Make the most of a limited staff at your small business

Perhaps the toughest part of running a startup is finding the best strategy for staffing. Chances are, if you’re in charge of a small company without a lot of resources, you’re going to have just about zero room for error when it comes to hiring the right people. Your budget is small. Your needs are numerous. Every employee is really, really important. Even one bad hire can sink you.

When you’re managing your small business on a shoestring budget, you probably have to count on every staff member to do a great deal of work. You can’t afford to hire a 10-person marketing team – more likely, you have one person in charge of marketing, and a heavy burden resting on their shoulders.

For this reason, it’s crucial to make the most of the talent you have. If you can’t hire a massive staff, you’ve got to squeeze every drop of productivity you can out of the people you do bring on board.

You set the tone
When you’re the founder of a small business, you’re in charge, and you’ve got to provide leadership accordingly. Even if you’ve got a lot of capable, self-sufficient people working for you, you still need to lead by example and show them how it’s done.

According to Forbes, it’s crucial for startup founders to set the tone in the early days of managing the business. Victor Lipman, author of “The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World,” told the news source that this tone will likely trickle down to the rest of the staff.

“Lead in a way that makes it easy for others to want to follow,” Lipman recommended. “Setting the right example by your own business behavior – your own evenhandedness and ethics – makes it easy for your employees to respect you. Nobody wants to follow somebody they don’t respect, yet they’re eager to follow those they do.”

The old “Do as I say, not as I do” method will not work when running a startup. If you want people to go about their business in a certain way, you’ve got to start by exemplifying it yourself.

Set real, achievable goals
If you want your employees to improve in their positions, become more productive and ultimately contribute more to making a profit, you’ve got to take that process one step at a time. Begin by setting goals that are real and achievable.

According to Brian Tracy International, this technique is proven to work for both personal and professional goal-setting. Brian Tracy, author of the bestseller “The Psychology of Achievement,” calls it the SMART method – the acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bounded.

“A SMART goal is specific,” Tracy explained. “It is perfectly clear to everyone who must be involved in its achievement. A child can tell you how close you are to accomplishing it. It is clear and unambiguous. Most of the problems with goal achieving stem back to a lack of clarity in setting the goal in the first place.”

If you set clear goals and your employees hit them, that will start to build everyone’s confidence. From there, you’ve got a clear path to small business success.

Constant feedback is key
The next step to developing a strong workforce is providing people with the feedback they need to improve gradually over time.

The way most people do this is to hold performance review meetings, perhaps once a year or quarter, to follow up on how people are doing. But an Andrew Jensen Marketing analysis of this method argued that it isn’t optimal. Business growth, efficiency and marketing consultant Andrew Jensen opined that the better method is to give people continuous feedback. It doesn’t have to come in a formal meeting.

“Employee feedback can and often does occur in the form of a structured formal review, but it doesn’t have to,” Jensen explained. “While yearly or semi-annual reviews are certainly beneficial, there is also an equally important place for informal feedback. Formal employee feedback is valuable in that it provides a setting in which both you and your employee are prepared to discuss their performance.”

Offering constructive criticism is part of being a good boss. It’s OK to do so regularly, as long as you’re not being hurtful and offering legitimate help with your employees’ improvement.

Focus on long-term development
When you build a staff full of new people to help run your small business, you might not have immediate success. People may need some time to find their way. But that’s all right – remember, the real goal is to develop your employees over the long haul.

According to Ready To Manage, you can do this if you can offer positive reinforcement for each good habit you come across. Anne Sandberg, president of Ready To Manage, Inc., believes that eventually, one good habit at a time, you can build an outstanding staff.

“Reward progress whenever you see it,” Sandberg recommended. “For example, if the employee is working on improving his or her communications skills and you hear or see new and positive behaviors, tell him or her as soon as possible to reinforce improvement.”

Building a great staff isn’t necessarily quick or easy, but it’s really rewarding in the end. Keep working at it, and good things will come.

What you can take away
You can’t run a startup alone, no matter how brilliant you might be. Everyone needs a good staff by their side. Here’s how to build yours:

  • Begin by setting the tone and leading your company with your own strong example. If you do your business in a certain way, others will follow.
  • Improvement should be goal-oriented. Set goals one at a time and make sure people have the perseverance to achieve them.
  • Helping your employees improve hinges upon providing lots of feedback. Don’t wait for an annual review session to offer yours – keep the dialogue ongoing.
  • Remember that your ultimate goal is long-term success. Even if your staff isn’t perfect overnight, trust that your efforts will eventually pay off.
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