like Teamwork for this. Taking the time to set up a structured way to work on short and long term projects with groups of tasks can really improve performance and efficiency. When you quantify things that need to be completed, it’s easier to set deadlines and break down large projects into bite-size tasks. It’s also much easier to delegate clearly to appropriate team members. Most task management software will have weekly reporting. Use these reports for your weekly meetings for legit kudos for individual staff in front of the group.
There are so many facets of running an e-commerce business; it’s hard to consider a lot of these concepts with all the emergencies and responsibility. Slice off what you can, and start improving a little at a time. Whether you’re doing 100k or 100MM, I promise you amazing things will happen when employees are excited about your business, you just might find yourself getting excited about it too.