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How to Solve Your People Problems in your Small Business
Brett Cooper is an HR expert and Executive Coach who helps professionals build work relationships that really work. Over the last twenty years, he’s influenced thousands of people in government, non-profits, and corporate America to work together in more productive, more effective, and more human ways. As President of Integris Performance Advisors, Brett and his co-founder help clients increase employee engagement, improve efficiency, and generate hundreds of millions in financial benefit. He is co-author of the new book Solving the People Problem. For more information: SolvingThePeopleProblem.com
SmallBizLady: The average small business owner has 4 employees, and this pandemic made it really hard to pay and support employees while trying to keep the business open. how you engage a team that is worried about whether or not they’ll have a job?
Brett Cooper: This seems to include two questions, namely:
A. How does a business owner find the internal motivation to stay focused on supporting others (i.e., your employees) when you yourself are consumed with the thought that you may have to close the business.
B. How can a business owner influence their employees to stay focused on doing their jobs when they may be concerned about the future of the business and/or their jobs.
I have different guidelines for these two scenarios.
For (A), I’d tell business owners to recognize that their business is more likely to survive if they have a team working together to keep it open. As a business owner, you are the leader. People are watching you. If you are “frozen” from fear (of the unknown, of the risks, etc), your employees will see that, and they will, in turn, become fearful, and less productive. So, even though you are concerned about the future, the best way to overcome the business risks of the current scenario is to do what has likely made you successful in the first place…empower your team to act.
For (B), I’d tell business owners to be transparent about the situation. Treat your employees like adults and be honest with them about the situation and possible outcomes (including a job loss). In the process, highlight the actions/results that need to happen to avoid job cuts, and explain what they can do to help ward off the worst-case scenario. This enables your employees to take a proactive role and to focus on what they can do to help, rather than simply worrying about what might happen “to” them.
With either situation, it’s helpful to use your emotional intelligence to better understand the different concerns of your different employees.
As the senior leader of the organization, it’s up to you to know your people well enough to understand and honor these differences. Not only is this a way to demonstrate your respect, but it’s also an effective way for you to help each person deal with and overcome their barriers to engagement and productivity.
SmallBizLady: What is the People Problem?
Brett Cooper: The People Problem is the fact that too many people don’t understand and honor the different styles between us. Diversity is a powerful part of humanity. This includes all kinds of diversity, including race, gender, and of thought. In our book, Solving the People Problem, we address the latter. At the heart of the issue is a concept called Emotional Intelligence, which is the ability to understand why you do what you do, and why others do what they do, and to use that knowledge to make wise decisions and to adapt your behavior for mutual benefit of all involved.
Study after study has found that emotional intelligence, and people’s ability to communicate and interact with others effectively, is more critical for job and career success than other factors such as IQ or technical skills. When people increase their emotional intelligence, they are able to “solve” this “People Problem.”
SmallBizLady: What is the framework you use to help people build their emotional intelligence?
Brett Cooper: DISC is a framework, a language, that helps people build their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is about understanding yourself and others, and DISC helps you do exactly that. DISC is a research-based personality styles tool that serves as a cheat sheet for understanding people’s communication preferences and behavioral tendencies. Using advanced psychometrics and computer-based adaptive testing, we can get a precise measure of where people fall across two spectrums of behavior. The first is how fast-paced or reserved someone is; the second is how skeptical or accepting someone is. By measuring these traits and plotting the results on the DISC model, we are able to draw insights about how someone is likely to act and react to others.
As a summary:
- Fast-paced and skeptical people have a D style, which stands for Dominance. These people tend to value quick results. They want the job done fast, and they want it to deliver results.
- Fast-paced and accepting people have an I style, which stands for Influence. These people tend to value enthusiasm. They are social creatures who like to actively collaborate with others.
- Reserved and accepting people have an S style, which stands for Steadiness. These people tend to be very supportive of others. They often put their colleagues’ needs before their own.
- Reserved and skeptical people have a C style, which stands for Conscientiousness. These people tend to value accuracy. They like to get into the details of things, focusing more on facts and data than on relationships.
When you know a person’s DISC style, you can make predictions about how they might think, how they might respond to different scenarios, and/or how they might prefer to be communicated with.
SmallBizLady: How does the framework in Solving the People Problem apply to the real world?
Brett Cooper: Using DISC to increase Emotional Intelligence is a very practical approach for building work relationships that really work. It helps you be more effective with a host of business skillsets, such as communion, decision making, handling conflict, working with a team, sales and customer service, and leadership. With each of these skillsets, the more you know about your own style tendencies and the style tendencies of others, the more likely you’ll be to anticipate challenges and potential problems. When you get ahead of these things, you end up with interactions where all parties feel heard, valued, and respected.
For example, a recent study on conflict found that almost half of all workers globally, and 62% of Americans, blame workplace conflict on the clashing of different personalities. Our own research and experiences with emotional intelligence tell us that the problem is not really with the different personalities themselves, but rather with people’s inability to understand and honor those differences. That’s why DISC is so powerful and so practical. Without DISC, it’s very natural for people to not understand different perspectives and to instead get frustrated when people see things a different way. But with DISC, people gain insight into why people think the way they do, and they learn to recognize the value these other people bring to any situation.
The bottom line is this…if you are a small business owner, or anyone in business, your success is going to depend largely on your ability to work effectively with others and to inspire them to work effectively with you. Using DISC to increase your emotional intelligence will enable you to do exactly that!
Money Moves to Make in the Pandemic
Tim King is a financial advisor who specializes in working with small business owners. He is a transformative business coach that helps people create generational wealth. He also advocates for a better financial education for career professionals and those that wish to become financially independent. He provides financial education and consulting services that are revolutionizing the financial industry. He wants everyone to learn how to win in the money game. He teaches the rules and strategies on how to win and build a bright financial future. For more information: Tim King on LinkedIn.
SmallBizLady: What kind of financial moves should small business owners be making?
Tim King: The number one thing you must remember is that this is the best time to reinvest in your business. Right now, is the cheapest you can borrow to improve, upgrade, or even reinvent your brand if you need a loan to do it. Cash is king of course and if you have any capital you can get your hands on, get it. Now is the time to repair your credit too. I work with people that have small businesses that are most in need of credit repair, but not all are created the same. I would stay away from repair companies that make your credit worse than build it back up.
SmallBizLady: Is now the time to dip into their 401K to save their business and are hardship withdrawals tax-free?
Tim King: If your 401K is the only resource you have for money to try to save your business, I say Yes. At the moment, the government is allowing individuals to borrow from their retirement accounts without penalty (before the individual reaches 59 and a half.) But you must read your contract. Most read that you must pay early withdrawals back and you will have to pay the regular tax rate of capital gains from said withdrawals. The repay may have an interest rate attached.
SmallBizLady: As things open back up, should people hire employees or 1099 contractors?
Tim King: I would say talk to your CPA and financial advisor to create the best situation for your business to grow and thrive. There is no set solution for any business. There are tax implications that will affect your business’ bottom line depending on how you set the business up and how and if you are offering benefits.
SmallBizLady: Can you explain deferred compensation plans for business owners?
Tim King: I set deferred compensation plans according to what is best tax-wise for the client. All of my strategies are Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) compliant. The risks of having a traditional deferred account are great for the business owner. The performance of these government-owned accounts can be beneficial and a burden. Not many companies or employees know this, but the business, or company is responsible for the performance of their deferred accounts and must comply with federal guidelines for acceptable performance. There are legal ramifications if business, owners, and entities that do not address underperforming retirement accounts.
How to Have a Strong Back Office
Dee Taylor-Jolley is an operations expert know as The Back Office Boss. She has operated a successful business with her husband Dr. Willie Jolley for over 30 years, and serves as a consultant to small businesses in the professional services sector, who need to build their “back office” structure to support their businesses. She develops systems that help businesses grow and protect their profits. Dee provides everything from developing standard operating procedures to guidelines, forms, and checklists that support business efficiency. Her clients include small businesses, government agencies, non-profits, as well as churches. For more information www.facebook.com/deetaylorjolley
SmallBizLady: What is back-office structure?
Dee Taylor-Jolley: A “Back Office” is where the systems, functions, or tasks performed to support the operations function of your business. It’s the design, development, delivery, and profit protection of the primary services or products a business sells! Back office support includes administration, technology, finance & insurance, proposal support, and profit management. You may need support with personnel onboarding and training employees remotely, designing landing pages to search engine optimization to database management, securing employee paperwork 1099 or W-2 and employees, managing benefits and errors and omissions or general liability insurance. Your back office manager may also assist with managing income, saving, and investing 3%-25% of gross revenue for taxes, and budgeting operating expenses for the downtimes.
SmallBizLady: Why do small businesses need a tight back-office structure?
Dee Taylor-Jolley: Proper back office support allows you, the business owner, to focus on your customer. Client retention and customer engagement which is the heartbeat of any business! This support guarantees tasks (which may be important), but not essential to the owner of the business to complete themselves, gets things done–correctly and on time! The kinds of tasks your back office person might manage include compliance with local, state, and federal operating laws, renewing business licenses, SAM registration and renewal (if you are a government contractor), managing IRS filing guidelines, software renewal updates with spyware protection.
SmallBizLady: How do I determine who should be on my “Back Office” Support Team?
Dee Taylor-Jolley: First, knowing you need help is necessary! Acknowledging your limitations or weaknesses and finding the right support will make your “business burden” lighter and expand your territory and help grow your profits! I believe the term “back-office” or administrative assistant is a catch-all phrase for all the different areas we need help with. You must analyze and list all your professional services, product offerings, and administrative needs. Then match those offerings against a list of possible support systems, people and processes to select which ones can help you! Some of the functions can be handled with contractors or virtual support including scheduling, legal counsel, HR, accounting, payroll, marketing & technology, and retirement planning.
SmallBizLady: How should I hire a back-office support staff person?
Dee Taylor-Jolley: When folks ask me about how to “hire a back-office assistant” or a virtual assistant, I believe they’re asking “how do I find someone or several different skilled folks, to help in the arenas of the business where they suck!
First, knowing you need help is necessary! Acknowledging your limitations or weaknesses and finding the right support will make your “business burden” lighter and expand your territory and help grow your profits! I believe the term “back-office” or administrative assistant is a catch-all phrase for all the different areas we need help with.
If you need support with documents, email or your schedule an administrative/virtual assistant would work for you. This person will handle (agreements, titles, will, trusts, insurances, social security info, etc.) on a moment’s notice (online or a physical drawer); following up on email correspondence; and help managing your schedule so you won’t miss any important meetings. They might also order supplies, products, and coordinate shipping services for the business, maintain a daily personal schedule(s), schedule all media guests and interviews, prepare agreements, coordinate travel arrangements.
SmallBizLady: What kind of person should you look for?
Dee Taylor-Jolley: Look for these traits:
- A personality that compliments yours
- Anticipates needs
- Background check
- A referral from a trusted friend is better
Did you find these interviews helpful? Please tell me how they helped and then share them.
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