Want your business to perform 259% better?


How would you like your business to perform 259% better than your competitors?  What if there was one thing (albeit a major thing) that you, as a business owner, could do that would create this huge competitive advantage?  Would you do it?

Surprisingly, you probably wouldn’t.  Most business owners don’t view this approach as a real ‘competitive advantage’ – instead writing it off as touchy feely and not important.

The advantage I’m talking about is employee engagement…or being a great place to work and it’s illustrated by the performance of Fortune’s Top 100 Great Places to Work business versus their peers in the Russell 3000 stock index.  Granted small businesses don’t trade on a stock exchange, but it’s not a stretch to assume those results reflect the underlying performance of the companies.  Check out the performance comparisons below:

Equally impressive, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For experience less than 50% of turnover compared to their peers…across all industries!

Of course it’s one thing to appreciate how engaged employees…and being a Great Place to Work could  make a difference in results, but the real challenge is figuring how to build that kind of environment for your own business.

One place to look might be what’s going on at Zappos – a hugely successful company built around a company culture of service and delivering ‘wow!’.  Zappos went from almost going under after the Dot-Com bust in 2001 / 2002 to generating over a $1 Billion in revenue less than 8 years later.  Since that time, they’ve been purchased by Amazon for $1.2 Billion – primarily as a model on how to really implement an amazing company culture.

According to Tony Hsieh – the CEO of Zappos and the author of the best selling Delivering Happiness, the essence of what it takes to be happy in general boils down to 4 things:

  • Perceived Control (ability to make things happen)
  • Perceived Progress (ability to get better)
  • Connectedness (the number and depth of your relationships)
  • Being part of something bigger than yourself

This ties in well with Daniel Pink’s Motivation 3.0 Model that he outlines in the book ‘Drive’.  The Motivation 3.0 model uses 3 key components as the drivers for motivation:

  • Autonomy (ability to make things happen, decision making control)
  • Mastery (ability to get better, develop skills that are important to me)
  • Purpose (opportunity to work on something exciting that’s bigger than just me)

The underlying assumption here is that happy employees are motivated employees are engaged employees who have a great place to work.  In other words, all of these things tie together.

How do you apply this to your business?

For most business owners, adopting this new motivation model or building a strong company culture around things that will make employees happy seems almost impossible.  It’s definitely hard to make major changes, but the good news is that you don’t have to change everything at once, you can make incremental changes at your own pace.

Here are few things you should consider doing to get started:

Get to know your employees!

Do an employee survey that will help you learn more about what your employees think, what makes them tick, where they want to go and what kinds of things would motivate them.  In a smaller business you have the ability to really get to know everyone on a more personal basis – you still need to keep a professional distance, but the more you build a real relationship the more you will be able to engage them and find out what makes them go.

Delegate authority!

This is something you have to do anyway if you want to grow your business, but for the purposes of motivating your employees, you should brainstorm decisions that your employees should be making without you.  In a call center environment that might mean giving your call center representatives the ability to ‘make the customer happy’ with whatever means are necessary…up to a certain dollar amount. 

For other employees, identify ongoing decisions that have historically been escalated to management and ownership and figure out how to push those decisions down to the working level as much as possible.  Obviously you can’t just hope everything works out, so you’ll want controls and reporting in place, but your employees can and want to own more responsibility (and if they don’t you should get rid of them).

Involve employees in planning!

A big part of engagement is having everyone buy into where the company is going and how they’re going to get there.  As the owner you have the responsibility to lead the way, but that shouldn’t translate to a command and control approach, rather you should be leveraging your employees skills and experience to help you come up with great ideas.  Hold regular planning and status meetings with employees – done right these are very empowering and productive…and critical to keeping everyone engaged.

Consider flexible work arrangements!

If you’re like most business owners I know, you work a ton of hours but you would be very unlikely to go back to taking a job…even for good money.  Why?  A big part of the reason is the flexibility you have as the owner.  You work a lot of hours, but you (generally) have complete control over what hours you work.  Guess what – your employees would love that kind of flexibility as well!  Obviously different industries and different businesses will require different hours of operations, but there’s likely a lot more flexibility that’s possible than what you’re currently doing.  Brainstorm how you could pass along some of that to your employees.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

Clearly rolling out significant changes on how you operate your business is not an easy thing to do, but the upside is clearly there.  If you have a business where every employee is engaged, on the same page and helping to make things happen, you will routinely be blowing your competitors out of the water…which will translate directly to the bottom line!

What changes could you roll out in your business in the next few months?  Which of these ideas resonated with you and made you think ‘hmmm…’?  What ideas did I miss?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach