(This post was originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer and is also at the Entrepreneurship in Cincinnati blog)
Despite gains in the stock market and broader economy, it is still a buyers job market. Most companies receive scores of applicants for any job opening. Entrepreneurs are especially cheered in our community for creating new jobs and offering people a chance to grow quickly. But we should not pat ourselves on the back for giving people a job—rather, we must continue giving to our new hires if we wish to scale up success.
When I first started writing regularly here six months ago, we were a two-person company. Back then, my biggest challenge was finding our first paying customer. Today we have 14 employees, and my biggest challenge is figuring out how to make sure that the people we hire are performing at their peak as soon as possible.
The change in mentality comes when you realize that you can no longer do it all by yourself. At that moment, a founder can choose one of two paths with new hires: Either use a command and control, dictatorial method to maximize personal involvement, or provide your employees with what they need to make the right decisions for the business. I have always had success in my career by choosing the latter, and I have found that giving three specific things leads to remarkable results:
First, you must give responsibility. No business can grow if everyone is waiting for you, dear leader, to make every key decision. At the light-speed of a startup, you simply cannot be on top of everything. So you must have employees that are comfortable making calls and moving forward. I like to show new hires our organizational chart and flip it upside down to visualize how we operate: The people on the front-lines of the company are actually the most important for our success—so they are at the top. We execs at the bottom exist to support and coach them.
Second, give credit liberally to the people who deliver results. The most meaningful (and least expensive) way to reward people for their work is to recognize their efforts. Recognition is a great way to teach the entire organization, and people get goosebumps when the boss calls them out for good work. Just make sure you are recognizing what is truly important to your company’s success. If you give kudos for “working late”—then people will think that face time at the office is what counts. Instead look for keen decision making, risk taking, problem solving and teamwork success stories.
Finally, give your team a say in the culture. New companies are blank slates; so let your people pitch in to make the company their own. Working together to choose office space, name new products, or discuss policy creates a powerful ownership mentality.
Owning responsibility, getting credit, and having a voice in the company happen to be three of the definitions of a “best place to work.” Ultimately, this means you will further ramp up the success of your business because your employees will work harder, stay at your company, and convince their friends to join. You will find that giving up ends up being the only way to get ahead.