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Our life coaches, Style and Substance: On owning a small business

Dear Style & Substance:

I am a small business owner and I’ve noticed that some of my staff, after they have been here a while, slack off and have bad work habits. I am really not sure about how to get everyone back on track. Any advice?

This seems to be a typical problem with so many small businesses. Many times, small businesses are run more like a family than a business. Owners and employees often become friends and the lines between personal and professional become blurred beyond recognition. At the end of the day however, a business is a business, and just like a functional and happy family, boundaries and guidelines give structure and support to accomplish goals.

One way to set the stage for success is in the hiring and orientation process. This is a time when clear expectations, routines, and policies are set by the employer and expected by new employees. Processes should be very detailed and be written in an employee handbook, no matter the size of the organization. This should also include warnings and disciplinary procedures. You, the business owner, should at all times reflect the consistency expected. Should a new employee show disinterest or dislike early on, that is not likely to change unless you initiate the discussion and the expected changes. Should this be something that you have not implemented, begin the process now and review it with each staff member.

We think that two “automatics” should be in place; which would be NO use of technology that is not work-related and being on time and ready to work each day at the designated time. Harsh, but true. Cell phones, Facebook, web browsing, and work phones for personal planning and family calls, should be forbidden. We do understand that emergencies happen; however, set everyone straight from the start with clear expectations for professional use of technology. Put a computer history check system in place, so the rules are respected. If the work times are not clearly enforced, then employees can easily make excuses.

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