If you are reading this as someone who runs their own business, and I say some things that you find wrong or just plain unrealistic, cut me some slack; I’ve never been in such a prestigious position.
If I were in charge of a business – and I don’t mean a simple managerial position, I mean if I were a king-of-the-castle type, like Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg – here’s how I would do it:
Your highest priority is taking care of your employees, and you take care of your employees by taking care of your customers.
They say your shareholders are the ones truly in charge, and that may be true to some extent, but your shareholders are nothing compared to the people you are servicing: your customers. If your customers aren’t giving you business, what power do your shareholders really have? Your customers are everything. Your business is literally nothing without them.
To make sure your customers are taken care of, the employees must also be taken care of.
Firstly (and let me also vent a little frustration here), I just don’t understand the system we have here in the United States, where we work 5 days per week, leaving only 2 for relaxation. People work to live, they don’t live to work. It would make a lot more sense if we worked 4 days per week, leaving 3 for leisure. Not to mention, studies show this helps employees perform better, anyway. We ought to work 10-hour days, 4 days per week. Our overall happiness as a country would significantly increase if we had more time to live our lives, instead of seeming to exist only to turn the corporate cogs. 10-hour days in exchange for one less day leaves more time for self while working the same amount.
So, clearly I would not mandate anyone to work 5 days per week, but of course would be happy if they were willing to. My second way of taking care of my employees is offering all of them equity shares in the company, out of my own, after they have worked for, say, two years. I’m not talking whole percentages here, but shares nonetheless. I think this is something all entrepreneurs and business-owners ought to do, and that they should (incoming controversial opinion…) do this more than giving to charity. What better charity can you give than ensuring your employees are living full lives and having enough money to give to charities of their own choice if they want? Not to mention, this would make your employees more faithful to the company. Having shares gives them some authority over the company’s decisions. If Jeff Bezos can liquidate $1 billion of stock every year to fund rocket ships, I think I can give shares to those who help my company run. The more committed your workers, the more likely your business will thrive.
I’ve heard it said that 80% of a business’ revenue comes from its 20% most frequent customers. I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds true. You have to make people want more of what your business is offering, and make sure it’s affordable to your market. Keeping prices low is one way, but that means nothing if there’s no incentive to come back. I’m not talking about designing your products to break after a few months, I’m talking about building upon what you’ve already provided. Is your business phone service? Don’t just sell phones, sell protective cases as well, then offer screen-repair services. Maybe find ways to improve signals no matter where your phones are being used. Things like that. The point is, make people think they don’t need to go anywhere else for what you’re offering, ever.
Cricket probably doesn’t have the same business philosophy I have, but when I first got my phone, it was on a whim, and I didn’t expect to stay with them more than 6 months. Well, it’s now been 7 years, and I still see no reason to change providers. I always have service, the plans are perfectly reasonable, and the prices are affordable. That’s the main point here. Any reason people would have to go somewhere else, provide that reason already so that the thought doesn’t even cross their mind. Now, if Verizon was, say, offering 1 terabyte of mobile data per month for the same price I’m paying now, I might just have to switch.
In the Beginning
Running a business isn’t as simple as having an idea, then suddenly POOF, all the supplies and employees you need appear out of thin air. To start, you need to find people who believe in your idea as much as you do, who have the funds you don’t. In the beginning, I would sell myself and my business as much as I can, but at the same time, I’d be as honest as possible with my investors.
70% of all startups fail, and I would probably remind them of this fact. I would tell them something else they probably wouldn’t want to hear: that it may be a very long time before they get a profit from my business. With how much I plan on taking care of my employees, that isn’t going to be cheap for quite a long time. You can’t just simply provide benefits, livable wages, and one less workday simply because you want to. Life is more complicated than that, and political climates can make it even more complicated. Still, I would make those things a top priority, and I would tell my investors what a priority these things are. I likely wouldn’t pay myself any more than anybody I hire for several years. In fact, it would likely be less.
You can’t just throw money and benefits at employees thinking that’s all it takes to keep them around. Again, life is more complicated than that. One way to make them more likely to stay is for the work atmosphere to be as peaceful and homelike as possible. I really mean that word: ‘homelike.’
Celebrate birthdays, celebrate holidays, even offer parties the week of someone getting married. This helps employees work, anyway, because it’s good to put their minds at ease on occasion, because all work gets stressful. I believe if you can’t keep the work stress-free, the least you can do is compartmentalize the stress of the job. Give your employees something to look forward to at all times. It may not be every day, but it should be something. Maybe even have a “coffee day” every Monday, where an hour before you open, you provide free coffee to everyone and just have everyone sit and chat with each other, or play a game, before you start the day.Don’t be one of those companies that preach a family environment, actually be like family. That’s what I believe, anyway. It’ll happen to some degree naturally, because people who like each other will always do that regardless of where they work, but it’s the job of the one(s) running the business to make everyone at least friendly toward each other. Don’t hire assholes, no matter how well they can do the job, as one example.
I’m not a business owner but I am trying to get started. If you’d like to support my venture, please support me.