Tales from the Trenches

Working daily with small business owners and entrepreneurs (aside from being a small business owner myself) gives one a special look inside the ups and downs of small business ownership. In recent conversations with clients and colleagues, two specific challenges were discussed that, unfortunately, are all-too-common.

In one case, an owner of a steadily growing business is convinced of the viability and sustainability of his business model and is eager to grow, but keeps getting distracted by the seemingly never-ending turnover of staff. In theory, there are a variety of possible solutions and strategies to attracting and retaining talented and loyal employees, but reality is often an entirely different matter. My advice to clients is to never underestimate the cost—direct and indirect—of staff turnover. Once you have identified an employee as a “keeper”, keep that employee engaged and incentivized through whatever means you can. Don’t be afraid to be creative and don’t feel that a higher salary is the only tool available to promote loyalty, morale, and productivity in the workplace. Click here for some creative ways to reward your employees.

The second case involved a small business owner whose business model was membership-based, with customers paying a monthly membership fee for access to his facility and programs. The debilitating dilemma that this owner started to face after several years in business is to figure out how to deal with delinquent membership accounts. The monthly membership fees were the lifeblood of the business, so the owner could not be too generous in writing off delinquent fees, but at the same time, he did not want to spend a day or two each month in General District Court trying to collect from delinquent customers through litigation. The stress became unbearable and soured the owner’s entrepreneurial spirit. Again, strategies to address such a problem do exist, at least in theory, but applying them on a day-to-day basis while trying to juggle the other 1,001 daily tasks of owning a small business is a different story.

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