Did anyone tell you that owning a business would be this fun? No? Really? Owning a business, especially a small business, can be a very personal and difficult adventure. Growth will take many interpersonal challenges, and almost 100% of them will be spurred on by feelings — the feeling that everyone is killing themselves, the feeling that you need to do more, the feeling that it’s all out of control. It can be almost like you are suffocating. In this blog I’m going to break down common agency owner questions on how to handle a team that isn’t rooting for you.
They are like my family. How could they do this to me?
First of all, they aren’t your family (unless they literally are your family). Under no uncertain circumstance should you treat them like family or feel that you deserve the return treatment. In fact, they often leave their family (which can be difficult) to go work for your baby — your business. There is an exchange, cash for time. During that time they can be part of your culture — but not your family. There simply have to be professional boundaries.
Agencies that run like a family often run everyone to exhaustion. All too often professional boundaries are not present, so both parties know way too much about each other. We become too accommodating of someone’s personal situation to the detriment of ourselves, the team and the business. You have to remember your number one commitment is to the health of the business, not one person.
I did everything for them. Why did they leave?
Because no one will work for your business forever. You can get great people to stay longer, but we are silly if we think that someone will be with us for 20 years. That’s not a serious request. The statement everyone is replaceable is the way you have to think. It’s not that you want them to leave, but you want to protect your clients, your team and yourself from illnesses, departures and someone on your team winning the lottery or retiring.
The right team member buys in to the idea that they are part of a system. The wrong team member talks all about them, them, them. Me, me, me. You may hear the statement “my clients” — ummm hold up, whose clients? Last I checked, they didn’t own the agency. It’s good to understand why someone may leave, as it could present a weakness that you need to shore up, but you should not expect people to be with you forever.
They say they have no time…
This goes right to the heart of facts vs. feelings. Is it a busy day or are they overwhelmed? Are they efficient or slow? Are they following your processes? When you hear this, you have to combat it and quickly, as that can spread. Someone once told me that owners have the job of getting the most out of their team for the least amount, and team members are trying to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money. Sound right?
When your team is “too busy,” try giving them an hour off the phones to catch up. Do they give you excuses like, “well, the phone will ring, or someone may stop by.” This is a clear indication that they love staying “busy” to avoid being productive. In fairness, many team members may not have ever stopped to understand what the cost of an extra body is; it’s just easy to ask for it.
Why can’t they just be me?
If they were you, they would open an agency, learn everything from you and then leave. Do you really want that? Also, many owners have thought for hours about something and then explain it in 10 minutes to their team. Then they expect the team to fully grasp it and run with it. Also, the team has 1,000,000 things going on already, and this is a new thing inserted into their day. Take some time and make sure you spend time on new initiatives to get full endorsement and adoption.
Give It 90 Days
When you are struggling with a team member, it’s time to adopt the Performance Improvement Plan. This sets clear expectations for the team member of what it will take to remain on the team over the next quarter. The Performance Improvement Plan puts the ball back in their court. The team member has to make a decision to commit to changing, or they can find a new job.
I’m a believer that every person deserves to know they are in hot water. A termination should not be a surprise. In 90 days you have to determine if you will keep them or depart from them. It’s also a great way to give yourself a deadline!
You hire people to make your life easier. If they are not, it may very well be time to move on, or consider our Agency Assessment as a way to get a clearer picture of your agency’s strategy.
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