Letters from Carey: Your Company and Diversity

Happy April! I am ready, as I am sure you are, for spring. This has been a long, cold winter, and I anxiously await the warmer temperatures. As I reflected on what to write for April, I kept going back to a recent question I was asked: “How do you and your company respond to adversity?” As I thought of this I thought of my passion for roses. I love to smell the roses, but also taking care of my garden - watering, fertilizing, and pruning the unwanted growth. Knowing this, I answered the question with the following.

I think the greatest source of adversity that small businesses and managers can face is hiring and managing the right team to help with growth. Managing people is hard, hard, hard! As an owner or manager, you get close to your staff. Then, you lose some team members to competitors or you have to downsize because of profits or fire because of performance. I have lost countless hours of sleep worrying about these things. Making the wrong hire or losing a key employee is challenging. In early 2011, I had to fire my first hire who, prior to her termination, had become my MVE (Most Valued Employee). As the company grew, our needs changed, and I did what most small-business owners do: I promoted my existing staff into higher, more senior roles. With this employee, I had failed to determine whether she possessed the skills and qualifications necessary to perform the new job. I also failed to set expectations in the beginning. Since the position was newly created, I assumed that we could “wing it” and figure it out together. Many business owners make this mistake. I failed, at the time, to realize that all employees need direction and an understanding of expectations from day one. Over the next six months, the difference between her understanding of the position and mine became apparent. We tried to work out an agreement, but by this time she resisted change. The only way through this was to terminate the employment arrangement and move on. I swore that I would learn from this mistake, and I began a journal about all the things I did wrong and what I needed to do differently so that I did not make the same mistakes in the future. My journal later became my book, Hire a Pro and Be a Pro, which offers practices for acquiring and retaining the right team members from the beginning. I follow these practices with all of our clients and prospective clients as well as the employees we place. In addition, as a business grows, owners may discover that their current team may not be the team they need moving forward. I wrote this book not only so that I could deal with the adversity that I was experiencing but also so that I might help other businesses to avoid the mistakes that I made.

I love my team and I don’t want the take away to be that my staff causes distress but rather the managing of them and the natural instinct we have as business owners and managers to take care of our team can be stressful. Because of the emotions and commitment involved in managing our staff and our desire to take care of our team, this process can be the source of the greatest rewards as well as the greatest stress. Just like a gardener must make the difficult decision to prune the parts of the rose bush that do not look like they will produce, so owners and managers need to make changes to the team so that the whole can grow. We never want to lose the great ones, but we might; we may not want to fire the non-performers, but we do. It’s not easy. But, in the end, we have to do the best we can and keep moving forward! We all want longevity and tenure, but this is not always possible. How we react and manage the change is imperative. We can do so if we are committed to and have planned for the bigger picture, knowing that the bush will be more beautiful and healthier if we take care of it along the way. Here is to a prosperous second quarter.