As IT types, it is sometimes hard for us as owners and managers to remember that there is a “soft” side to managing the people around us. I know this because it definitely is not a natural talent of mine. However, it is something that can be done even if you do not possess the inherent personality to be mentoring and nurturing.
Employees can be your biggest asset or your biggest liability—believe it or not, it is your choice as to which category they fall into. Good employees add value to your products and services, enhance the customer experience, and grow in value to the company over time. Bad employees do the exact opposite, often costing you more money than just their salary and benefits alone. When it comes to hiring your first employee, play to your strengths and fill your gaps to add the most effective value—if you are best at doing the tech, hire an admin or sales person; if you are good at the admin and sales stuff, hire a tech. There is no right answer except that they must add value.
Once you have your new “asset” or “assets” in place, you want to optimize their value. For me, this breaks down into four keys areas:
Train them in the way you want things to be done. In IT service delivery, consistency and continuity are the keys to efficiency, customer experience, and ultimately profits. Many personality types actually thrive in a stable and consistent workplace.
Help them to grow. The more they know, the more they can do for your customers and your business. Make sure you are offering growth opportunities internally, or they will outgrow you and look elsewhere.
Make sure that your compensation plans, benefits, and environment all align to produce the results and culture you want from your team.
Sometimes you just have to have fun. For me and my employees, it was lunch several times a month. We closed the office for an hour and just hung out at our favorite pizza place, sometimes inviting vendors and subcontractors to join us (not customers).
Investing in your employees is not unlike investing in the stock market: small improvements over time yield large returns. Starting over with new employees can be one of the more costly things you do. The amount of time and money it takes to train new employees can have more of a negative impact on your bottom line than you may realize. Also, remember that if your company is still growing, cultural fit needs to be a primary factor when hiring a new employee. In smaller companies, everyone needs to get along well or many of them will not stay long.
One final note: if you think you are too small to have things like formal onboarding processes and annual review processes, you are NOT! These things help speed up the time-to-value in the beginning and get both you and your employees on the same page when it comes to understanding their value to the company.
Eric Anthony is Director of Customer Experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter® at @EricAnthonyMSP
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