Business Impossible: How To Motivate Your Employees So You Can Avoid Robert Irvine

imagesThis weekend, my family and I were watching an episode of Restaurant Impossible. We are avid viewers, (we love this show) and this one episode in particular caught my attention. A small mexican restaurant called Poco’s in Kansas City, MO was failing. A big part of this reason was due to the fact that the employees were not following orders and simply showing up to collect a pay check. They would not listen to the owner, and she was losing sleep every night wondering how she was going to pay all the bills, their salaries, and not lose her father’s house, which was the collateral for the loan.


This sparked some conversation in our house. How do you educate and/or instruct your employees from the beginning so they understand you are a small business that has to worry constantly where the money is coming from? How do you make them excited, motivated to help, and aware of how it really works before you have to call in Robert Irvine to save the day?

So here are some tips we came up with:

1. Make them aware during the interview process your expectations.

We all do this. Interview the applicants, do background checks, call references, but do you explain your expectations thoroughly?  Make sure to take the time to explain the culture, how small business works, the fact that you want them to treat this as if it were their own business. Then ask them, “knowing this, do you still want to work here?” If nothing else, it will give them a chance to say no if they are not in it to win it. In that case, consider yourself lucky you took the time to talk to them in the beginning. Make your intentions for them clear from the beginning, but do it in a way that is motivating and exciting. The goal is to make the anxious to come to work every day.

2. Have a clear system that measures success

In Marlaina Williams article for Sound Leadership Consulting title The Top Seven Mistakes Small Business Leaders Make & How To Avoid Them, this is what she states:

Mistake #2 – Not Holding Employees Accountable

In his book Overcoming the Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni uses an apt sports analogy to emphasize the importance of accountability:

“On a football field, a scoreboard focuses everyone’s efforts on one thing: winning. It provides unambiguous information about how the team is doing, and how much time the members have left if they want to improve the final outcome. That leaves little room for individual interpretation.”

To successfully hold employees accountable, you must decide on how you will measure them – the metrics you will use to evaluate their performance. Number of sales made, revenue generated, customers satisfied, and leads generated are some of the many possible performance measurements. It is essential that you chose your metrics carefully to ensure you are measuring the activity you want to emphasize. It’s also important to remember to be positive with measurements whenever possible. If you measure the number of errors logged or mistakes made, for instance, versus measuring the number of successes, it will have a negative overall impact on morale and often on performance because what you measure gets the focus. Using positive metrics for evaluation, on the other hand, gives employees a feeling of accomplishment that you’ll see in the bottom line. Allowing some of your performance measurements to be made public, so employees are able to see how their performance stacks up against their peers can also have a positive impact. Making metrics public will create a natural, healthy competition amongst employees, who want to be top performers and subtly encourage others to not lag behind. Employees should have consistent reviews (monthly) with their managers to evaluate and discuss these metrics as well as other performance issues.

3. Reward Hard Work

“What’s my motivation Bob?” Not just a funny quote from the movie Office Space.

We all want to make more money. We all want to know that our hard work is paying off. Have you thought about profit sharing? Incentives to show them that hard work reaps rewards – and that they are entitled to some of those rewards since they were a big part of making them happen? Do some math. Set up a structure that awards hard work and dedication. Maybe a quarterly bonus based on the profits of the business that has certain percentages for the employees. That way, they can see in real time how important their job really is to the longevity of their career and the business. Extra money that only comes from having skin in the game can be a very big motivating factor.

So as a small business owner, what other suggestions do you have to keep employees motivated and excited to be working in the company? What avenues have you tried that you can share? Let me know.