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Business Owner's Handbook: Taking Care of Your People

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

When you think about the ways you influence the world through your choices, it's nothing short of amazing. The choice to start a business is a huge decision, and it will not only impact yourself and your family, but those you employ, as well. Taking care of your people is critical to the success of any small business.

Small business coach sitting on the grass at a park with people and a bridge in the background

A business owner has a huge responsibility placed on them, especially when it comes to taking care of their employees. Now you are no longer in charge of your own future and happiness, but in some way, these people you hired, as well.

A group of small business employees smiling while standing around a grand opening sign
Smiling ALWAYS Helps!

You (hopefully) offer a useful service or product for your customers that enriches their lives. You probably started out (or will) doing everything yourself, but with success you might even need to hire some help, providing jobs for those in your community.

There is a belief that when your employees are happy, your customers will be happy. We believe that there is a lot of truth in there, but it's not always a guarantee. If your product isn't that great then it doesn't matter how happy your employees are, for example.

However, if you treat your staff poorly, that's almost always a recipe for failure. Treating them poorly will surely lead to call-outs, no-shows, crappy customer service and overall discontent in the workplace. And who wants to shop at a store where no one is smiling?


So, let's dive into some ideas and ways you can attract and retain a great group of people to work with and grow your local business!

1. Value Their Voice

When you made the choice to hire this person, you probably did it because you thought they had something good to offer your company. This is especially true for businesses just beginning their journey. Rarely do emerging businesses hire just to fill a void; payroll is too big of an expense to be so flippant.

a group of employees chatting with the business owner over lunch
Informal chats with employees are great!

The more voices you have offering help and ideas, the better. This is one of the primary reasons we thrive in our line of work as small business coaches. Having more brains working towards your success than just your own is a wonderful thing to take advantage.

Who knows, that recent college graduate might know more about what's trending on social media or that experienced sales guy could have a deeper understanding about what gets people to buy. You're hiring people of widely varying histories and experiences, tap into that!

Listen to your people and trust. You're not perfect and you won't get very far if you think yours is the only voice that matters. In fact, those types of business leaders that operate under a 'my way or the highway' attitude are much more likely to fail!

a phone screen with varying apps with Microsoft teams in the middle
Teams is just one option.

Make sure that your entire team feels like they can be heard. You don't always have to act on their thoughts, but hearing them is extremely important. As you grow, the cacophony of voices might become burdensome and even work against you. The best way to deal with this is to create a funnel of information.

For example, if your company is too large or you aren't all in one place, come up with a system to share ideas and keep the opportunities for improvement flowing. Think along the lines of forming committees or utilizing tools like Teams etc.

People ultimately perform better when they feel a part of something and have their voice heard. This means that not only will you benefit from their ideas, but their improved morale will lead to higher revenues and improve efficiencies!

2. Respect Boundaries

We all have lives outside work. Many people have families, friends, pets, things that exist outside of the work bubble from where you know them. The best business leaders understand this and respect those other institutions.

There are several options for business owners to take when it comes to boundaries, such as:

Limiting work-related emails and calls to operating hours:

Even if the item is critical in your mind, by limiting the amount of times you interact with them outside the office you are communicating respect for their personal time. This is a great way to show your employees you care about the work / life balance.

Allowing remote work when possible:

If the role can be accomplished from outside the office, why would you mandate them to come in? This is a raging topic right now post COVID, but it is our strong position that you should be allowing remote work as much as you can. Instead, focus on monitoring their metrics. As long as they are hitting the goals you have jointly created, then there's no reason to worry.

a group of people on vacation at the peak of a hill looking out on a beautiful beach
Encourage Vacations!

Actively encourage taking time off:

Life happens to all of us. As small business owners we lack the flexibility to just take a day off at random. But just because we have to suffer, doesn't mean that we need to force that lifestyle on our employees. Again, what's more important is their ability to hit their metrics. If an employee achieves their goals for the week by Tuesday and they need to recharge, let them!

Oh, and if an employee calls in sick, don't question their motives - chances are they've stressed themselves out more than they needed to trying to pull it together. Besides, if people are sick, they'll most likely get others sick or not work as productively as they could have.

Ultimately, it comes down to not making your employees feel guilty for having a life outside of work. Instead, you should be celebrating and encouraging them to be happy!

3. Treat Them With Dignity

Instead of monitoring their bathroom breaks and questioning if they can send a proper email, entrust your workers to do the work you hired them to do. If you are in a professional setting, the chances are you hired professionals - treat them as such!

man looking at his watch as he runs out of the house with his briefcase
I'm Late, I'm Late, I'm Late!

Micromanaging is a surefire way to alienate and make employees feel insecure about the work they're doing. Again, we go back to you hired this individual for a reason.

If an employee makes a mistake, even a major one, make sure you support them. To be clear, we don't mean excuse away their mistake or even avoid disciplining them in some way. But they are also a fellow human with emotions and feelings. Plus, having an environment of support will encourage your workforce to explore development.

a bad boss screaming at the camera as if he was talking to an employee
Don't be this guy.

Instead of the yelling, screaming, and firing try to find ways to highlight what their mistake was and how to do it right the next time. We highly recommend that whenever an employ makes a mistake that impacts the business, you teach them specifically how it can damage the company. This will encourage them to start thinking like you, the business owner.

Imagine how much more functional your business would be if you had a team of people all thinking through the impacts of decisions they make on your business!

Time scrutiny, micromanagement, and rage do nothing to help your employees feel like valued employees, let alone respected humans. Always make sure you remember that everyone involved is just a person and give them dignity while under your employ.

4. Trust the Intention

This one is sort of an expansion of the last example. Everybody makes mistakes, but more than likely, the intention to do well was there. We have to go back to the idea that you hired this person for a reason, you need to trust your choice!

employee sitting by themselves on a stump looking stressed because they made a mistake
Mistakes WILL happen. It's OK!

Trust that your employee was trying their best and then figure out where the misunderstanding was. Work with them through the process that led to their action. Avoid blaming your worker and punishing them, instead coach them.

You need to have faith in your employee, for their sake and yours. So, when mistakes happen, use it as an opportunity to fix broken processes or clarify miscommunication. Or another way to look at it would be to think of mistake as simply opportunities to improve.

A business owner sitting with two employees talking about a mistake they made on the job
Ask them their thoughts on a mistake, first.

Ask your employee their perspective on the issue and go from there. Usually, people are open to constructive criticism, especially if it is coming from a place of empathy and understanding. Start by trying to discover and understand the motivation for the decision they made. Perhaps they only had partial information through no fault of their own. Based on that partial info they made the right call. Go into the mistake with the expectation they were operating under good intensions and solid effort.

If you've created an environment where people don't have panic attacks when things go awry, you'll have happier employees... but also, things will go awry a hell of a lot less. It sounds counter intuitive, but we promise it works!

5. Give Them a Chance to Succeed

Which brings us to our last tip, give them a chance at success! Root for your workers and celebrate accomplishments. If you're a small business, take the time to announce 'big wins' and recognize the awesome work your people are doing.

a guy in a purple shirt and a hat on backwards holding his arms out while looking over the grand canyon
Give them the tools to climb!

Try creating a policy of celebration for your company. If you get a positive review from a customer, make sure that you promote and celebrate that review for the employee in front the team. The idea is to make your employee feel valued, but also creating an atmosphere of happiness and positivity.

Another way to give them that chance to succeed is by creating a pathway for them to move up within the organization. Without a pathway your employees may begin to feel that their role with you is a dead end. Not only will they likely lose motivation and efficiency, but when a new opportunity arises with another company they are likely to bail on you.

If you are truly small or just starting out this can seem like a challenge. However, you should work to create a organizational chart for your business. In that chart, also create all the positions that don't currently exist, but you foresee in the next five years or so. Leave them blank or toss in your own name for the time being, but this chart will allow the employees to see they have a chance at growth. As a bonus, get their involvement in the development of the org. chart!

Lastly, sometimes even with opportunities employees might feel that the open or future positions are outside of their skillsets. This is a great time to create your continuing education plan. If an amazing customer service employee wants to advance into project management, give them the ability to take the courses as a side project!


It's important to remember, people are crucial to your business's success and so when they do well, you do well. These individuals are helping you reach your dream, be sure to thank them whenever you can!

Practice these five awesome ways to taking care of your people and success will be a sure bet for your small business!

Overall, it's not difficult to treat people right- just follow the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

If you have questions about how to build and grow a strong team, Out of the Box Advisors offers individualized consulting geared towards helping you grow your small business! Take the leap and schedule your free consultation below!

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