Funny, But True: Firing Grandma

 

Family businesses make up around 80 to 90 percent of all businesses in North America, according to the Family Business Center. These businesses are obviously crucial to our economy. But working with family members brings its own set of challenges.

For example, how do you fire a family member? Firing anyone can be fraught with legal, economic and morale issues. But when it’s a family member? That can be an even stickier situation. For one, you will be seeing these people again and Thanksgiving dinner may never be the same if it’s not handled correctly.

Dealing with these type of issues is actually a major benefit of working with an outside consultant like me. You may not want to fire your son, daughter, wife, nephew or other relative. But I can, I will, and I have if it’s in the best interest of saving your company.

I once took over a warehousing company that was in dire straits. The company was 120 days past due in payments to the bank. I found out that Grandma was on the payroll, and after doing my research, I discovered her primary task was to knit the CEO socks for Christmas. While that’s a lovely thing to do, it does not contribute to the bottom line of the company. So I let her go.

Not only did I save the company money, I earned the gratitude of the employees. Later that day a forklift driver pulled up alongside me and congratulated me on firing grandma. They all knew she didn’t have a real job there.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to fire a family member, check out my blog “It Takes Finesse to Fire a Family Member” for tips on ensuring your success during the process. It can help make those holiday dinners this year a lot more enjoyable.

4 Ways to Attract Millennials to Your Company

 

Today I am happy to introduce a guest blogger. Chris Butsch is a Millennial Happiness Expert, speaker and the author of the upcoming book The Millennials Guide to Making Happiness.

Millennials now outnumber Gen Xers and Boomers in the workplace, and with the improving economy, they have unprecedented choosiness in who they’d like to work for. And make no mistake, Millennials like to shop around. The average job tenure in 2014 was around 4.5 years, the lowest since the 1970s. For Millennials, it’s less than half that. And as the Boomers and Xers retire, a company’s survival will depend on its ability to attract America’s next working generation.

While interviewing dozens of young professionals for my upcoming book The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness, I took the time to understand why they love their current employers, or what they’re looking for in their next venture. What’s the #1 most-desired perk? What are the red flags? Around 65 percent of employers report struggling to hire and retain Millennial talent, so here are 4 ways to join the 35 percent.

1)   Have a Clear Purpose and Mission Statement

As children of the digital age, we Millennials are obsessed with Impression Management. Our jobs become part of our identity, so we’re naturally attracted to companies with missions we can get behind. Ninety-five percent of us say a company’s reputation matters strongly to us, so it’s unlikely we’ll work for a company whose Google search reveals images of Communism on the first page, like Comcast.

Having a clear, concise mission statement not only helps Millennials understand your company’s goals, it gets us excited to help you. Ensure your mission statement is broadcasted everywhere, not just your website. Which brings us to tip #2.

2)   Know Where Millennials Are Looking Online, and Be There

While Millennials spend less time researching each employer (12.4 hours compared to the 25.9 older generations spend), we tend to look in more places and for different things. Most companies have online information ready for the scrutinizing Boomer (i.e. health plan and 401k), but few are truly prepared for the investigative Millennial.

We’ll go to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see if you’re there, and if you are, what kind of content you post. These platforms are a way for companies to show off their work culture, and companies who post a couple of times a week content like updates, employee praise, or helpful articles, win Millennials. For good accounts to model after, visit the Facebook pages of The Nashville Entrepreneur Center and Carvana.

Millennials will also see what former employees are saying about you, and our forum of choice is Glassdoor. We make up just over a third of the workforce, yet account for nearly half of Glassdoor’s traffic. We’re reading and writing thousands of reviews for each other, and Millennials considering one company as an employer are sure to come across this one:

Good reviews on Glassdoor are crucial to recruiting Millennials.

Good reviews on Glassdoor are crucial to recruiting Millennials.

When I interviewed for my first job at Epic Health Systems as a Project Manager, I felt nervous about the alarming number of Glassdoor reviews citing poor work-life balance. I actually printed some off and showed them to my interviewers to ask their honest opinions, which they graciously offered. I got the job, but had Epic scored lower than a 2.5 on Glassdoor, I honestly wouldn’t have flown up for the interview.

If your company has no Glassdoor reviews, consider reaching out to former employers who are likely to leave you positive words.

3)   Update Your Technology

Millennials live on the cutting edge, constantly optimizing our lives with apps, trackers and gadgets. We’re the most likely to order an Uber on a SmartWatch and get excited when a wall socket has a USB outlet.

“Millennials don’t think of technology as an extra,” writes Art Papas in Forbes. “They expect to be able to use it in all aspects of their lives.” As such, we love employers who also keep up. Productivity software, the latest Microsoft Office, and fast internet beckon tech-savvy Millennials, while aging beige monitors and fax machines make us question the company’s forward momentum. But above all, Millennials love laptops at work because they often come paired with another item on our workplace wish-list: flexibility.

4)   Pay in Dollars and Freedom

On average, Millennials get married seven years later than our parents did in the ‘70s. We place huge value on international travel, and are the least likely to own a car or a house. Surely part of our changing mindset is due to our tepid economic predicament, but mostly we wait to “settle down” because we value our freedom.

According to Fast Company, Millennials place more emphasis on work-life balance than other working generations, and Bentley University found that 77 percent of Millennials believe flexible work schedules boost our productivity. We’re not asking to work less; rather, we just want to get more done in the same time or the same done in less time.

And according to Ellen Ernst Kossek, author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age, we might be right. “Research shows that employees are healthier, experience less stress, and are more productive and engaged when they effectively make choices about how, where and when they work.” Which explains why more Millennials look at the 9-to-5 and ask: why?

As for vacation, my friend from Switzerland once asked me, “How much vacation do you have?” When I told her 10 days, she balked. “Only 10 days left? Wow, where all have you been traveling this year?” Thanks to globalization, more and more Millennials are picking up on our country’s deplorable standards for time off. And since we highly value freedom and travel, we’ll work hard for companies with forward-thinking strategies.

Virgin, Best Buy, and Netflix offer unlimited vacation time, while startup powerhouse Evernote offers a bonus to employees who take at least an entire week off. While these policies sacrifice in-office time, they boost retention and employee happiness, creating a clear return on investment.  Research shows that prolonged work-a-thons atrophy our productivity and ability to cope with stress, so Millennials especially are more likely to burn out of jobs that don’t provide adequate time off.

Plus, affording your employees more vacation time and flexible work hours creates a quieter office, so you’ll kill two birds with one stone.

We Are Not Family in the Workplace

You hear it all the time – “I love my job. We’re like family there.” It’s true that a workplace setting may sometimes resemble a family. You spend a lot of time together. You have parties together, go out to lunch, celebrate successes. Sometimes people in the office even get nicknames like Aunt Betty.

But there are big differences between a family and a business. Here are just two: a business has the goal of making a profit. And it can choose who gets to stay and who goes. With family members, for better or worse, you’re just stuck with them.

This family mentality, while it may sound inviting to outsiders and help with employees’ morale, is actually not what you want to encourage in a workplace. Yes, you can keep your parties and celebrations and encourage good relations and positive morale among co-workers. But the overall goal is to build a high-productivity team – not a happy family.

Let’s take a look at Netflix.

Netflix has 81 million subscribers and grew its revenue from $1.2 billion in 2007 to $6.8 billion. This pioneering company has changed the entertainment industry. Its history, place in our society and future is fascinating. You can read all about it in the New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, “Can Netflix Survive in the New World It Created?”

But there was a point early on when the company’s survival was in question. In 2001, after the internet bubble burst, Netflix had to lay off 50 of its 150 employees, cutting its staff by one-third. And what happened? The people who were left had to work harder, but were actually happier.

Founder and CEO Reed Hastings and former head of HR Patti McCord thought it was because they “held onto the self-motivated employees who assumed responsibility naturally.” They said office politics disappeared overnight.

Since then the company strives to maintain what Hastings calls its “high performance” culture. A lot of companies pay lip service to that value, but at Netflix, they mean it.

Netflix captured its culture in a slideshow the company produced in 2004. (And that has been viewed 14.5 million times.) This 124-slide, simply produced show includes the company’s philosophy of hiring, And firing.

“Like every company we try to hire well.”

“Unlike many companies, we practice: adequate performance gets a generous severance package.”

“We’re a team, not a family. We’re like a pro sports team, not a kids’ recreational team. Netflix leaders hire, develop and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position.”

The analogy of the kids’ recreational team versus the pro sports team is perfect to capture the mentality I’ve seen so often in my practice with GlassRatner. I mention a few stories in my book, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.”

There was the company where the CEO’s grandmother was on the payroll, but whose primary responsibility seemed to knit the CEO socks. There was the beloved “Aunt” Tess who handled payroll, helping herself to the salaries of several non-existent employees every two weeks.

I’ve seen many companies that run more like a kids’ recreational team. Everyone gets a trophy and we love the ladies who brings the snacks!

But in real life, people who don’t perform get cut from the team. And the job of CEOs and senior management is to field the best team possible. Netflix does that early on by recognizing mediocre talent and paying them to get off the team.

Zappos has a similar philosophy for cutting people quickly who aren’t going to be the best team members. They famously use “The Offer,” giving new employees the opportunity to receive $2,000 to leave rather than starting the job.

Last year, Zappos had a large increase in turnover when 18 percent of the company took buyouts, an extension of “The Offer.” Zappos was unfazed, according to this article in The Atlantic, “Why Are So Many Zappos Employees Leaving?”

“We have always felt like however many people took the offer was the right amount of people to take the offer, because what we really want is a group of Zapponians who are aligned, committed, and excited to push forward the purpose and vision of Zappos.”

That’s the kind of team you want to build. A pro sports team. Team members who don’t perform can and will be cut.

Tips for Hiring from Top CEOs

Hiring the right people. We all know how important it is for CEOs and business owners to build the right team. One of the questions I enjoy the most from the “Corner Office” column in the Sunday New York Times is “What qualities do you look for in new hires?” I learn a lot about that business leader and that business from that one question.

A few weeks ago, Amy Pressman, the Co-Founder and President of Medallia, a provider of customer service technology was featured. She said in part, “I listen really carefully when I interview people for whether their narrative is: ‘Life happens to me’ or ‘I make life happen’; ‘I am owning this situation’ or ‘I am a victim.'”

She says she wants to know through what lens people look at the world – through a lens of ownership or victimization. “In any given situation, you have neither zero percent nor 100 percent control. But whatever control you have, even if it’s just 5 percent, you need to make the most of it,” she said.

For more wisdom from CEOs, read my previous post “Tips on Hiring from the Corner Office.” For example, find out what the former CEO of Marriott International says are the four most important words when hiring and another CEO’s favorite three-word question.

7 Fraud Prevention Tips for Small Businesses

Last week’s post, More Red Flags of Fraud, discussed how management should be trained to always be on the lookout for behavioral changes in employees that may be red flags for fraud. As the column pointed out, 92 percent of the people who committed fraud exhibited certain behavioral traits. Recognizing those can be the key to detecting and preventing fraud.

Being aware of and dealing with fraud is crucial for any size business, but particularly for small businesses for three reasons:

  • They are disproportionately victimized by fraud
  • They are less likely to have fraud protection measures in place
  • There tends to be a greater level of trust in small offices

That’s according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (AFCE). Small businesses, defined as those with fewer than 100 employees, suffered 28.8 percent of all fraud cases, with an average median loss of $154,000.

The average median loss was higher for the largest entities, defined as more than 10,000 employees, at $160,000. But obviously that is a much smaller fraction of overall revenue than for smaller companies.

So you’re a small business and can’t afford the most expensive fraud detection systems. But there are plenty of measures you can enact to cut down potential for fraud in your company. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Select the right employees. Always check references and criminal records. You may want to conduct credit checks to make sure your potential employee is not in dire financial straits, which can set the stage for him to consider committing fraud.
  • Separate accounting duties. Many small businesses delegate all the financial dealings to one person, who opens the mail, writes checks, reconciles the accounts and generates invoices. This makes a business vulnerable. If you don’t have the staff to completely separate duties, then have some of the responsibility rotate around the office if possible.
  • Always prosecute theft and fraud. Make it clear that you have a no-tolerance policy towards any type of theft or fraud and you will prosecute any and all people involved. This is easy to include in an employee manual. “If you steal, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” If the policy is equally applied to all employees, no one, even in a small office, should feel mistrusted.
  • Conduct surprise audits. Ask to see the books and review invoices and accounts payable. Call a few of the businesses to make sure they are legit and that your company is doing business with them. Or call your CPA in for an unannounced mini audit to uncover any problems.
  • Have your controller, bookkeeper or CFO take off two consecutive weeks each year. I recommend this measure to all my clients as a way to prevent and detect fraud. In their absence, do their jobs. Open the mail, review deposits, correspond with vendors.
  • Purchase the ACFE’s Small Business Fraud Prevention Manual. At $59, it’s money well spent. The manual goes into detail on how employees steal. It also gives prevention tips and how to deal with dishonest employees.

And as long as you are buying books, add my book to the list. How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes contains a chapter called “Stop Fraud Before It Starts” and includes ways to create an office fraud as well as tips on preventing fraud in all size companies.

You’ve worked hard to create revenue for your business. Don’t let anyone steal any of it from you.

Offering Work-Life Balance Key to Recruiting, Retention – Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on the growing importance of offering a work-life balance to employees in your company.

I’ve always worked too much. I promise my wife I’ll take time off every year for vacation, and I do. Just not too much – two weeks and I’m still connected. If I ever do retire, which I have no plans to do, that will probably mean I cut my workweek to 50 hours, down from 60.

That’s not an unusual work schedule for Americans. Especially for the Baby Boomers, a generation that expects to pay its dues and works long hours to be successful. They tend to be more motivated by money and prestige.

Hey, at least we aren’t as bad the Japanese, notorious workaholics. Some executives don’t even make it home at night, opting to sleep in hotel capsules, coffin-sized rooms stacked on top of each other like crates in a kennel.

The truth is I really enjoy my work as the Turnaround Authority. Yes, it can be stressful and the hours can be long. But it works for me. And I have plenty of time to be with my wife. We catch up with each other every single day with what we call Couch Time, a period of time where we sit on the couch and spend time discussing all aspects of our lives. When I’m on the road, I always call so we can still stay connected.

Achieving that work-life balance has become increasingly important and is instrumental in recruiting younger generations to your business. In fact, the definition of success has changed for many people. Having a work-life balance was ahead of money, recognition and autonomy for more than half the people surveyed in a study done by Accenture in determining whether or not they have a successful career.

And here’s a critical point. More than half of those surveyed had turned down a job offer because of the impact the new job could have on their work-life balance. Seventy percent of those surveyed believe that a satisfactory balance is possible, and often make their job choices based on achieving it.

In 2013, PwC announced results of NextGen: a two-year global generational study that focused on the motivations of millennials in the workplace. The study included responses from 4,000 people, both millennials and non-millennials. One of the key findings was that many millennial employees are not convinced that excessive work demands are worth the sacrifices to their personal life. A majority of them are unwilling to make work an exclusive priority, valuing work/life balance over rapid advancement and skill development.

So if you want to attract the younger generations, you have to think about work-life balance programs. In addition to offering these programs to recruit employees, they will also help you retain valuable employees and can actually increase their productivity as they will be happier and more focused.

Now that you understand how critical it is to offer work-life balance to your present and future employees, how do you do that? Come back for part 2.

 

How to Hire Beam Holders

This is part two of a two-part series on beam holders. Read on to find out what that is, and how you can find them.

In my last column, I wrote about the value of beam holders to your business. In the words of Sharon Sloane, chief executive of Will Interactive, a company that makes training videos, a beam holder is “Someone who feels personally responsible for the welfare and growth of the company and will do whatever it takes.”

I refer to these folks as Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions. These are the people you want working for your company at any time, and especially when your business is in dire straits.

So how do you find them? For higher-level positions, I recommend spending the money for a search firm. While you may need to shell out big bucks, it’s a wise investment in your business to find the right person. Particularly if you are in a hurry to fill a position. Please read more about it in my column, “How to Search for Superstars.

If you have adequate time to fill a position and want to hire someone yourself, determine what attributes you would like in that person and set those as criteria for hiring.

Here are examples of criteria others look for. An article I read on http://www.fastcompany.com, “The Top 5 Traits All Top Performers Share” by Morton Mandel and John Bryne listed these five traits:

  1. Intellectual firepower
  2. Values
  3. Passion
  4. Work ethic
  5. Experience

Another article in http://www.tlnt.com, “The Five Attributes of High-Performing Employees” by Laura Stack, mentions these:

  1. Looks good on paper
  2. Has a Yoda attitude, personified by the saying, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
  3. Has sharp, well-defined goals
  4. Ambitious
  5. Has excellent time-management skills

And yet another article on entrepreneur.com, “5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees,” by Ryan Caldbeck, lists these five:

  1. Horsepower (intelligence)
  2. Ownership and pride
  3. Work Ethic
  4. Integrity
  5. Teamwork

I wouldn’t argue with any of these qualities. These are all excellent traits to look for in an employee. And despite all these articles, you don’t have to stick with just five. Select which qualities are most important to you and look for those when hiring. That should lead to you building an A team of beam holders and super starts.

Let’s say your business is going along just fine and you don’t have any available positions. I recommend you always keep your eyes and ears open for the next beam holder. If someone you meet at a party or networking event particularly impresses you, get his or her business card and file it away for when you do need someone. You always want to keep your A team well staffed.

And one last point. Once you hire these people, you need to compensate them well to ensure they will stick around. Always keep them ahead of the curve on compensation. You aren’t the only one always on the hunt for beam holders.