Freedom in Small business
What do you think would happen if John Fox, the coach of the Denver Broncos, just showed up on game day, hoped that the right guys would make it onto the field, that they would select the right plays, and they would end up with the most points by the end of the game? It wouldn’t happen. I know this is an absurd illustration, but if we don’t have a team that shows up and is ready with skill, ability, and enthusiasm, along with organization, practice, and planning, there is no way we are going to win. In order to build a great team, there are four things that need to happen:
- There must be a system for doing what you do
- There must be appropriate compensation
- There must be freedom to do the job they have been trained to do.
- There must be checks and balances
There are a lot of books written on management and building corporate culture…blah, blah, blah. Boil it down to these four things, do them well and I guarantee you, you will have a great organization.
A friend of mine owns a small, but successful service company and all his employees make less that $20/hr, they love their job and they love working for him. Why? They know exactly what to do, because they have been taught the system (and there is a system for everything). They’re paid well for the work they do, but not over paid…just appropriate. They are also given the freedom to do their job without being micro-managed and second guessed. In the beginning they may come to my friend and ask a question on how to handle a complaint or a certain situation, and he will ask: “What do you think we should do?” They know the system, and because it’s simple, they usually have the right answer. It doesn’t take long for them to realize the customer always comes first, and they always want to make the customer feel heard, appreciated, and served. When they realize the company is really dedicated to this, and it is not just a company slogan or words on a page, they know exactly what to do.
Freedom is something we all long for, just like in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace yells the famous line “FREEDOM”. We want to be free, to be who we are and to make our own decisions. We also want to have the freedom of expression, and I personally think we want to have the freedom to make our own mistakes.
If we have systems in place, we have trained our team on what to do and how to do it, and we compensate them well for what they do, then why would we not give them the freedom to carry out their responsibilities. I see, way too many managers in big and small companies that give tasks but don’t give responsibility. How does it make you feel to be micro-managed? “They are idiots” says the blind manager from the back row. To this I would say, they have not been trained. We all know the phrase garbage in, garbage out. It was first used to refer to computers but I think it applies here just as well. If you don’t provide good training, for your employees, or set good expectations then you will get poor to bad results and this is the manager’s or the business owner’s fault, not the employee.
As you know, Johnny runs a successful lawn care business, and several years ago was out looking at one of the properties that his company took care of. He was with his dad, and he noticed that the lines were not straight, that the edging was shoddy, and that the lawn did not look great. He turned to his dad and said, “These guys are idiots. Why can’t they do this right?” His dad responded: “You know this is your fault?” To which my friend protested. But his dad went on to say that he had trained them, and that if he wanted a different result, it was up to him to retrain and create systems so that the lawns would be done the right way, and the same way every time.
When employees experience the freedom to do their job, they will do it better. They will make suggestions on how things could be improved, probably start to sell additional services and feel more vested in the company. Giving freedom to someone is immeasurable. If you don’t believe me ask anyone that had a grandparent that lived in the South, and experience true freedom from slavery. Or ask someone that has been a slave to alcoholism. Freedom is powerful, and when you truly give this to your team, they will perform beyond your wildest dreams. But it is up to you to create those systems, and then to allow your team to work within the system.
Checks and balances are hard to figure out, but they are your safety nets. These are things that bring your teams performance to light. It can be easy to hide what is going on when you (the owner) are not around. But little things like email confirmations, checklists, reports, evaluations, and surveys will help to ensure that your desired activities are getting done.
It can be hard at first, because they will make mistakes. Just don’t give them too much rope to hang themselves and you in the process to start out with. If you want to learn how successful business owners from around the world have put systems into their small business, listen to the Small Business Naked podcast each week. You can download it on iTunes or on Stitcher.