• Print

10 Management Lessons

Thursday 21 February, 2008
A business amounts to little without the people behind it. The two most important things I look for when hiring are initiative and work ethic. I cannot overestimate the importance to the eventual success of your business of bringing on good people. But once you have hired these good people, how do you manage them?
  1. Have a vision and communicate it

    Make sure you clearly communicate your vision for the company. No one follows a leader who cannot communicate the way in which the company will succeed.

    The future of all your employees is tied closely to the success of your company. Make sure they believe in your company, what it stands for, and its products and services, and make sure they know that the hard work they are putting in now will payoff.
  2. Show respect

    Treat people, including your customers, suppliers, partners, and employees, with respect at all times.
  3. Share your success

    Make sure your employees share in the success of your company. As the company is able, provide additional benefits such as health care and dental coverage or a stock options plan. As your employees' skills and abilities grow, reward them with fair compensation.

    Finally, consider incentivising your top employees and managers with ownership in the company. Few things can make a person work harder than a piece of the action.
  4. Don't be too serious

    Make the business environment fun at times. While being professional and taking things seriously is important, nothing can beat the effects of a companywide midnight round of bowling after you reach an important milestone, a lunchtime pizza party once a month, or a spontaneous Nerf-dart duel.
  5. Work with your employees

    Make sure the employees see you there and working with them. No one likes to work hard for someone who doesn't work hard themself. Especially early on, be the first to arrive and the last to leave whenever possible.
  6. Keep your door open

    Whether or not you have your own office yet, keep your "door" open. Make sure your employees and managers know that you are approachable at any time about any problems they are having.
  7. Listen

    You have built a great team and are paying top dollar for it. Hold meetings with your management team at least every fortnight. Also have frequent informal ad hoc discussions with your partners, managers, and employees.

    Get their feedback, discuss the business and its strategy, and inquire every so often if there is anything that is frustrating them that you can help with.
  8. Build relationships

    Without understanding at least the basics of what is occurring in an employee's out-of-office life, it can be hard to connect with the person on a professional level.

    One tactic I've used successfully to get to know each employee personally is to take the person and their significant other to dinner the first evening of their employment. It serves as a way to celebrate the occasion as well as learn a little bit about the employee that would not come out in interviews or through reading a resume.
  9. Commend more than you criticize

    Too many business owners (and I have been guilty of this as well) speak to an employee only when they have done something wrong or something that has negatively affected the company.

    While constructive criticism and appropriate guidance have their place, if you seem to only condemn and never praise, your employees will quickly either dislike you or show apathy toward their jobs.

    Continual, properly placed praises can be as powerful in getting quality results from employees as a large pay raise. Many people thrive on peer and superior recognition just as much as on money. Instituting an employee-of-the-month award and a quarterly performance review can be extremely valuable to your company.
  10. Consciously build a culture

    Create a business "family". Believe in building people up, not tearing people down. Put people first and have respect for the individual. Work hard and be innovative, yet maintain a balance in your lives. Believe that you're all working together on the same mission. Your desired culture will only ever exist if you have consciously built it.

As a manager and business owner, you are charged with an immense responsibility. You control the activity and purpose that your employees dedicate half of their waking hours to. Make your company's purpose meaningful, communicate your vision, respect and praise your employees, and share your success.

If you can succeed in building a team of highly motivated and happy employees who take initiative, have a bias toward action, respect you, and truly care for the business, you will have done much of the work toward building a strong and fast-growing organisation.

Author Credits

Ryan Allis, CEO of iContact and author of 'Zero to One Million'. iContact Corp., a venture-backed marketing and online communications firm has grown from nothing to over $10 million in annual sales and 80 employees. He is also the Chairman of the web marketing firm Virante, Inc. For more information on Ryan Allis and 'Zero to One Million', visit www.zeromillion.com
  • Print